In the 1960s, they were widely seen as prosperous and charming celebrity nightclub owners and were part of the Swinging London scene.
A large part of their fame was due to their non-criminal activities as popular figures on the celebrity circuit, being photographed by David Bailey on more than one occasion; and socialising with Lords MPs, socialites and show business characters such as the actors George Raft, Judy Garland, Diana Dors, Barbara Windsor and singer Frank Sinatra.
"They were the best years of our lives. They called them the swinging sixties. The Beatles and the Rolling Stones were rulers of pop music, Carnaby Street ruled the fashion world... and me and my brother ruled London. We were fucking untouchable..." – Ronnie Kray, in his autobiographical book, My Story.
Lord Boothby and Tom Driberg
The Krays also came into the public eye when an exposé in the tabloid newspaper Sunday Mirror alleged that Ron had had a sexual relationship with Lord Boothby, a UK Party politician.
Although no names were printed, when the twins threatened the journalists involved in the story and Boothby threatened to sue, the newspaper backed down, sacked its editor, printed an apology and paid Boothby £40,000 in an out-of-court settlement.. As a result, other newspapers were unwilling to uncover the Krays' connections and criminal activities.
The police investigated the Krays on several occasions, but the twins' reputation for violence meant witnesses were afraid to come forward to testify.
There was also a political problem for both main parties. It was in the interests of neither the Conservative Party to press the police to end the Krays' power lest the Boothby connection was again publicised and demonstrated, nor the Labour Party as their MP Tom Driberg was also rumoured to have had a relationship with Ron.
Ronnie Kray shot and killed George Cornell in the Blind Beggar pub in Whitechapel on 9 March 1966. Ronnie was drinking in another pub when he heard that Cornell was in the Blind Beggar. Taking Reggie's driver John "Scotch Jack" Dickson and Ian Barrie, his right-hand man, he then killed Cornell.
Just before Cornell died, he remarked "Well, look who's here." There had been a confrontation at Christmas 1965 between the Krays and the Richardsons at the Astor Club, when Cornell, an associate of the Richardsons, referred to Ronnie as a "fat poof". However, Ronnie denied this and said that the reason for the killing was because he was threatening him and Reggie.
The result was a gang war between the two, and Kray associate Richard Hart was murdered at Mr. Smith's Club in Catford on 8 March 1966. Ronnie avenged Hart's death by shooting Cornell. "Mad" Frankie Fraser was taken to court for Hart's murder but was found not guilty. A member of the Richardsons gang claimed that he saw him kicking Hart.
Cornell was the only one to escape from the brawl in top condition so it is likely that Ronnie thought that he was involved in the murder. Owing to intimidation, witnesses would not cooperate with the police.