5. Charlie Richardson
Born in Camberwell, South London, Richardson was an eternal rival to the Krays, fighting with them over turf and long-running vendettas. The Richardson gang had some particularly brutal forms of torture in their repertoire- nailing victims to the floor, urinating on them and some creative use of electricity. But Charlie was very much a gentleman, and after a torture session he would offer the victim a clean shirt to go home in. The phrase “taking a shirt from Charlie” would incite fear in even the toughest of gangsters. The gang’s main projects involved racketeering and fraud, but the torture and turf warfare were handy sidelines. Richardson died in 2012 from blood poisoning. His brother, and partner in crime, Eddie delivered this not-altogether-sincere tribute: “I can’t say he was a good father, but he was a father. He leaves a big family behind him”
4. Ho Chi Minh
Another communist dictator to have lived in London was Ho Chi Minh, later leader of North Vietnam. His actions caused the Vietnam War, which left thousands of Americans dead along with North and South Vietnamese and he himself died in 1969, before the war had finished. Many years earlier, however, between 1913 and 1919 he had lived in London, in Ealing and then Hornsey. He worked as a waiter in the Drayton Court Hotel and a trainee pastry chef in the Carlton Hotel. Neither of these seem particularly obvious occupations for a future president, but presumably gave him insight into how workers are treated, prompting his communist views later.
3. Hawley Harvey Crippen
An American doctor, Crippen moved in London in 1897 and settled in Holloway in 1905, around the same time Lenin was confusing people in Hyde Park. He and his wife Cora didn’t seem to have the happiest marriage, with her sleeping with their lodger and him taking on a mistress. So, it was little surprise that in 1910 she disappeared, apparently back to America. But it was more of a surprise when police, acting upon concerns from Cora’s friend, discovered her under the floorboards of the house. Dr Crippen was arrested trying to flee to Canada and executed in the November of that year. He remains one of London’s best known murderers, although later DNA evidence has cast doubt on both the identity of the corpse and his own guilt.
2. Reggie and Ronnie Kray
The Kray twins’ lives are so intertwined with each other that it’s impossible to pick one of them as being more notorious than the other. So it’s a joint entry at number 2 for the brothers who terrorised East London in the 1960s, performing acts of great violence while at the same time being feted by the press and invited to all the most fashionable parties. They specialized in protection rackets, but armed robbery, arson and even murder appear on their collective records. They spent some time in various prisons, including the Tower of London, but their reign didn’t come to a definitive end until 1968, when they were both sent to prison indefinitely for the murder of Jack “The Hat” McVitie. Ronnie died, still incarcerated in Broadmoor hospital but Reggie was allowed to leave prison on compassionate grounds when it emerged that he had terminal cancer and he died a free man in 2000.
1. Jack the Ripper
Of course, the most notorious Londoner of all time is the one that we know least about. Jack the Ripper stalked around Whitechapel, East London in 1888 and left a trail of dead and mutilated prostitutes in his wake. Theories have abounded as to who “Saucy Jack” might be, with everyone from the Royal Family to the children’s author Lewis Carroll being blamed for the murders. It seems unlikely that the case will ever be solved, but the image of the dark figure in the foggy streets of London is one that has stuck in the collective memory and “Ripper Tours” are still popular with visitors to London today, taking in sights such as the now-car park where Mary Kelly was murdered. Anonymous he may be, but he certainly deserves the title of the most notorious person to ever live in London.