In the late 1960s, Bobby Cummines was Britain’s most wanted man. He took part in countless armed robberies and was a close affiliate of the Kray and Richardson gangs.
Aged 16, Cummines was Britain’s youngest armed robber. He went on to lead a firm of hitmen, regularly holding up premises across London with a sawn-off shotgun which he christened Kennedy.
“If it hadn’t been for Ron, Reggie wouldn’t have got involved with the murders”
Remarkably, after a lengthy stint in prison with The Krays and Charlie Richardson for company, Cummines turned his life around, organising training schemes for prisoners and persuading banks to give them bank accounts.
Until 2012 Cummines, now 64, was chief executive of UNLOCK, The National Association of Reformed Offenders. In 2011, he was awarded an OBE for his work with reformed offenders.
Here, as The Fall of The Krays gets released on DVD, Bobby Cummines tells Loaded about his extraordinary life.
On starting out
“I was one of the youngest people in Britain to ever be done with a sawn-off shotgun. I was 16 at the time. The Krays were in the Old Bailey on murder charges and I was on trial up there for the possession of firearms and robbery. I didn’t know them much at the time, but I got to know them after that. When I got out after that stint, I started going the heavy game with armed robberies and things like that. You know, keeping the manor clean and getting rid of pests, that sort of thing.”
On Ronnie and Reggie Kray
“I was North London and they were in the East End, getting put away as I was coming up in the world. I then met them in jail with Charlie Richardson and we all ended up becoming really good mates. Ronnie was in Broadmoor and he was totally off his rocker. If it hadn’t been for Ron, Reggie wouldn’t have gotten involved with the murders. He was alright with everyone. They were a little bit childish; they just wanted a gang. Ronnie was very possessive of Reggie and dominated him. Even when they were in prison, Ronnie used to always send Reggie letters telling him what to do. Reggie loved him, you know, what could he do? Ronnie wanted gang warfare and a sort of mafia in England. Nobody else wanted that really, everyone else just wanted to make money. They wanted to be the Governors of their manor. Ron started getting delusions of grandeur. He wanted to take over the whole country and that was the beginning of the end for them, really.”
“I ain’t going to roll around on the floor with them, I’m just going to shoot them”
On the Krays being misunderstood
“I always got on well with The Krays. They were sweet as. When my mum was dying of leukaemia, they sent flowers and some painting. Now, some of the paintings were horrendous because they did them themselves, but it was a nice thought. For mums and all that, their hearts were in the right place and I couldn’t say anything bad about them. We were into iron bars and things like that when it came to work, but we had guns and all. I got on well with them because we had a similar mentality and that was how we went about our business back in those days.”
On his struggles
“I done everything, I done the manslaughter but I never did the first thing they nicked me for. And so back then I thought to myself ‘If you’re going do me for what I ain’t done, you should see what I can do.’ And we stepped it up with guns and that’s how it all took off really. I’m only 5ft 6ins. There’s about as much fat on me as a greasy chip. I ain’t going to roll around on the floor with people, I’m just going to shoot them. I’ve done a lot of bad. I did 13 years out of 20 and I served every day of it. Other people go to bed at night and they have a dream under their pillow. I used to go to bed with a gun under it.”
On going straight
“Having my daughter and my other little daughter who died, I just thought how I would never want a kid of mine to come and see me in prison. And that was that. I took a degree in sociology and pschology in prison and when I came out, I couldn’t get a job. To go straight, I had to tell lies. These barriers were put up there and you couldn’t get bank accounts or insurance when you came out of prison. You didn’t have a chance in life so I set up a charity for people who have just come out. We started off with six quid and turned it into a national charity called UNLOCKED.”
“I became specialist advisor to the Deputy Prime Minister’s office, on rehabilitation. I’ve been to Dublin, South Africa and China to talk about rehabilitation and even been to the European Council. I’ve been made Master of a number of colleges. It’s better to have letters after your name than numbers in front of it. I couldn’t believe it when I got the OBE and I felt very humble about that. There’s people out there doing loads of good work and I thought ‘Why me?’.”
On the Hatton Garden robbers
“The rules in my day were, you have two types of robbers, right? You’ve got the type that cut through walls and don’t hurt no-one. Then you had the highway mob, and that was us. We would just go straight up to security guards and knock them out and walk into banks. Violence was the currency. These blokes are at the age where they’re granddads going to do one last job. They didn’t hurt anyone and that should be reflected in the sentence. They’re old men and they aren’t well, so that’s the last bit of work that they’re going on: to take care of their families. It’s their pension money that they got in. They’re on their way out anyway and probably going to snuff it soon and they wanted to look after their family.”
On missing his old life
“Do I miss it? Yeah. I just think to myself that I can always look at my life and say that it was never, ever boring. I was in control of my life. I did what I wanted to do and I still do that now. Don’t be boring. Ronnie said to me ‘You don’t take shit out of people and neither do we. I like that.’ Now I’m just a nice old boy who enjoys life. I used to think violence meant respect, but all it means is fear. If you want respect, you’ve got to show respect to people.”
Fall Of The Krays is out on Blu-ray and DVD today.
Loaded’s entertainment editor Jennifer O’Brien is an award-winning journalist who has written extensively about popular culture as a national newspaper columnist and author. Follow her on Twitter at @Jen_OBrien1