Jack McVitie (d. 1967), more commonly known as Jack the Hat, was a notorious criminal from London of the 1950s - 1960s. He is posthumously famous for triggering the imprisonment and downfall of the Kray twins. He had acted as an enforcer and hitman with links to "the firm", and was murdered by Reggie Kray in 1967.
Reggie was arrested the following year for the murder, being found guilty and received life imprisonment at his trial in March 1969. He remained in prison until just before his death, which was in 2000. Ronnie was imprisoned for life at the same time for a murder committed the previous year and remained behind bars until he died in 1995.
The nickname Jack The Hat is said to be because of a trilby hat that he wore to cover up his hair loss. A known drug trafficker by the 1960s, he had been an associate of the Kray twins for some time and, although never a permanent member of The Firm, was regularly employed to commit various crimes on their behalf. In 1967 Ronald Kray paid McVitie £1,500 in advance to kill ex-friend and business partner Leslie Payne amid fears that Payne was about to inform the police of his criminal activities. McVitie and a friend, Billy Exley, set off to shoot Payne, but were unsuccessful. Exley, the driver, suffered from heart trouble and McVitie was now heavily dependent on drugs. Exley started to lose his nerve when McVitie produced a handgun, in Exley's words, "the size of a bleedin' cannon."
Arriving at Payne's home, McVitie hammered loudly on the front door, which luckily for Payne was opened by his wife. "He's not in," she said. "That's all right," said McVitie and he and Exley left. Instead of repaying the money McVitie kept it. This incident led, in part, to McVitie's death.
On 29 October 1967, McVitie was invited to a party on Evering Road in Stoke Newington, London, with several of his underworld associates and their families. The Krays had secretly arrived at the party first and had spent an hour clearing away guests. Reggie Kray's initial plan to shoot McVitie upon entry failed. His gun jammed and, encouraged by his more violent twin, he stabbed McVitie repeatedly in the face, chest and stomach as part of a brief but violent struggle. The twins quickly fled the scene and McVitie's body was deposited wrapped in an eiderdown and left outside St. Mary's Church, Rotherhithe by Tony and Chris Lambrianou and Ronnie Bender, who were minor members of the Firm. When the Krays discovered the whereabouts of the corpse, they ordered it to be immediately moved, probably because of the close proximity of friend and associate Freddie Foreman. The body was never recovered, although in an interview in 2000 (which featured Reg Kray giving a frank account of the activity of The Firm 12 days before his death) Foreman admitted to throwing McVitie's body from a boat into the sea at Newhaven.
Following McVitie's murder, the Krays and several other members of their gang were finally arrested by the Scotland Yard police officers who had been watching their exploits for years. At the Old Bailey on 4 March 1969, both were found guilty of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment with a recommendation that they should each serve a minimum of 30 years. Ronnie's murder conviction was for the murder of rival gangster George Cornell, who was shot dead in 1966.
The jury took 6 hours and 55 minutes to reach their unanimous verdict. Never before at the Old Bailey had such a long and expensive trial taken place. The Krays' elder brother Charlie, together with Frederick Foreman (who helped move the body) and Cornelius Whitehead, were all found guilty of being accessories to McVitie's murder.
Prison seemed to do much to encourage the myth and legend surrounding the Krays, despite the obvious restrictions on their freedom. Both wrote best-selling books about their lives and, in 1990, a full-length biographical film entitled The Krays was released (featuring real-life brothers Martin and Gary Kemp as the Kray twins). Jack McVitie was portrayed by actor Tom Bell in this film before also appearing in the 2004 film Charlie, this time depicted by Marius Swift.
- Jack "the Hat" McVitie History Channel, accessed 01/11/07
- Read, Leonard. Nipper" Read, The Man Who Nicked The Krays. Time Warner Paperbacks 2002. ISBN 0-7515-3175-8
- Metropolitan Police Service - History of the Metropolitan Police Service
- 1969: Kray twins guilty of McVitie murder (BBC archived news 1969) 
- Devito, Carlo. The Encyclopedia of International Organized Crime. New York: Facts On File Inc., 2005. ISBN 0-8160-4848-7