Tales from the front line: even East End gangsters need help from EH

13 June 2019, EHN magazine

The Kray twins

Victor Sullivan was a health inspector for the Metropolitan Borough of Bethnal Green in the 1960s. He never let his professionalism slip, even when up on the East End rooftops with one of Kray twins:

"One of my most unsettling experiences came when I was dealing with repair issues as a health inspector in London’s East End," Victor says.

"I was responsible for issuing statutory notices under the Public Health Acts, so when a tenant complained to the council that her landlord wouldn’t repair a leaking roof, it didn’t seem that unusual. I walked to the house from the town hall in Bethnal Green and couldn’t help noticing a pair of very expensive cars parked outside.

"A young man answered the door and said he was there to help his mum deal with the damp. He showed me to a bedroom and it was obvious there was a problem. There was extensive brown staining on the ceiling and some areas were still wet. In those days we didn’t specify the exact works needed – all the landlord had to do was rectify the problem and we had procedures to deal with recurrent nuisances.

"I advised that I would issue a notice to the landlord to deal with the dampness. 'Don’t you want to look at the roof?' the young man asked.

" 'I don’t need to see it,' I explained. 'I just have to ask the landlord to repair it.'

“ 'We have a ladder,' he told me.

There was something intimidating in his voice and attitude, so even though I wouldn’t normally climb ladders for roof complaints, I was somehow guided to the back of the property where I found a ladder and high-level scaffolding. When I reached the top of the ladder and looked at the roof I could see the slipped slates that were causing the rain penetration. I told the young man I would be contacting the landlord to get it fixed.

Later, I learned that I had encountered none other than Reggie Kray, one of the notorious twins who led a violent criminal gang.

Did the landlord comply with the statutory notice? Of course. Bethnal Green had a stringent follow-up enforcement policy. Why else would he have fixed Reggie Kray’s mum’s roof so quickly?"

This is adapted from an article that appeared in the June issue of EHN (login required)

 

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