An enormous metropolis, London possesses every spectrum of
entertainment and harbours every possible connotation of humanity: all
of life is to be found here. The city’s most famous fictional occupant,
Sherlock Holmes, remarked, “Look out of this window, Watson. See how
the figures loom up, are dimly seen and then blend once more into the
cloud-bank.  The thief or the murderer could roam London on such a
day as the tiger does the jungle, unseen until he pounces, and then
evident only to his victim.”

So who are the most notorious figures ever to loom from London’s
mists?  Here are the ten most infamous of the last 100 years…

The Krays

Most notorious of all London gangsters, the Krays were the rulers of
the East End underworld during the ‘60s.  Former amateur boxers,
the identical twins set up a successful protection racket, intimidating
shopkeepers into giving them money. Ronnie was a homosexual who refused
to acknowledge his sexuality and was so cagey about it that he shot
George Cornell in 1966 in Whitechapel’s Blind Beggar pub for calling
him a ‘fat poof’.  In 1968, the twins were arrested for the murder
of Jack ‘The Hat’ McVitie whom Reggie had stabbed at a flat in Stoke
Newington.  After a complex trial during which it looked like the
twins would go free, they were convicted.  Reggie later said, “I
believe that Ron and I were predestined to become known, either by fame
or infamy…. I seem to have walked a double path most of my life. 
Perhaps an extra step in one of those directions might have seen me
celebrated rather than notorious.”

David Copeland

The Soho Nailbomber began a shortlived campaign in 2000, planting 3
explosive devices throughout London, intending to wipe out certain
racial and social groups. An avid fan of Hitler, he was obsessed with
bombs and made his home a shrine to Nazism. He placed bombs packed with
nails in multiracial Brixton, predominantly Bangladeshi Brick Lane and
well-known gay district Soho. The nailbomb he planted in Soho’s Admiral
Duncan pub was the most devastating, killing three people including a
pregnant lady and injuring 139. After being identified on CCTV,
Copeland was eager to give accounts of his acts of terrorism to police.
In June 2000 he received 6 life sentences for the 3 murders.

Ken Erskine

A persistent loner who was thought to have a mental age of 11 at 24,
Erskine took up burglary after drifting between a series of special
schools. Burglary turned to strangling and sodomizing his elderly
female victims (police remain unsure in which order) in the vicinity of
Stockwell.  On 28 July 1987 he was arrested for trying to conceal
one of his 10 fraudulent bank accounts from Social Security. His palm
print matched that of the sample found at one of the crime scenes and a
surviving victim picked him out of a police line-up. Found guilty of 7
murders, the Stockwell Strangler received 7 life terms but is up for
parole in 2028.

Lord Lucan

On 7 November 1974, the body of nanny Sandra Rivett was found in the
basement of the Belgravian home of Lord Lucans’ estranged wife and
children. Lady Lucan claims she interrupted the attacker after the
murder and escaped by grabbing his testicles. She realised it was her
husband and he said he had accidentally killed the nanny, believing her
to be his wife.  Lady Lucan agreed to conspire with him and hide
the body but seized the first opportunity to escape and raise the
alarm. Lucan claimed in blood-stained letters to friends that he had
passed the house, seen his wife attacked and rushed in, only to find
himself accidentally implicated in the murder. He fled the scene and
was never found. Blood samples at the crime scene appear to incriminate
him, however, and the case of the Disappearing Lord continues to
intrigue, with rumoured sightings as recent as 2000.

Christine Keeler

Born in Hayes Bromley, the model and showgirl is credited with bringing
down the Macmillan government by force of scandal.  A cabaret
performer at 16 she came under the influence of Dr Stephen Ward who
introduced her to Secretary of State for War, John Profumo.  They
had an affair, Profumo unaware that Ward had calculatingly introduced
her to Eugene Ivano, a naval attaché at the Russian embassy. When
Keeler was revealed to have been the lover of both men, it was felt
Profumo had compromised British security at the height of the Cold War.
He denied the allegations to the House of Commons in March 1963 but 10
weeks later admitted lying. Shortly afterwards, Macmillan resigned as
Prime Minister. The photograph of a naked Keeler straddling a chair
remains an iconic photo of the ‘60s.

Oswald Mosely

The youngest MP in the House of Commons at 22, Mosely quickly became
disillusioned with the Conservative party when they rejected his
policies as too right-wing. In January 1932, he visited Mussolini in
Italy and was wildly impressed, founding the British Union of Fascists
on his return. A controversial party, its members marched through
London wearing black shirts to hear their leader speak at Trafalgar
Square. Mosely was married to Cynthia Curzon but was known for his many
affairs, most notoriously with the married Diana Mitford who
scandalously divorced her husband for him. Mosely refused to divorce
and the pair married only after Cynthia’s death, in Goebbels’s drawing
room in Berlin with Hitler as one of only 6 guests.  Deemed likely
to “endanger the safety of the realm” the couple were imprisoned during
the Second World War and continued to be controversial figures all
their lives.

John Christie

Christie was a disturbed man with a troubled sexuality – he married in
1920 but continued to see prostitutes and was imprisoned for attacking
one with a cricket bat.  His wife left him but later agreed to
move with him to 10 Rillington Place (now Rushton Close), unaware that
she was living with a monster.  Under cover of helping women to
have abortions, Christie gassed, raped and strangled them and hid their
bodies, including his wife’s, in his home. He killed his upstairs
neighbour and her child and successfully implicated her husband who
hanged for the crimes.  Police initially failed to spot the human
thigh bone in the garden and the skull dug up in front of them by
Christie’s own dog.  They eventually found a body under the sink
and one behind a door and Christie was hanged.

Ronnie Biggs

In 1963, London antique dealer, Bruce Reynolds assembled his “South
West Gang” and a few other criminal minds, including Biggs, to rob the
Glasgow to London mail train. Although the most famous of the Great
Train Robbers, Biggs didn’t actually help to plan the raid. On 6 August
1963, the group boarded the train and coshed the driver with iron bars
(he never recovered). They stole £2.6m and Biggs was later jailed for
30 years. Ever resourceful, he escaped Wandsworth prison and fled with
his family to Spain and from there to Brazil, going so far as to have
plastic surgery to hide his identity.

Cynthia Payne

Cynthia Payne is London’s most famous brothel madam due to her
controversial style of ‘home entertaining’. Her parties at her home in
Ambleside Avenue, Streatham were notorious, with rumours of lesbian
floor shows, transvestites and all manner of sexual acts on offer. The
police raided her home to find a sexual orgy in full swing.  Payne
was arrested but cleared of all charges on 11 Feburary 1987. She
admitted to previously being a prostitute herself but told the court in
dignified tones that she never participated in her own parties, saying
of sex that “I know it does make people happy, but to me it is just
like having a cup of tea.”

Ruth Ellis

The last woman to be hanged in Britain, Ruth Ellis’ crime and execution
remains controversial.  White still married, she embarked on a two
year affair in 1953 with David Blakely, a racing driver.  They
were a tempestuous couple, both indulging in other affairs and during
their fierce arguments he hit her brutally, even causing her to
miscarry on one occasion. Certain that he had another woman,
Ellis followed him to his flat one night and got the evidence she
needed. Returning to Hampstead the following evening she waited
for him to leave the Magdala public house and shot him five times at
point-blank range. The exact circumstances are unclear however,
and there is a possibility that she was incited to kill him by a third
party who gave her the gun.