Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Looking Back - Killer Ronnie Kray Dies

On this day in 1995, notorious gangland killer Ronnie Kray died in hospital two days after he collapsed in his ward at Broadmoor where he was serving a life sentence for murder.
Police said 61-year-old Ronnie died at 0907 GMT after being transferred to Wexham Park hospital, Slough, from a hospital in Ascot.
The man, once part of the infamous gang "The Firm", is understood to have suffered a heart attack.
Ronnie, a homosexual who had been married, was taken to Heatherwood Hospital, Ascot, two days before after collapsing in his room at Broadmoor.
Reign of terror
He was transferred to Wexham Park hospital the previous night after his condition deteriorated, and he later died there.
Kray and his twin brother Reggie were sentenced to 30 years in prison in 1969, which ended a 10 year bloody reign of terror in London.
Ronnie had shot George Cornell in the Blind Beggar public house in Whitechapel in 1966 for calling him a "fat poof".
And a year later Reggie stabbed Jack "The Hat" McVitie in a flat in North London.
Ronnie was later judged to be criminally insane and sent to the Broadmoor secure hospital.
He told friends and family he expected to die a prisoner.
Kray, who shared the ward with Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe, had suffered two earlier heart attacks, the latest in September 1993 after which doctors warned his rumoured 100 cigarettes a day habit would kill him.
The Krays have reached iconic status, revered by some and scorned by others.
They ran a brutal gang in London's East End during the late 1950s and 1960s which netted them a fortune and allowed them to live a life of luxury.
Since their conviction, an industry has grown around them with books, T-shirts, television specials and a film starring pop star twins Gary and Martin Kemp of Spandau Ballet.
Reggie is understood to have learnt of his twin's death from a fellow prisoner in Maidstone jail who had heard it on the radio and was described as "absolutely distraught".
Their elder brother Charlie, who served seven years for his part in the crimes, said he was saddened by the loss and that his late brother had been misunderstood.
Scotland Yard had been on the trail of the Krays for many years and finally caught up with them and their accomplices in 1968.
In June 1997 Charlie was found guilty of masterminding a £39m cocaine plot and jailed for 12 years. He died in hospital as an inmate in April 2000.
The surviving brother Reggie, who had hoped for parole after serving 30 years in prison, got release as a dying wish when Home Secretary Jack Straw ordered his freedom when he was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given just weeks to live.
He died in October 2000.
Neither the Krays' incarceration or death has suppressed their legend.
Many people had campaigned for their release as they were seen as having a sense of honour by ridding London's streets of criminals.
Despite using violence many insisted women and children were safe as long as the Krays prowled the streets.

A Matter Of Convenience

John Stonehouse

John Thomson Stonehouse (28 July 1925 – 14 April 1988) was a British politician and minister under Harold Wilson. Stonehouse is perhaps best remembered for his unsuccessful attempt at faking his own death in 1974.

Education and early career
Stonehouse had a Trade Union upbringing and joined the Labour Party at the age of 16. He was educated at Taunton's College, Southampton and the London School of Economics. His mother was the sixth female mayor of Southampton and councillor on Southampton City Council. Stonehouse married Barbara Smith in 1948. They had three children. An economist, he became involved in co-operative enterprise and was a manager of African co-operative societies in Uganda 1952-54. He served as a director 1956-62 and president 1962-64 of the London Co-operative Society.
Stonehouse becomes an MP
Stonehouse was first elected as Labour Co-operative Member of Parliament (MP) for Wednesbury in a 1957 by-election, having contested Twickenham in 1950 and Burton in 1951.
He served as a junior minister of aviation. At the ministry, he was involved in BOAC's order of Boeing 707 aircraft, against his own recommendation that they should invest in a rival aircraft, the Super VC10. This led to his throwing accusations at colleagues about the reasons for the decision. Then in the Colonial Office, John Stonehouse's rise continued, and in 1967 he became Minister for Technology and as Postmaster General under Wilson until the post was abolished by the Post Office Act 1969.
As Minister of Posts and Telecommunications in 1970, he oversaw the controversial jamming of the offshore radio station, Radio North Sea International. When Labour was defeated in the 1970
General Election, he was not appointed to the Shadow cabinet.
When the Wednesbury constituency was abolished in 1974, he stood for and was elected to the nearby Walsall North constituency. Stonehouse oversaw the introduction of first and second class stamps.
In 1969 Stonehouse was subjected to the assertion that he was a Czech agent. He successfully defended himself, but the allegation was substantiated in the official history of MI5, The Defence of the Realm by Cambridge historian Christopher Andrew.
Business interests
After 1970, Stonehouse set up various companies in an attempt to secure a regular income. By 1974 most of these were in financial trouble, and he had resorted to cooking the books. Aware that the Department of Trade and Industry was looking at his affairs, he decided that his best choice would be to flee. Secret British government documents, declassified in 2005, indicate that Stonehouse spent months rehearsing his new identity, that of Joseph Markham - the dead husband of a constituent.
Faking his own death
Stonehouse maintained the pretence of normality until his pretend suicide on 20 November 1974, leaving a pile of clothes on a Miami beach. He was presumed dead, and obituaries were published despite the fact that no body had been found. In reality, he was en route to Australia, hoping to set up a new life with his mistress and secretary, Sheila Buckley.
Using false names, Stonehouse set about transferring large sums of money between banks as a further means of covering his tracks. Under the name of Clive Mildoon he deposited $21,500 in cash at the Bank of New Zealand. The teller who handled the money later spotted "Mildoon" at the Bank of New South Wales. Inquiries led him to learn that the money was in the name of Joe Markham and he informed the local police. Stonehouse spent a while in Copenhagen with Sheila Buckley, but later returned to Australia, unaware that he was now under surveillance. The police suspected him of being the fugitive Lord Lucan who, two weeks before Stonehouse faked his death, had disappeared following the murder of his children's nanny, Sandra Rivett. Investigators noted however that the suspect was reading British newspapers which also included stories attacking the "recently deceased" John Stonehouse. They contacted Scotland
Yard requesting pictures of both Lucan and Stonehouse.
Stonehouse was arrested on Christmas Eve 1974. He applied for the position of Bailiff and Steward of the Chiltern Hundreds while still in Australia (one of the ways for an MP to resign), but decided not to sign the papers. Six months after he was discovered, he was deported to the UK though he had tried to obtain offers of asylum from Sweden and Mauritious He returned in June 1975, and was remanded in Brixton Prison until August. He continued to act as an MP. Although unhappy with the situation, the Labour Party did not expel him. On 7 April 1976, three weeks before his trial, he resigned the Labour whip, making them a minoity government. A few days later he joined the English National Party.
On trial
The MP's trial, on 21 charges of fraud, theft, forgery, conspiracy to defraud, causing a false police investigation and wasting police time lasted 68 days. Stonehouse conducted his own defence at the trial. He was convicted and sentenced to 7 years prison for fraud. He was imprisoned in HM
Prison Wormwood Scrubs where he complained that the prison workshop, where he was employed, played pop-music radio stations.
He finally agreed to resign on 28 August as MP and also Privy Counsellor (becoming one of only three people to resign from the Privy Council in the 20th century). The by-election was won by Robin Hodgson, a Conservative.
After his conviction, Stonehouse's wife divorced him in 1978.
Whilst in prison, his health deteriorated. He was later moved to Blundeston. Stonehouse was released early from prison in August 1979 due to having suffered three heart attacks and having undergone open heart surgery in November 1978.
After prison
After release, he worked as a volunteer fundraiser for east London Charity, Community Links for several years. He joined the Social Democratic Party, which later merged to become the Liberal Democrats.
Stonehouse married Sheila Buckley in Hampshire on 31 January 1981 and shortly afterwards their son was born. Stonehouse wrote three novels, and made several TV appearances, mostly in connection with discussing his disappearance. A month before his death, he abruptly collapsed on set during a TV show, but recovered. This was only temporary however. John Stonehouse died in Southampton, aged 62, on the evening of 14 April 1988 from a fourth heart attack. A fourth novel he was working on at the time of his death was published posthumously, in 1989.

Timely Reminder

Why Do We Say That?

This phrase comes from the translation of the epic Greek poem the Iliad about the war between the Greeks and the Trojans. It was poetic way of describing the death of a warrior.

Once when a child was christened it was traditional for the godparents to give a silver spoon as a gift (if they could afford it). However a child born in a rich family did not have to wait. He or she had it all from the start. They were 'born with a silver spoon in their mouth'.

A long shot is an option with only a small chance of success. In the past guns were only accurate at short range. So a 'long shot' (fired over a long distance) only had a small chance of hitting its target.

Some people say the phrase comes from the fact that in the 18th and 19th centuries hat makers used mercury nitrate in their work. Exposure to this chemical does indeed send you mad. However according to some people the origin of this phrase is much older. Hatter is a corruption of the Saxon word 'atter', which meant adder or viper. Furthermore 'mad' originally meant poisonous. So if you were mad as an atter you were as 'poisonous' (bad tempered or aggressive) as an atter (adder). It goes to show that often it is impossible to be certain where old sayings come from.