In 1956, East End gangster and one half of the notorious “Kray twins” – Ronnie Kray was sentenced to three years in Wandsworth prison over a violent altercation with rival gang – The Watney Streeters. During a brawl in the Streeters bar “The Britannia Pub”, Ronnie stabbed one of the gang members with a bayonet.
Whilst incarcerated he received the tragic news that his Aunt Rose had died of leukaemia. His mental health quickly and severely deteriorated and he became increasingly paranoid. He was convinced that Bobby Ramsey (one of Ronnie’s own associates) had called him a grass, and beat him severely for his non-existent crime.
Not long after, he had a severe mental breakdown which ended with him spending Christmas day in a strait jacket. He was declared insane and sent to Long Grove Mental Hospital in Surrey.
Fortunately medication worked wonders for Ronnie, who had underlying schizophrenia, but it turned out that his time served in Long Grove Mental Hospital did not count towards his prison sentence – which rightly pissed off the hot-headed gangster.
He desperately begged Reggie to get him out, claiming he was miserable and the entire situation was unbearable. Given the fact that electro-shock therapy was all the rage in the 50’s, I don’t think he was being dramatic. Unable to see his brother so miserable, Reggie promised to help Ronnie escape and together they hatched a plan.
This is where is gets downright hilarious because you literally couldn’t make this stuff up.
Ronnie and Reggie decided to perform a switcheroo.
You see, Long Grove wasn’t actually part of any prison complex, it was just a low-security mental hospital, so visitations were less strict than in a prison complex. Ronnie’s identical twin Reggie and older brother Charlie came to visit him in Long Grove.
You would think that the guards would have noticed that Ronnie and Reggie were wearing identical suits and shoes, but apparently not. They both went to the bathroom at the same time, and Reggie put on Ronnie’s glasses. Ronnie then boldly walked out of the mental hospital with Charlie.
After allowing Ronnie a couple of minutes to escape, Reggie told the guards that Ron had just gone to make a cup of tea and that he off. Reggie left the hospital and joined his brothers outside. The guards completely fell for it and didn’t even notice that anything was off.
They called Reggie the following day when they finally realised what had happened. They promised that no questions would be asked if he immediately brought Ronnie back, but not surprisingly Ronnie decided that he’d rather go on the run.
Off his medication, Ronnie relapsed mentally and became increasingly unstable. In less than 6 months after his jailbreak he was caught and sent back to prison where he was medicated, declared sane (1950’s psychiatrists were primitive at best) and sent back to Wandsworth to serve the remainder of his sentence.
He was legally released 5 months later but his freedom was to be short-lived.
Check out books such as Notorious The Immortal Legend of the Kray Twins for more on the twins!