Crime: Life with the Krays in '60s east London

By Rob Virtue on February 5, 2014 6:47 AM |

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It was the days when the East End was notorious for its criminals and their rackets. But if you ask those who lived through the swinging '60s, many will look back misty-eyed.

Bob Dixon's new book, Bobby On The Beat, documents his time in the police force working out of Limehouse station. He said it was a time in his life he loved.

"The book is about the uniform and the salt of the earth East Enders," said Bob. "We used to drop in for a cup of tea and a chat. They were the best source of information.

"I'm a great believer in being open and including the sad stories such as fatal accidents and suicides but also making sure there's humorous bits in the book too."

Among the series of more unusual anecdotes is the capture, arrest and court date of an inebriated man for trying to have sex with his chicken and the criminal who organised his own arrest as he missed prison.

But for Bob, who writes under the name Dixon but is really called Wragg, there were also more serious crimes and he is constantly asked about the two men that dominated people's imaginations as much as they ruled the underworld.

He only once came into contact with one of the Krays but saw much of the damage done by their influence and their associates.

"I was in plain clothes one night and we stopped Ronnie in a Jaguar as one of his lights was out," said Bob. "He was fine and polite. We asked to see in the boot of the car as a matter of course and he called a bloke over who was walking along.

"He said 'can you be a witness to this'. There was nothing in the boot and he wanted to make sure he wasn't fitted up. He was just on his way from his home to his mother's.

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"I didn't have any other direct contact because that was all done by 'Nipper' Read and Tommy Butler at Scotland Yard but I had a number of dealings with their cohorts over the years."

The most memorable of those was in 1964, when the wife of Ginger Marks walked into the station after being informed her husband had been shot.

Officers rang hospitals and checked the rumoured scene of the crime but after finding nothing they told her to come back in the morning if he was still missing.

Soon the, now hysterical, wife returned with her brother-in-law to say she had been to the scene and found bullet holes in the wall and blood on the ground

"We went back to Cheshire Street in Bethnal Green, and she was right," said Bob. "It was just as she said. Bullet holes and blood. Ginger Marks was never found.

"Freddie Foreman was arrested but when it went to trial, he was found not guilty. Many years later he admitted to shooting him and disposing of the body."

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Bob is now 72, retired and has moved away to Sussex and it was a rude awakening which confronted him when he recently made a return to his old stomping ground.

"Towards the end of writing the book I thought I would walk around the old area," he said.

"I hardly recognised the place. Wapping hasn't changed much and Narrow Street, apart from the expensive houses, but the rest has changed considerably.

"As for policing today, I understand we've got to change with the times but also be careful you don't chuck the baby out with the bath water. I'm referring back to the bobby on the beat and some forces, including the Met, do want to return to that.

"It was a much better way of policing. I loved my time on the beat."

Bobby On The Beat is priced £7.99 and published by Michael O'Mara Books.

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