BY JAMES TWOMEY
In cycles of violence, like the recent rise in gang related crime and murders in the capital, it can be useful to reflect on the history of violence that has always existed in London, in one way or another.
Eddie Richardson, of the Richardson gang, terrorised South London in the 1960s and 1970s and warred with the infamous Kray twins alongside his brother Charlie.
His new book No Handcuffs: The Final Word On My War With The Krays is a collaboration with author Douglas Thompson which sees Eddie reflect on his journey from the scrapyards of South London to the glitz and glamour of the West End nightclubs, as well as his status in gangland territory.
Eddie said his book is relevant to modern gangs, who he said are greedier and more corrupt, claiming he and his brother “wrote the handbook for them”.
He also spoke exclusively about how his experiences of gang life compares to those of today.
The book follows Eddie’s biography The Last Word: My Life as a Gangland Boss but Eddie felt like he had a few more words to add to his story.
“The first book I released was about my life story, but this one is about specific incidents that happened to me, like the fight at Mr Smith’s that night,” said Eddie.
And the book does provide some satisfying lines about scraps and fights Eddie found himself in, which will excite fans of gangster history, particularly on that night at the Mr Smith’s club in Rushey Green, Catford.
That night the Richardson gang engaged in a gunfight – allegedly started by Eddie and a rival Peter Hennessy – which ultimately caused the death of Richard Hart, an associate of the Kray twins, and Frankie Fraser who was involved with the Richardsons was shot in the leg.
The brawl is also considered the beginning of the end of the Richardson gang, as most of them were arrested that night. Of that particular night, Eddie says in the book: “These guys thought they were Jimmy Cagney.
In Catford. Although, the way things went down, it was the Wild West.
“I was on a no-win with the guns but I won the fight. Hennessy was out of the game and I was breathless. When I turned around it was a bloody circus.
“Frank took a bullet in his side from Hart’s .45, right through, smashing his thigh bone. He was crippled by it but still trying to get at the gun. Hart’s gun was turned on him and he was shot. I know who did it but I won’t say.
“As I saw it, we were the victims. We’d gone to the club unarmed and not looking for trouble, and now we were shot up.”
It is fair to say there is no love lost between Eddie and the memory of his now dead rivals, the Kray twins.
“To me, the Krays were a nuisance, to them we were a threat,” Eddie said in the book. “I got on OK with Reg, there was no aggro. Inside, it was all of us against the establishment.
“Outside, we were supposed competitors, but it was a different situation. In prison, the twins wouldn’t do anything to me, interfere with me in any way. They were like two lost sheep in prison, lost sheep who had no idea how to get on with it inside.”
But Eddie says he had trouble releasing his most recent book after a lot of back and forth with writers to ensure the accuracy of the stories.
Eddie said: “To be honest I never thought the second book would come out. There were about five versions and a lot had to come out of it because it was fiction. Fiction about my brother and some of the things he did.
“But I’m pleased with it. It seems to be selling well. I’ve sold about 150 copies myself at a signing and people call me up a lot asking for one.” When asked about how gangs and violence compares now to Eddie’s day, he said: “People were quick to violence back then because they had to be. Which is the same as now. Which I was plenty of times.
“The biggest difference though is that there weren’t mobile phones in them days, if you needed to get in touch with someone and get something done you had to find a phone and that could take forever. Nowadays everything happens so quickly.
“But people looked after themselves in them days better than they do now. All the stabbings nowadays are to do with drugs, it’s obvious isn’t it? Someone on someone else’s territory and they get warnings they’re going to get stabbed. Back in our day if it was going to get heavy we’d bring guns not knives.
“But back then I’d say Soho was one of the most dangerous areas in London, I got into plenty of trouble there.”
Eddie says he has some regrets in his life, some are touched on in the book, but now the 84-year-old leads a normal life – one that would not indicate he was once one of the most feared men in the city.
Eddie said: “Everyone would have regrets about it I suppose, but I’m just thinking about tomorrow instead of yesterday. It’s all in the past so I don’t think about it.”
No Handcuffs: The Final Word On My War With The Krays is now available at most major booksellers.