It was the most terrifying moment of my life. Dan Wooding and I were meeting the parents of the Kray Twins, Britain’s most notorious gangsters.
The “boys”, Ronnie and Reggie, were serving life sentences for their part in murders, armed robberies and protection rackets.
But bizarrely, before their arrests in 1968, they had become celebrities, mixing with top entertainers including Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland in London’s “Swinging Sixties”.
In the mid-1970s Dan was an up-and-coming journalist and had asked me – a friend and colleague – to work with him on an exclusive interview with their elderly parents, Violet and Charlie, for a top Sunday newspaper.
Dan did most of the leg-work, but thought he might need a bit of protection – not that I could have provided any – on this trip to a rather dangerous part of the capital’s East End.
The old couple turned out to be utterly charming and provided us with endless cups of tea. All was going well, and we were chatting about their former priest, who was Dan’s contact for the story.
Suddenly there was a thunderous, repeated knocking at the front door. Dan and I looked at each other and froze.
But the Krays didn’t seem too bothered. And we soon found out why. It wasn’t a police squad at the door, or a rival gang. It was just a man collecting money for the football pools – a hugely popular betting system based on predicting each Saturday’s soccer results.
We breathed again. And looking back on my friendship with Dan, that just about sums it up. You never quite knew what to expect.
We met at a newspaper in Ealing, a prosperous suburb of West London, and hit it off immediately, probably because of our mutual weird sense of humour.
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SOURCE: Assist News Service, Peter Wooding