Jack Dennis McVitie (19 April 1932 - 29 October 1967) more commonly known as Jack the Hat, was a notorious English criminal from London of the 1950s to the 1960s. He is posthumously famous for triggering the imprisonment and downfall of the Kray twins.
He had acted as an enforcer and hitman with links to The Firm, and was murdered by Reggie Kray in 1967. A known drug trafficker by the 1960s, he had been an associate of the Kray twins for some time and, although never a permanent member of The Firm, was regularly employed to commit various crimes on their behalf.
Kray was arrested the following year for the murder, being found guilty and received life imprisonment at his trial in March 1969. He remained in prison until just before his death in 2000. Ronnie Kray was imprisoned for life at the same time for the murder of George Cornell in 1966 and remained in prison until his death in 1995.
McVitie was born on 19 April 1932 in Battersea, South London, one of five children along with brothers Henry, Leonard and Fred, and a sister Jean. During WWII, the family split up and he lived with an aunt in Gilbey Road, Tooting. His first criminal conviction was in October 1946 when he was taken to Buntingford Juvenile Court for stealing a watch and cigarettes. When McVitie was fourteen, he met Esther Marney, who was a year younger than him. She attended the Western Road Secondary Modern School for Girls in Mitcham.McVitie and Marie were engaged by 1949 and Marie fell pregnant soon after. His daughter, Mary Elizabeth was born at St James’ Hospital in Balham, on the 6th September 1950. He was partaking in his National Service and soon married Marie married at Wandsworth Registry Office. The small family moved to a property in Forest Road, East London, aged 18 at the time. Marie rarely got to see McVitie, when he was on army detention in Reading, and the couple separated shortly after. McVitie’s criminal life began properly in March 1952. He was put into the Borstal system after stealing and also around four months later received one-month imprisonment and further time in Borstal for assaulting a police officer.
In 1954, McVitie met Sylvia Ann Mitchell, who became his common-law wife and he had his second child with her, Tony Jackson McVitie, in 1958. McVitie was soon sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment on 3 April 1959 after being found guilty, with three other men, of being in possession of explosives for possessing a flick-knife in public, soon the couple separated. He was 5 feet 9 inches tall and heavily built, with blue eyes and, on his hands, arms and chest numerous tattoos, one being ‘ANN’ on his left wrist. Many people spoke well of him despite the reputation he has of being a violent drunkard. The nickname Jack the Hat is said to be because of a trilby hat that he wore to cover up his hair loss, allegedly not even taking it off in the bath. It was alleged that at some point he pushed a girlfriend out of a moving car, whilst he was driving it, to which she suffered terrible injuries.
At one time he was described as "a lovely man" by Frankie Fraser who had spent some time with him in prison. It was while they were in Exeter prison in 1959 that Frank and Jimmy Andrews (who Cornell was visiting in hospital on the day of his murder) stuck up for Jack 'The Hat' after he had a straight fight with a prison warden. Jack beat the officer fair and square but there are no straight fights with the prison authorities and Jack was later dragged from his cell and badly beaten.
Frank and Jimmy had said that if Jack was touched in any way that they would retaliate. The next day Frank knocked out the Prison Governor and Jimmy knocked out the Chief prison officer. Frank and Jimmy ended up in hospital badly injured. Jack 'The Hat' received 12 strokes of the birch for his attack on the officer, Jimmy Andrews got 15 and Frankie Fraser got the maximum 18 strokes for their assaults on the Governor and the Chief.
The Kray TwinsEdit
A known drug trafficker by the 1960s, he had been an associate of the Kray twins for some time and, although never a permanent member of The Firm, was regularly employed to commit various crimes on their behalf. On 5 November 1965, Jack McVitie had been released from prison after serving his sentence for possessing explosives and carrying an offensive weapon. Apart from the occasional minor motoring offence, he had managed to keep himself out of trouble and had begun work as a Bookmaster's Clerk. He had also begun living with Sylvia Barnard, with whom he had had his third child.
Since meeting Reggie in prison, Jack McVitie had always wanted to work for the Firm, although dependent on drugs and as well as developing a serious drinking habit, Jack Dickson was given the job of tailing McVitie to make sure he did jobs from the twins properly, but on the way back from the pick-up, McVitie must have realised he was being followed and drove so fast that Dickson lost him in traffic.
By 1967, living at 42 Hartland Road in Leyton, McVitie was a loud-mouthed drunk, he was not only dealing in drugs but taking them as well. He was getting arrogant and abusive, threatening the Twins and causing trouble to many of their friends. He caused some damage in Freddie Foreman's club in Balham High Road and he had to be thrown out, much to the twin's embarrassment. He also tried to shoot Tommy Flannegan in The Regency and once after cutting a man in the basement of the club he went upstairs and wiped the bloody knife on a woman's dress. One evening he had been stopped from entering The Regency for being too drunk. He came back later and threatened to shoot John Barry and his brother, the owners of the club with a shotgun. They were paying protection to their silent partners Ronnie and Reggie Kray and asked them if they would sort it out.
The Twins were now getting complaints about McVitie on frequent occasions. They had warned him on numerous occasions but he would not listen. He also owed Ronnie and Reggie a large sum of money and wasn't one of the Firm but he did work for the Twins occasionally and it has been said that the money he owed the Krays was for the contract killing of their business manager Leslie Payne, which he never carried out.
In 1967 Ronnie Kray paid McVitie £500 in advance to kill ex-friend and business partner Leslie Payne, promising he would give another £500 when the job was finished, amid fears that Payne was about to inform the police of his criminal activities. McVitie and a friend, Billy Exley, set off to shoot Payne but were unsuccessful. Exley, the driver, suffered from heart trouble and McVitie was now heavily dependent on drugs. Exley started to lose his nerve when McVitie produced a handgun, in Exley's words, "the size of a bleedin' cannon." Arriving at Payne's home, McVitie hammered loudly on the front door, which luckily for Payne was opened by his wife. "He's not in," she said. "That's all right," said McVitie and he and Exley left. Instead of repaying the money McVitie kept it. This incident led, in part, to McVitie's death.
- Main article: The Murder of Jack McVitie
On 29 October 1967, McVitie was invited to a party at 97 Evering Road in Stoke Newington, London, with several of his underworld associates and their families. The Krays had secretly arrived at the party first and had spent an hour clearing away guests. Reggie Kray's initial plan to shoot McVitie upon entry failed. His gun jammed and, instead, he stabbed McVitie repeatedly in the face, chest and stomach as part of a brief but violent struggle. The twins quickly fled the scene and McVitie's body was deposited, wrapped in an eiderdown and left outside St. Mary's Church, Rotherhithe by Tony and Chris Lambrianou, and Ronnie Bender, who were minor members of the Firm.
When the Krays discovered the whereabouts of the corpse, they ordered it to be immediately moved, probably because of the close proximity of friend and associate Freddie Foreman. The body was never recovered, although in an interview in 2000 (which featured Reg Kray giving a frank account of the activity of the Firm 12 days before his death) Foreman admitted to throwing McVitie's body from a boat into the sea at Newhaven, Sussex. He was also reported to have been buried in a newly dug grave at Gravesend Cemetery in Kent.
The evening before his death, he was drinking in The Regency Club when Reggie paid him a visit and the pair went to a Chinese restaurant. He warned Jack again about his conduct and the recent fracas with the Barrys. Jack 'The Hat' complained that "those bastards wouldn't let me in". Reg told him, as he did many times before, that he was out of order and couldn't go around upsetting their friends and business associates. The meeting was quite amicable and Reg left, feeling that he had done all he could to let Jack know how he and Ronnie felt about his attitude. But Reg knew he was wasting his time and that Jack 'The Hat' McVitie was going to be a big, big problem.
The following evening Tony and Chris Lambrianou took two friends, Tony and Alan Mills to The Carpenters Arms to meet the Twins. They were up and coming villains from Birmingham where Chris was now working. He wasn't part of the Firm but his brother Tony Lambrianou was. Although Chris was based in Birmingham he would come to London every few weeks to have a night out with his brother and go up West or have a few drinks in one of the many East End clubs. The Carpenters Arms was packed. The Twins seemed in good form and their parents were there and a few of the Firm. After Lambrianou had introduced the Mills brothers and had a few drinks with Ronnie and Reggie he wanted to move on somewhere else. Chris wanted to go up West but his brother Tony persuaded him to have a drink in the Regency. When they arrived, Jack 'The Hat' and Ronnie Hart joined them for a few drinks. Later in the evening, Jack noticed that Tony wasn't there and he asked Chris where he had gone. Chris didn't know but it wasn't too long before he returned. Tony said that there was a party in Evering Road at Blonde Carol's, with plenty of women and drink and they were all invited.
The murder occurred on 29 October 1967, where McVitie was invited to the party at 97 Evering Road, Stoke Newington, London, with several of his underworld associates and their families. The Krays had secretly arrived at the party first and had spent an hour clearing away guests. As soon as McVitie arrived at the flat, he noticed something was unusual. Ronnie was already there, along with his two friends Trevor and Terry, Reggie Kray, Ronnie Bender and Ronnie Hart. Ronnie came up to McVitie and gave him verbal abuse.
Reggie Kray's initial plan to shoot McVitie upon entry failed. Reggie pulled out a gun and held it to Jack's head and pulled the trigger. His gun jammed. The Mills brothers wanted no part of this and quickly left. Chris Lambrianou had no idea that Jack had been set up and was shocked at what he knew was about to happen. McVitie fought back but was soon overwhelmed by the others in the room. After the gun jammed, he stabbed McVitie repeatedly in the face, chest and stomach as part of a brief but violent struggle.
The twins quickly fled the scene and McVitie's body was deposited, was wrapped in some eiderdown and bundled into the back seat of a car. Tony Lambrianou dove it while his brother Chris and Ronnie Bender followed. They had planned to take the body to South London and dump it there so that The Richardsons associates would get the blame. The body was eventually left outside St Mary's Church, on the south side of the Rotherhithe tunnel, by Tony, Chris Lambrianou, and Ronnie Bender, who were at this time, minor members of the Firm. When the Twins heard where they had left the body they went mad. The corpse was on the doorstep of Freddie Foreman, a great friend and associate. Some phone calls were made and the body was swiftly moved before it could be found. It has never been found to this day. Freddie Foreman, after many years, has admitted to helping in the disposal of Jack's body.
The body was never recovered, although in an interview in 2000 (which featured Reggie Kray giving a frank account of the activity of the Firm 12 days before his death) Foreman admitted to throwing McVitie's body from a boat into the sea at Newhaven, Sussex. He was also reported to have been buried in a newly dug grave at Gravesend Cemetery in Kent. It is alleged that McVitie left behind a son, Tony McVitie.
Following McVitie's murder, the Krays and several other members of their gang were finally arrested by the Scotland Yard police officers who had been watching their exploits for years. At the Old Bailey on 4 March 1969, both were found guilty of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment with a recommendation that they should each serve a minimum of 30 years. Ronnie's murder conviction was for the murder of rival gangster, George Cornell, whom he shot dead in March 1966. Sylvia McVitie, McVities widow gave evidence against the Krays during the trial too.
The jury took 6 hours and 55 minutes to reach their unanimous verdict. Never before at the Old Bailey had such a long and expensive trial taken place. The Krays' elder brother Charlie, together with Freddie Foreman (who helped move the body) and Connie Whitehead, were all found guilty of being accessories to McVitie's murder.
Prison seemed to do much to encourage the myth and legend surrounding the Krays. Both wrote best-selling books about their lives and, in 1990, a full-length biographical film entitled The Krays was released (featuring real-life brothers Martin and Gary Kemp as the Kray twins). Jack McVitie was portrayed by actor Tom Bell in this film before also appearing in the 2004 film Charlie, this time depicted by Marius Swift. In the 2015 film about the Krays, Legend, he is played by Sam Spruell.
- Bennett, John. Krayology (2015). Mango Books.
|People associated with The Krays|
|Kray Family||Ronnie • Reggie • Charlie • Violet • Charles|
|Shea Family||Frances • Frank • Elsie • Frank Sr.|
|Lee Family||Cannonball Lee • Grandma Lee • Aunt Rose • Aunt May • Uncle John|
|The Firm||Albert Donoghue • Ian Barrie • Leslie Payne • Big Pat • Ronnie Bender • Ronnie Hart • Teddy Smith • Jack Dickson • The Bear • Chris Lambrianou • Tony Lambrianou • Connie Whitehead|
|The Richardsons||Charlie Richardson • Eddie Richardson • George Cornell • Mad Frankie Fraser • Roy Hall • Jimmy Moody • Barry Harris • Albert Longman • Tommy Clark|
|Gangsters & Criminals||Freddie Foreman • Jack Spot • Billy Hill • Bert Rossi • Albert Dimes • Eric Mason • Johnny Squibb • Ginger Marks • Leslie Holt|
|Civilians||The Barmaid • Blonde Carol • Maureen Flanagan • Nipper Read • Lord Boothby • John Pearson • David Bailey|
|Victims||George Cornell • Frank Mitchell • Jack the Hat|