STEALING A LIVING I was UK’s most feared bank robber & locked up with crazed Kray twins…but it was their OTHER brother who did me in

 WHEN Ronnie Field arrived at Parkhurst Prison at 2am on a stormy night, he was greeted in reception by the Kray twins, bearing gifts.

The armed robber had never met Britain’s most infamous gangsters, but was welcomed by them at the request of his own gangland boss, Joey Pyle.

Reformed robber Ronnie Field, who knew the Kray Twins, now knocks back crime jobs
Reformed robber Ronnie Field, who knew the Kray Twins, now knocks back crime jobsCredit: Paul Edwards
Feared gangsters Ronnie and Reggie Kray in London in 1964
Feared gangsters Ronnie and Reggie Kray in London in 1964Credit: Getty
Ronnie with his brother on his wedding day in 1964
Ronnie with his brother on his wedding day in 1964Credit: Supplied

While the crimes of twins Ronnie and Reggie have been recounted in countless books and films, underworld figures Pyle and Field escaped the glare of publicity.

And that is the way they liked it.

“We’re happy in the shadows with the money,” as Joey, once dubbed London’s don of dons, told his pal.

Now, for the first time, 77-year-old Field has decided to reveal the secrets of his life as one of the country’s most feared bank robbers.And how he ended up in the dock with the twins’ older brother, Charlie Kray, for a plot to import millions of pounds worth of cocaine.

He met some of the nation’s most infamous criminals, including Freddie Foreman and Charles Bronson, and had his life saved by notorious hardman-turned-actor Dave Courtney.

Ronnie, whose book Nefarious — about his life of crime — is out this month, twice survived being shot, spent 23 years in prison and at one point was earning so much money from sticking up banks that he had a Harrods Bank account.

But he does not want would-be gangsters to think there is anything glamorous about the life he led.Ronnie tells The Sun: “I think the obsession with the Krays is over the top.

“I knew them, I knew what they were like“Youngsters idolise them.

“When youngsters say, ‘I’d like to do that’, I say, ‘No, you wouldn’t’.

“Think of the time you are banged up, look at me — 23 years behind the door.”

Violence, though, was in Ronnie’s upbringing after his birth in a workhouse in Epsom, Surrey.

His dad Bill, a safecracker, left the family when his son was five and the boy faced a reign of terror from his grandmother and uncle Fred — until Ronnie almost killed them in revenge.

He recalls: “My nan used to have a big walking stick with knobs on it — it was her favourite weapon, she beat us with that a lot.

“I attacked her, I tried to strangle her.

“She left us alone after that.”

When his 6ft 2in uncle, a coalman, raped one of his sisters, Ronnie admits: “I did him with a brick.

“I dropped it out of a window on his head, ran down the stairs and kicked the granny out of him.”

After leaving school, Ronnie found work in the building trade and as a gardener, but gangster Pyle suggested a different line of employment.

At first it was menacing business owners into handing over protection money.

Then it was as part of a gang robbing shops, banks and bookmakers with sawn-off, pump-action shotguns.

He says: “It was my job to go in first and come out last.

“I would always blow a bit of ceiling out — as soon as you do that, people go on the floor.”

At one point he was ­robbing premises on a daily basis, sometimes even doing two jobs a day.

Dad-of-two Ronnie says: “I had a good lifestyle — clubs, suits, hand-made shirts, hand-made shoes.”

He bought a house in Sutton, South London, with cash, and a flash Rover V8 car.

‘Favourite weapon’

When his daughter Sadie got married, he made a cheeky reference in his speech to the money he had made from robbing banks.

A smiling Ronnie recalls: “I said, ‘I would like to thank Barclays, Midlands, National Westminster.

“Without them, this wedding wouldn’t be possible’.”

First wife Carol was not impressed by the underworld characters he socialised with and the pair divorced in 1976.

That same year, Ronnie married his second wife Jackie, was nearly killed by a hitman and was jailed for the first time.

The attempt on his life happened while he was walking through Tooting, South London.

A man rushed at him, firing a revolver.

He was hit in the foot and was able to shoot back, hitting the would-be killer in the stomach.

They both escaped alive and Ronnie says: “I never found out what that was about.”

But his luck ran out during a robbery at a clothing factory in Leeds, which was supposed to hold £100,000 in wages.

The inside information was that they had to get through a reinforced metal door, but it was just wood.

The bullets Ronnie blasted into it hit staff.

Although not remorseful at the time, he now says: “My biggest regret is shooting them people — it was an accident, they didn’t deserve it.

"They weren’t like us.

“One of us gets shot, it’s the name of the game.

“Four of them were injured, but none of them died.”

The gang managed to get out, remove their overalls, change cars twice and get on the motorway home.

Charlie Kray outside Maidstone Prison after visiting his brother Reggie in 1995
Charlie Kray outside Maidstone Prison after visiting his brother Reggie in 1995Credit: PA:Press Association
Crowds line the streets for Ronnie Kray’s funeral in 1995
Crowds line the streets for Ronnie Kray’s funeral in 1995Credit: Getty

Little did they know that a young boy, suspecting they were robbers, had taken down the number plate of their second car.

As they drove down the eerily empty carriageway, they saw a coach blocking their path and heavily armed police officers up on the embankment.

Ronnie had such a reputation for violence that one of his accomplices asked him not to “lose your rag”.

He replied: “Do you think I’m going to start with that lot up there?”

Ronnie received a 12-year jail term for conspiracy to rob, robbery, aggravated burglary, two counts of carrying a firearm with intent and four counts of assault with intent to rob.

But there was a warm reception for him when he arrived at Parkhurst Prison on Isle of Wight from the Kray twins.

Ronnie recalls: “The screw said in reception, ‘You must be someone important’.

“I said, ‘Why?’. And he said, ‘Look out there’ — and there was Ron and Reg standing there.

“They had coffee, sugar and powdered milk in a bag for me.

“They was in charge.

“Who gets out of their cell at two o’clock in the morning and walks across the yard of a top-security prison to say hello to someone who had just come in?”

Ronnie and Reggie Kray were serving life for two murders, but were believed to have killed many more.

The new arrival discovered that their reputation for extreme violence was not a myth.

Ronnie recalls: “I saw Ronnie Kray pour a stainless steel bucket of boiling water over the head of a geezer because he hadn’t filled his cup up.

Extreme violence

“Click of a finger and they were different people.

“They were dangerous until the day they died.”

Prior to his release, Ronnie was sent to Maidstone prison, where he found himself on gardening duty with Charles Bronson, the man dubbed the hardest prisoner in Britain.

Ronnie says: “He is as strong as anything.

“He is a very fair man, a very generous man.

“He should have come out years ago, but I don’t think he wants to come out.”

Within a week of getting out himself, Ronnie was back committing robberies and then took up the offer of a chance to grab £10million of diamonds at Gatwick Airport.

Ronnie felt something was wrong about the operation and his fears proved to be correct when his car was surrounded by armed officers.

He claims the police had intended to shoot him but could not because of the public nearby.

One officer, he says, told him: “You were very lucky because you were going today.”

He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to steal and was jailed for three and a half years.

This time he was sent to Belmarsh high-security prison in South East London, where gangster Dave Courtney saved his life during a riot.

Ronnie was having a heart attack, but prison officers would not let Dave or anyone else come to his aid.

He recalls: “Dave Courtney dragged me away.

“They started hitting Dave with riot sticks, but he just lay over the top of me.

“Then he pulled me along until he got into the cell and then he kicked the door shut.

“Dave saved my life.”

They remained friends on the outside and spoke two days before Dave killed himself at the age of 64 last October.

Ex-gangster pal Dave Courtney poses with a handgun
Ex-gangster pal Dave Courtney poses with a handgunCredit: Alamy
Britain's hardest prisoner Charles Bronson arriving at the Old Bailey in 2004
Britain's hardest prisoner Charles Bronson arriving at the Old Bailey in 2004Credit: Rex Features

Ronnie says: “I couldn’t believe he had done that.

“He’d just bought a car, bought a boat, spent £15,000 on his teeth and then he went and killed himself.

“He was riddled with cancer.

“He never showed it.

“I spoke to him two days before and he was having a drink with us a couple of weeks before and he never mentioned it.”

Ronnie Field’s final stretch inside came as a result of his friendship with Charlie Kray.

The twins’ older brother told Ronnie that some gangsters in Newcastle who he had known for 20 years wanted him to supply them with cocaine.

Unbeknown to Ronnie, Charlie had only met them two weeks earlier.

Neither man realised that they were in fact undercover police officers.

Ronnie insists that he was not a drug dealer and that Charlie was not a high-level criminal.

“Charlie was a duck and diver,” he says.

“He would buy loads of gear, stick it in his garage and sell it.

“There was just a couple of kilos of cocaine I borrowed off someone.

“Neither of us were drug dealers.

“I don’t snort cocaine.”

I’d like to thank Barclays, Midlands and Nat West. Without them, this wedding wouldn’t be possible

Ronnie Field

They handed over cocaine to the undercover officers, with Charlie promising to supply five kilos of the drug every fortnight in an operation which could have been worth £39million.

Ronnie, aged 49 at the time, was jailed for nine years after pleading guilty to conspiracy to supply cocaine.

It was to be the last time he strayed on to the wrong side of the law — even though he still gets offers of criminal work at the age of 77.

Now a grandfather of six, he says: “After that I decided no more.

“I had loads of offers — I still do.”

But the constant fear of being caught persuaded him to keep turning them down.

Ronnie concludes: “People think it is easy. It’s not.

“You always seem to get up early in the morning in case there is a knock on the door.“You always wait for the knock on the door.”

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