England

The killing of Jack “The Hat” McVitie

October 28, 1967
Stoke Newington, London, England
Jack “The Hat” McVitie is stabbed to death

McVitie earned the nickname The Hat by rarely being seen without his signature trilby. In his mid-30s at the time of his death, McVitie had a far-receding hairline which may have prompted him to constantly keep his head covered.

McVitie had ties with a British crime organization known as The Firm. While he was not a member, McVitie occasionally performed jobs for its members. One such job was organized by Ronald (nicknamed Ronnie) Kray, in which McVitie was ordered to kill one of Kray’s partners, Leslie Payne. Kray feared Payne would turn him over to the police and offered McVitie £1000 to kill Payne, offering half up front and the other half after the job was completed. McVitie failed an attempt to kill Payne but kept the money Kray had already paid.

Associates of Ronnie Kray and his twin Reginald (nicknamed Reggie) lured McVitie to a party with the promise of “booze” and “birds” (women), neglecting to inform him of the presence of the Kray twins. Reggie approached and put a gun to McVitie’s head. The gun failed to fire. After a brief struggle, McVitie leaped through an open window but got stuck; only his head and shoulders made it through. He was dragged back inside, and Reggie pulled a carving knife. Ronnie encouraged Reggie to kill McVitie, reportedly saying “Kill him, Reg, kill him.”

Reggie complied.

The first stab was to McVitie’s face, just below his eye. More stabs followed, to his stomach and chest. The attack ended when Reggie shoved the knife into McVitie’s throat.

The Krays’ associates disposed of McVitie’s body and helped clean the crime scene. McVitie’s body was never recovered. Though no body could be produced, Reggie was charged with and convicted of McVitie’s murder; his brother Ronnie was convicted of the murder of rival gangster George Cornell. Both were sentenced to 30 years to life in prison. Ronnie was classified as insane in 1979 and spent the rest of his life in a mental hospital, dying of a heart attack in 1995. Reggie was released early on compassionate grounds after he was diagnosed with terminal bladder cancer and died in his sleep just over a month after his release in 2000.

Sources:

  • Find A Grave. Accessed: October 28, 2018. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/6139719/jack-mcvitie
  • Pearson, John. The Profession of Violence: The Rise and Fall of the Kray Twins. Bloomsbury Reader. 2013
  • Berger, Daniel. “Twins show Britain what Mafia is Like.” The Baltimore Sun [Baltimore, Maryland]. March 29, 1970
  • “QC speaks of ‘horrifying effrontery’ of shooting.” The Guardian [London, England]. January 10, 1969

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