Charlie Richardson was born in Camberwell, south-east London in 1934. His brother Eddie was born in 1936, the youngest sibling Alan in 1940.
Charlie and Eddie were brought up in a traditional south London working-class family, and like their east London counterparts, the Kray twins, they endured a wartime childhood, enjoyed the vibrant street life of working-class London and developed as talented young boxers and prominent street fighters.
Charlie (pictured below left) was a canny businessman – he owned six scrap yards by the age of 22. He and Eddie (pictured below right) had a penchant for hard work and made good money from the post-war scrap metal trade, plundering the remnants of abandoned wartime airfields.
Charlie Richardson had first encountered the Kray twins in Shepton Mallet military prison, where all were awaiting a dishonourable discharge from National Service.
The honeypot of the West End brought them back into contact, and although the east London firm claimed to be preparing for warfare, there is little to suggest the Richardson firm took them seriously.
By the end of the 1950s, the Richardson’s had an empire in South London, and an unrivalled team of hard men, including Jimmy Moody (one of the “Chainsaw Robbers”), George Cornell (an East Ender who had clashed with the youthful Krays), Charlie Marston and ‘Mad’ Frankie Fraser (pictured below left with actor Stanley Baker and Eddie Richardson).
But Charlie’s ambition was to be a multi-millionaire, not the number one gangster. He utilised Jack Duvall, one of the most respected con-men but soon discovered Duvall had dipped his fingers in the till and fled overseas.
By the 1960s The Richardson’s were London’s most powerful gang. Far more violent than the Kray’s, the Richardson’s had a reputation as very vicious people.
In 1966, in a shooting at Mr Smiths Club in Catford, an associate of the Krays was killed and five men were wounded. Eddie Richardson and Frank Fraser were arrested, Fraser for murder. The following night Ronnie Kray murdered George Cornell.
At dawn on 30 July 1966 (the memorable day that England beat Germany in the World Cup) 70 police officers raided homes across London’s south-east. They seized the gang leader, Charlie Richardson, in bed. That day, 11 of the gang were charged and the power of the Richardson’s was broken.
At the trial in 1967 (which became known as ‘The Torture Trial’), the jury heard evidence of sadistic brutality rarely heard in an English court. In the dock sat gang leader Charlie Richardson, his younger brother Eddie and their notoriously violent “enforcer”, Frank Fraser – already known as “Mad Frankie”.
Petty fraudster, Benny Coulston, claimed he was tortured in Charlie Richardson’s office and that Frankie Fraser tore his teeth out with pliers. He was accused of stealing £600 from some of Richardson’s gang.
Alleged victims of the Richardsons were granted immunity from prosecution if they “turned Queen’s Evidence” and a distinct lack of physical evidence did not deter the judge, Mr Justice Lawton.
Eddie was sentenced to 10 years with another five for the Mr Smith incident, and Fraser received five years for affray and 10 years for some deviant dental practices at the Richardsons’ Peckham scrapyard. Charlie received 25 years.
Charlie Richardson escaped from an open prison in 1980 and remained free for just under a year. In 1984 he was finally released after serving 17 years. He died from blood poisoning in 2012. He was 78.