- "I have managed to outlive all my gangland bosses. I can’t say I was affected in any way by their deaths. They had no impact on me. There’s no point dancing on their graves."
- ―Albert Donoghue, The Kray's Lieutenant 1996
Albert Donoghue (5 November 1935 - 6 April 2016) was an integral member of The Firm and acted as Reggie Kray's right-hand man, minder, and chief executive. He also acted as a driver and money collector for the twins and would collect money from their various clubs in the West End. His surname is often misspelt as Donaghue in several books and newspaper articles and he has been labelled the twin's final betrayer.
Occasionally using the surname Barry (his stepfather's family name) to confuse the police, Donoghue was a known villain in the East End throughout the 1950s and 1960s. After a friend, Lenny Hamilton was badly hurt by the Krays, a remark was reputedly misconstrued as a threat against the twins, and Donoghue was shot in the leg by Reggie Kray in October 1964. Donoghue said nothing to the police and this, therefore earned him recruitment into the Kray firm. One of the twins most trusted associates, he later turned Queen's Evidence against the Krays in their trail, after they tried to make him stand for Frank Mitchell's murder after he was one of the last people to see him alive before he was shot to death in 1966.
Donoghue was born in Dublin, Ireland on Bonfire night, November 5th, 1935, to a strict working-class Catholic family. The third of four children, the others being girls, his father was a seaman who died of pneumonia soon after moving the family to Stepney in London's East End when Donoghue was three years old. During World War II, he along with his siblings to Devon. He then attended a strict Catholic boarding school in Orpington, Kent. As a young man, during 1956, he joined the merchant navy as a deck labourer, soon going through the Borstal system. Soon after, Donoghue with his three sisters and their mother moved to The East End when Donoghue’s father died; his mother later married a man named Barry with whom she had eight more children and Albert would occasionally use the Barry surname to confuse the authorities. He was used to violence from a young age and grew up to be considerably tall.
Starting out with a few villains from Bow on a small robbery, his main business was payroll snatches, operating in Bow, two miles east of Bethnal Green, the Kray's territory. The gang was commonly known as Harry Abrahams' Firm, only for Abraham himself was sentenced to five years imprisonment. In the late 1950s, he began working the racecourse betting pitches for Albert Dimes, Billy Hill’s lieutenant. Similarly to the twins, who had done for Jack Spot several years before. He was convicted of his first prison sentence on the 25th February 1958, for fifteen months for ‘factorybreaking with intent’, aged 23 at the time. Donoghue’s partner's sister was married to Billy Donovan, a member of the Kray Firm and doorman at the Double R Club, and this is how he managed to come into contact with the twins. By 1961, Donoghue had met and married his wife, and it was at this time he had become a fully active criminal. Donoghue was good friends with Lenny Hamilton, who was badly burnt by a red-hot poker by Ronnie Kray, Hamilton, however, had not told anybody in the Abrahams gang who had actually burnt him, so when Donoghue spoke out about the incident, he was unaware that it had been by Ronnie. In his book, he later stated that he said: “If they’d done that to me, I’d have blown their heads off.” (The Enforcer: Secrets of My Life with the Krays, with Martin Short)
Joining the FirmEditOn 17 September 1962, Donoghue received a three-year prison sentence after being found guilty of attempted larceny of £3,000 during a payroll robbery and was sent to Pentonville prison. Meanwhile, the Krays were informed of what Donoghue had said about Hamilton’s torturer and took it as a threat (they did not realise that he was unaware of who was responsible).When released from prison in October 1964, Donoghue went for a drink in The Crown & Anchor, Cheshire Street, Bethnal Green, after he received a message they wanted to see him. He was drinking for a short while when he noticed people moving away from him. He was then shot in the leg from behind by Reggie Kray who entered the pub from behind him whilst Ronnie took him outside and held him to the ground. After being told to visit the Krays later at Vallance Road, with his leg in plaster after walking to the Royal London Hospital, Donoghue was put on a pension and subsequently given a place on The Firm, stopping his activity with his former gang. He later became the Kray's paymaster and enforcer, working for them throughout their most powerful and violent years. He would frequently visit the West End of London and collect money from the nightclubs that the Krays owned. He was used as a 'face' of the Kray gang so that people would know if a club was owned by The Firm. Donoghue would often work as a doorman for various different clubs that the twins were in charge of, once getting in a physical fight with Ian Barrie after he was attempting to flirt with another member of The Firm's wife.
Albert himself played a crucial role in Frank Mitchell's escape from Dartmoor prison. When "The Mad Axeman" Mitchell escaped with the help of Teddy Smith, Donoghue was one who went to take supplies to the flat in Barking where Mitchell was being temporarily held. A young woman named Lisa was supplied to keep Mitchell happy, but unfortunately, Mitchell, it is said, fell for her. Soon, Mitchell became very and agitated restless and wanted to get out and about to visit family and old friends. Despite his tough reputation, Donoghue knew he would never stop Mitchell, as he had unusually phenomenal strength. After Mitchell began making threats of visiting Vallance Road and potentially causing a scene.The Krays decided that Mitchell was too much trouble, and asked Freddie Foreman, an old friend of the Krays from Southwark, South London, to "sort out" the problem.
A van arrived later that evening at the flat with Foreman and Alfie Gerrard inside. Donoghue escorted Mitchell to the van on the pretence that he was being taken to a safe house to meet Ronnie Kray. The pair narrowly avoided a young police officer, then Mitchell was told to get in the back of the van. Donoghue sat in the front as Mitchell sat in the back partition wheel casing. Soon after the doors slammed shut, signalling to shoot Mitchell, to which Foreman and Gerrard opened fire shooting him twelve times, but killing him slowly. Thinking he would be next, the van drove off and let Donoghue out later near his home in Bow. He made the phone call to Reggie Kray, stating 'that dog has won", meaning Mitchell is dead, to avoid police attention. The problem of the girl, Lisa, who was worried about the noises from the shooting, was told it was the van backfiring. She was then sorted out later that evening, whilst worrying she would be killed next, Donoghue assured her and took her away from the flat, where they then spent the night together. Donoghue was one of the last people to see Frank Mitchell alive that night and was a witness to his murder in December 1966.
Arrest and convictionEdit
When Reggie Kray killed Jack McVitie, Donoghue helped redecorated the blood-soaked room that the murder occurred in. At the time of the Firm's downfall and the Kray twins arrest on the 8th May 1968, Donoghue was thirty-two and living on Devons Road in Bow. He met The Krays in a custodial solicitors visit and handed them his notes on what had happened in the previous murders. Reggie Kray then proceeded to rip them up and told him they that they wanted Ronnie Hart to stand for the murder of Jack McVitie, John Dickson to stand up for George Cornell, and Donoghue was expected to take the rap for the murder of Frank Mitchell, but he told the twins directly that he wasn't prepared to be cajoled into pleading guilty, much to the anger of Ronnie Kray. Albert, who had become increasingly appalled by the violent turn the Twin's business affairs had been taking, testified against them.
In December 1968, he then managed to inform Nipper Read via his mother who was back home in Bow, his evidence against the twins. Read set up another interview in secret and Donoghue was the first to tell the police everything that he knew. After being in remand for several months, he pleaded guilty to harboring Mitchell and respectively received an 18-month sentence for his involvement in the McVitie and Mitchell affairs but subsequently was released in 1969 after doing around six months.Even the killer of Frank Mitchell, Freddie Foreman, said that the Krays put Donoghue in a difficult situation but he handled it well. Foreman later admitted that the evidence Donoghue gave in court about Mitchell's murder was true. In the case of Lisa, when asked if he would have killed her if ordered to, he said that, yes, eventually he would have. Known for his brutal honesty, Donoghue was one of the only members of the Kray gang who told the truth and made no bones of his occupation as a gangster. He played a huge part in the rise of the country's most notorious criminals, and witnessed their final descent into self-destruction.
Murder attempt Edit
Donoghue has said that in the early 1970s Billy Amies, an old friend who he had served time with and worked on the sea with, attempted to kill Donoghue in a car, only for Donoghue to end up attacking Amies with his own weapon (a potato peeler.) The pair were on their way to a nightclub opposite Rotherhithe Tunnel around one in the morning after a heavy drinking session in a few pubs in Bow, when near Tower Bridge. Donoghue had severed an artery in Amies' lip, spraying blood all over the windscreen, whilst he escaped in fear of a backup car and explained the situation to the police at Fleet Street but nothing came of the incident, apart from a £25 fine.
Later life Edit
In 1996 Donoghue released an autobiography titled, The Kray's Lieutenant. Donoghue never hid from anybody, staying in his home area in and around the East End, later moving to Peckham and then Kent. Many assumed he had moved to Liverpool but he had actually remained in East London.
He later had a small industrial painting and decorating business doing subcontract, (ironically as he helped re-decorate the room Jack McVitie was killed in at Evering Road.) In the late 1970s, he then began to occasionally burgle around the Oxfordshire area, stealing antiques, gold, and jewellery. He would then sell the items to antique shops in Reading. Donoghue would later keep a relatively low profile, appearing in several television documentaries on the twins, in 1994, 1997, 2000 and finally 2015, where he appeared in poor health.
Donoghue passed away in the early hours of 6th April 2016, in a hospital nearby to his care home in Dagenham, East London, following a serious stroke. Alan Dixon, of the Krays’ rival Dixons firm, paid tribute to his death.
- The Enforcer: Secrets of My Life with the Krays, with Martin Short, Blake Publishing Ltd, 270 pages, 12 January, 1996
- Bennett, John. Krayology (2015). Mango Books.
|People associated with The Krays|
|Kray Family||Ronnie • Reggie • Charlie • Violet • Charles|
|Shea Family||Frances • Frank • Elsie • Frank Sr.|
|Lee Family||Cannonball Lee • Grandma Lee • Aunt Rose • Aunt May • Uncle John|
|The Firm||Albert Donoghue • Ian Barrie • Leslie Payne • Big Pat • Ronnie Bender • Ronnie Hart • Teddy Smith • Jack Dickson • The Bear • Chris Lambrianou • Tony Lambrianou • Connie Whitehead|
|The Richardsons||Charlie Richardson • Eddie Richardson • George Cornell • Mad Frankie Fraser • Roy Hall • Jimmy Moody • Barry Harris • Albert Longman • Tommy Clark|
|Gangsters & Criminals||Freddie Foreman • Jack Spot • Billy Hill • Bert Rossi • Albert Dimes • Eric Mason • Johnny Squibb • Ginger Marks • Leslie Holt|
|Civilians||The Barmaid • Blonde Carol • Maureen Flanagan • Nipper Read • Lord Boothby • John Pearson • David Bailey|
|Victims||George Cornell • Frank Mitchell • Jack the Hat|