KEEPING IT IN THE FAMILY!
People can be united by the family bond to achieve great things. However, this same bond can also link family members in notorious achievements, and there can be an element of romanticism attached to the way their escapades are perceived. The stories of the exploits of family criminals sometimes capture the public imagination in a way that other criminal gangs do not. These legendary anti-heroes often engender cult followings and even campaigns for their release from custodial sentences.
One such notorious family in England was the Krays. The Kray twins, Ronnie and Reggie, controlled organised crime in the East End of London in the mid-twentieth century and they were villains on a very grand scale. A violent pair, they were responsible for intimidation and murder. However, in spite of the terrible crimes they committed and the suffering they caused, they are remembered with fondness by some because they were part of a close-knit East End family. What people remember is that they adored their mother and supported her all her life. The fact that she ruled both hard men with a rod of iron only adds to the charm of their story!
Another family of criminals that hit the headlines in more recent years, and for different reasons, is the Johnson family, travellers based in the south of England. The Johnsons did not use intimidation and murder to acquire their fortune – they were highly organised and sophisticated burglars. Like the Krays, they kept everything in the family and their team was comprised of a father, two sons, a cousin and a son-in-law. This ensured secrecy, and for over 20 years, the system worked. The police had no idea who was behind the planning and execution of some of the most daring and profitable raids on country mansions they had ever seen. Indeed, one of their break-ins is in the record books as the UK’s biggest ever private house burglary. In this one raid, the Johnsons stole millions of pounds worth of antiques.
The Johnsons were professionals in the full sense of the word. They targeted the wealthiest people in the area and they would stake out their mansions for weeks beforehand to pinpoint strengths and weaknesses in the security systems. Then, they would raid the house and be in and out within a matter of minutes. They left no trace and sometimes even burgled houses while the owners were sitting in another room, completely unaware! Over the years they amassed more than £80 million.
The stories of criminal families like the Krays and the Johnsons read like fiction, and in fact both sets of criminals have featured in films. So, why are we so fascinated by people like this? Whatever the reason, people continue to treat them as celebrities. Ronnie and Reggie Kray’s paintings, done in prison, have fetched enormous sums of money, and no doubt the Johnsons’ story could make a popular TV series on a par with US TV mafia family, The Sopranos!