Saturday 23 November 2019

Roy Shaw

An armed robber and associate of the Kray twins who later became a bare-knuckle boxing champion

ROY "Pretty Boy" Shaw, who has died aged 76, was an associate of the Kray twins and one of the East End's most notorious villains; he served time for armed robbery before becoming a champion of the unlicensed boxing circuit, a successful businessman and co-author (with Ronnie Kray's widow Kate) of a bestselling autobiography.

Royston Henry Shaw was born in Stepney on March 11, 1936, and became involved in violent crime from a young age, experiencing his first taste of life in custody at a borstal in Usk, Monmouthshire. "I was always whacking people in dance halls and going to jail," he recalled in Kate Kray's television documentary Hard Bastards, shown on Channel 5 in 2001, "so a few mates said I might as well join them on their blags [armed robberies] and make some money out of it."

Though he knew and respected the Krays, the brothers were into protection rackets and therefore occupied a different criminal niche: "I never got in their way and they never got in mine."

In 1963 Shaw was sentenced to 18 years for an stg£87,000 armed heist on a bullion van. In jail he became friends with Ronnie Biggs and the notorious Jack "The Hat" McVitie (who was later killed by the Krays).

But not all his fellow inmates were so agreeable, and Shaw soon set about enforcing the gangland "code of honour". He claimed to have cut the throats of grasses ("I done six") and administered gruesome retribution on paedophiles: "The screws would leave me with the nonces. They'd even give me the wire to strangle 'em with."

But Shaw soon turned his aggression on the prison warders and was eventually transferred to Broadmoor hospital for the criminally insane after murdering a man with his bare hands.

There he was subjected to ECT, a treatment which served only to make him more aggressive. "My doctor told me: 'There'll be no cure for you, you'll always be a nutter,'" Shaw recalled.

By the mid-Seventies Shaw had spent time in more than 22 different institutions. During his years inside, he kept up a punishing fitness regime, developing huge 18in biceps.

After emerging from Broadmoor in the late Seventies, Shaw decided to "go straight" -- up to a point -- and put his skills to good use in the unlicensed boxing circuit. Under the (presumably ironic) name 'Pretty Boy', and sometimes 'Mean Machine', Shaw became best known for his bouts with the underworld enforcer Lenny 'The Guv'nor' McLean, who described his opponent as "the hardest bastard I ever met".

He scored a notable victory over the heavyweight Ron Stander, who had once defeated Joe Frazier (though Shaw modestly admitted that the broken rib which Stander had suffered before the fight had probably helped).

Most famously, he destroyed the King of the Gypsies, Donny 'the Bull' Adams, in less than a minute, the (unnamed) promoter of the event recalling: "Roy just walked across the ring, hit him with a left hook, bosh-bosh, a right, and it was all over."

Even before he was sent to prison, Shaw had begun dabbling in property and, during the Eighties and Nineties, he did well enough out of property speculation, second-hand car dealing and other enterprises that he was able to buy a "nice gaff" in Waltham Abbey, complete with personal gym.

In 1999 Pretty Boy, his autobiography written with Kate Kray, made the bestseller lists for eight weeks in a row. Subsequently he appeared on a website advertising a service to "Hire a Crimebiz star" for "that special event or book signing".

In 2000 Shaw was one of the best-known mourners to attend the funeral of Reggie Kray, a man Shaw described, nostalgically, as coming from a time when "there was honour among thieves and few criminals double-crossed their friends".

Three years later, dapper in morning dress, he gave away the bride when Ronnie's widow Kate tied the knot for the second time with Leo 'The Razor' O'Reilly. The bride described her surrogate father affectionately as "a walking, talking killing machine".

But Shaw's wealth attracted the less welcome attentions of fortune seekers, and in 2009 he won a court battle with Linda Finnimore, a 43-year-old blonde who had acted as a manager when he was a boxer. Ms Finnimore claimed that she was Shaw's "common law wife" and that he had given her more than stg£600,000 in a share of profits from a stg£2.6m land sale. But the judge accepted Shaw's claim that he was a "Mr Trusty" who had been taken for "a right mug" by a "natural fraudster" 30 years his junior.

Roy Shaw liked to boast of keeping "a string of birds", but was unmarried.

Roy 'Pretty Boy' Shaw, born March 11, 1936, died July 14, 2012.

Sunday Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editors Choice

Also in World News