The legendary Scotland Yard detective who brought the reign of the notorious Kray twins to an end has died after contracting coronavirus in hospital, his family has said.
Leonard “Nipper” Read died aged 95, after a short illness.
Read led the investigation that saw Ronnie and Reggie Kray jailed for murder in 1969, ending their pre-eminence in London’s organised crime scene of the 1960s.
His brother-in-law Dave Allen, also a former Metropolitan police officer, said that Read had been admitted to hospital for treatment on his foot and told the Guardian: “When he went in they were treating him for an infection to his foot. It’s only later he had the coronavirus … The doctors confirmed to his family that’s what got him in the end.”
Read’s nickname of “Nipper” referred to his relatively diminutive height, which did not stop him from having a distinguished career in policing and a keen interest in boxing.
Read was born in Nottingham in 1925 and left school aged 14. He served in the Royal Navy during the war and after leaving joined the Metropolitan police in 1947.
He rose through the ranks to become part of the team solving the Great Train Robbery in 1963, and the following year was transferred to the Kray case. He was promoted to detective chief superintendent in 1967, and was then posted to Scotland Yard’s murder squad, where he led the investigation into the brutal East End gang that netted the twins a fortune and allowed them to live a life of luxury.
Their ruthless hold was hidden by their fame and Read himself feared that corrupt officers helped them stay ahead of the law.
The bloody reign of the gangsters known as “the firm” ended in 1969 when they were both jailed for murder.
Ronnie, the elder of the twins by 45 minutes, was convicted at the Old Bailey of the murder of George Cornell, while Reggie was locked up for the murder of Jack “the Hat” McVitie. Both were sentenced to life imprisonment.
The extraordinary trial saw evidence of the brothers’ fascination with killing including a “hide attache case [that] was fitted up with clips and springs to hold a hypodermic needle that could be released by a cord to inject a dose of hydrogen cyanide through a hole in the side when swung against someone’s leg”, one report at the time related.
Read wrote two books that featured the pursuit of the Krays and in the 2015 movie about the notorious twins Read was played by the actor Christopher Eccleston.
Allen said of his brother-in-law: “He’s up there with the best of them. At a time when there was so much corruption he had nothing to do with that and stood up against it.”
In a tweet, the Met police’s heritage centre said: “We are sad to announce that Leonard “Nipper” Read QPM died this morning aged 95. A Met legend, he is best known for his part in bringing the Kray Twins to justice.”
After leaving policing his life long love of boxing saw him end up as chair and then president of the British Boxing Board of Control. He was a recipient of the Queen’s Police Medal.
The British Boxing Board of Control, which he used to chair, called him a “wonderful servant” to the sport.
“It is with great sadness that the British Boxing Board of Control has learnt of the passing of former chairman Mr Leonard “Nipper“ Read,” general secretary Robert Smith said.
“Nipper was a wonderful servant to the British Boxing Board of Control and the sport of boxing. Our condolences to Nipper’s family at this time.”