The Murder of Frank Mitchell was an event that occurred on Christmas Eve 1966. A long term friend of the twins, he was murdered at their behest by associate Freddie Foreman and members of his Firm on Ladysmith Avenue, just off the Barking Road.
Mitchell befriended Ronnie Kray when they served a sentence together at Wandsworth prison in the 1950s. During Mitchell's trial for attempted murder, Ron hired a lawyer for him and paid for him to have a new suit fitted. Ron was keen on breaking Mitchell out of prison, thinking it would help him to publicise his grievance and earn a release date, as well as enhance the Krays' standing in the underworld. Reggie Kray recalled that he was reluctant, but finally reasoned that "if nothing else it would stick two fingers up to the law". Reg visited Mitchell at Dartmoor in disguise and informed him of the plan. On 12 December 1966, while with a small work party on the moors, Mitchell asked the sole guard for permission to feed some nearby Dartmoor ponies. His request was granted, he walked over to a quiet road where a getaway car containing associates of the Krays – Albert Donoghue, "Mad" Teddy Smith and Billy Exley – was waiting for him, and they drove to London, where the Krays put him up in a flat in Barking Road, East Ham. It was over five hours before Mitchell was reported missing.
Mitchell's escape made national news, led to a political storm over the lax security around a man described in the press as "Britain's most violent convict", and was debated in the House of Commons. A large manhunt ensued, with 200 policemen, 100 Royal Marines and a Royal Air Force helicopter searching the moors. With the aid of Teddy Smith, Mitchell wrote to national newspapers and his plea to be granted a release date was printed in The Times and the Daily Mirror. However, Home Secretary Roy Jenkins was not willing to negotiate with an escaped felon and would not review his status until he was back in custody.
Mitchell soon became a problem for the Krays. Owing to his physical strength and short temper, he was difficult to control. He was unwilling to give himself up and return to prison, and was not allowed to leave the flat in case he was recognised. The Krays feared releasing him or turning him in as he could implicate them in his escape. Mitchell felt insulted that Reg had only visited him in person once and was particularly upset that he could not visit his parents, despite them living nearby. He grew increasingly agitated and began making threats against the Krays. To placate him, they brought a woman to the flat: Liza Prescott, a blonde night club hostess, with whom Mitchell soon fell in love, further complicating the situation. The Krays decided the only solution was to kill him.
On 24 December 1966 Mitchell was led into the back of a van by Albert Donoghue, thinking he was to be taken to a safehouse in the countryside where he would meet up with Ronnie Kray. There was almost another argument when he realised that Liza would not be coming with him; Donoghue persuaded him that it was safer for her to follow later on.
- "Well the only way to do this is to think what’s going to happen if you get a stoppo on the way down. If the Old Bill pull you, you’re going to go right into one, and she’s going to be involved. She’ll either be hurt or nicked. You don’t need that. So what we’ll do, we’ll set you off first, and I’ll follow up with Lisa half an hour later. We’ll get you there all nice and safely, you’ll be with the Colonel and Merry Christmas."
- ―Albert Donoghue & Martin Short; The Enforcer (2002)
Waiting in the van were several men, among them Freddie Foreman and Alfie Gerrard, who were armed with revolvers. Once the van doors were closed and the engine started, they opened fire on Mitchell, killing him. Donoghue thought that 12 shots were fired before Mitchell died.
- "They just keep popping the man. He comes off the casing on his knees, then he falls back, and these bullets are going all over him. Then he goes still and one of the guys, Foreman, leans over and puts three more shots in around the heart. You can see the shirt jumping. He’s been lying quiet for a while. He’s got to be dead. Then all of a sudden there’s a groan, and he lifts his head up again. I don’t know what they call it – after death, the body relaxing or gas escaping – but then there’s another groan. So Gerrard says, “He ain’t fucking dead, give him another one, I’m empty.” ...Yeah, I’m pleased to hear one guy’s empty – at least I’ve only got one gun to deal with now – but then Foreman goes and puts the gun right up behind Frank’s ear and Pop! Pop! That’s the last two shots that’s fired into him."
- ―Albert Donoghue & Martin Short; The Enforcer (2002)
His body was never recovered. Foreman later revealed that Mitchell's body was bound with chicken wire, weighted down and dumped in the English Channel. Reggie Kray cited springing Mitchell from prison as one of his biggest mistakes.
In 1968, the Krays and various accomplices were arrested and put on trial for an array of offences, including the murders of George Cornell, Jack McVitie and Frank Mitchell. Their attempt to cajole gang member Albert Donoghue into confessing to killing Mitchell led to him becoming a crown witness and testifying against them. Ron, Reg and Charlie Kray and Freddie Foreman were all acquitted of Mitchell's murder, due to lack of evidence and the perceived unreliability of Donoghue's testimony. Reggie Kray was found guilty of conspiring to effect Mitchell's escape from Dartmoor, for which he received a five-year sentence to run concurrently with his other sentences. Donoghue and another Firm member, John Dickson, pleaded guilty to harbouring Mitchell and respectively received 18-month and nine-month sentences.
In his 1996 autobiography Respect, Foreman admitted to shooting Mitchell as a favour to the Krays; Donoghue said Foreman was paid £1,000 for it. Foreman was arrested and questioned by police after repeating his confession in a 2000 television documentary, but the Crown Prosecution Service announced that it would not be re-opening the case, due to the then extant double jeopardy law.