Two women behind London’s most notorious gangland families, the Krays and the Richardsons, have opened up about their controversial lives to a University of Northampton student journalist.
Kaylee Poloczek used family connections to set up interviews with two women associated with 1960s south London sadistic gangsters the Richardsons and the Kray twins, who were the foremost perpetrators of organised crime in the East End of London during the 1950s and 1960s.
The interviews form the core of Kaylee’s documentary, Women of the Underworld, which has been shortlisted for a Midlands Media Student Awards gong.
The documentary, which you can watch here, features Maureen Flanagan, who was hairdresser to the Kray twin’s mother, Violet, and became a close friend of the family, visiting twins Ronnie and Reggie in prison, right up to their deaths.
Charlie Richardson’s second wife, Veronica, also appears in the documentary, which Kaylee reveals was something of a coup.
“Veronica has never sought publicity in the past, and this was only her second-ever media interview about her life,” said Kaylee. “She said she doesn’t like interviews, but on this occasion offered to help me. It took a little persuasion and some reassurance but we set the date. Veronica is a very interesting woman.
The third year Multimedia Journalism student added: “It was interesting to hear a first-hand account of being in a relationship with a man that, regardless of right or wrong, had a serious reputation for violence and crime. It seems like she’s more than content with their relationship. I was shocked to hear how calm she spoke about the sort of things Charlie was accused of. She explained that for her, Charlie mixed in circles that were ‘kill or be killed’, people who knew what they were getting themselves into and that therefore it didn’t conflict with her morals. She continued to explain that if she thought that Charlie was ‘robbing old ladies’ that she wouldn’t be okay with that sort of thing.
“The relationship between Charlie and Veronica is interesting. She is clearly a very strong woman and he was clearly a very strong man. I imagine their arguments to have been heated and loud but no different to many couples.”
Kaylee interviewing Maureen Flanagan
Kaylee’s time with Maureen, meanwhile, provided her with an insight into the dynamics of the extended Kray family.
She said: “Maureen told me about her relationship with the twins and Mrs Kray and she told me about the twins’ relationship with their mum, and women in general. I was most interested in what she could tell me about the relationship between Reggie Kray and his wife Frances Shea.
“She knew Frances well and had a good insight into the relationship between her and Reggie. It was really interesting to see it from her point of view, explained to me how controlling and possessive she thought that Reggie was.”
Kaylee was keen to ensure the documentary did not portray the women as victims, and so also spoke to psychologist Lena Davis, who provided an insight into the relationship between gangsters and the women in their lives.
“It wasn’t a glamourous life to be married to a gangster,” said Kaylee. “They were arrested and kept behind bars from their family for years and years, and nobody would agree that’s something you’d envy.”
The winners of the Midlands Media Student Awards will be announced on Wednesday 10 April.