Royston Henry Shaw (11 March 1936 – 14 July 2012), also known as Roy "Pretty Boy" Shaw, Roy "Mean Machine" Shaw and Roy West, was an English millionaire, real estate investor, author and businessman from the East End of London who was formerly a criminal and Category A prisoner. During the 1970s–1980s, Shaw was active in the criminal underworld of London and was frequently associated with the Kray twins. Shaw is best remembered today for his career as a fighter on the unlicensed boxing scene, becoming an arch-rival with Lenny McLean.
Shaw was born in Stepney, London, to a working class family and from an early age was involved in illegal activities. He was acquainted with the Kray twins since at least the very early 1960s; Shaw attended the funeral of Reggie Kray in 2000, and was quoted as having said: "We grew up in the same era. They were into protection rackets and I was into blags. I never got in their way and they never got in mine. Ronnie was more of a friend than Reggie, but I've come along today because he was one of the 'chaps'. Today is like the end of an era. The Krays were legends." As an adult Shaw mainly lived in Bethnal Green.
Shaw was sentenced to 18 years' imprisonment for an armed robbery in 1963, one of England's largest armoured truck robberies. Shaw reportedly fought his way out of two different holding cells at Her Majesty's Prison at Maidstone, assaulting several prison guards.
Shaw, who claimed he "simply hates the system", and that the "system could never beat him", was consistently moved onto different prisons and spent time at Broadmoor Hospital for Criminally Insane. According to Shaw's autobiography, Pretty Boy (1999), "uncontrollable prisoners, were deliberately drugged up with the aim of turning them into permanent 'cabbages'". At Broadmoor, Shaw underwent experimental electroconvulsive therapy in an attempt to control his temper. His doctor claimed that Shaw had at first come across as a large and intimidating yet soft-spoken gentleman, but when faced with treatment he didn't want, Shaw became "the most powerful and dangerous man I have ever tried to treat". The doctor reported the treatments as having been a complete failure, and only served to make Shaw even more aggressive and unpredictable.
Shaw routinely stabbed police informers and even slashed the throat of a former best friend while incarcerated owing to his strong belief in a 'code of honour' amongst criminals which must not be broken.
During his time in Broadmoor, Shaw again encountered Ronnie Kray. Shaw also spent time with such people as Ronnie Biggs and Charles Bronson at other prisons. By 1974, Shaw had already spent around 18 years in more than 22 different prisons.
Unlicensed boxing career
Shaw claims to have had ten fights in his twenties using the alias "Roy West". However information on these has proven difficult to trace. His early boxing career was cut short when he was incarcerated.
On his release from prison, Shaw started fighting unlicensed (i.e. not sanctioned by the British Boxing Board of Control) boxing matches in 1978, aged 42, and gained many infamous victories, including one over Donnie "The Bull" Adams. Shaw also beat former world heavy weight contender Ron Stander, who had also previously fought Joe Frazier for the heavyweight title. Stander however broke a rib before the fight with Roy Shaw. Shaw would later say in his book that he kept hitting Stander with punches which had no effect on Stander – until he found his broken rib. In Shaw's words if Stander had not broken his rib he would have 'mullered me'.
Shaw is best known for his infamous trilogy with arch-rival Lenny "The Guv'nor" McLean. Shaw beat McLean in their first fight, but lost in two other matches to McLean. Shaw claimed in his autobiography that they only fought twice, but later he admitted on his website that there were indeed three fights with McLean of which he lost two and won one. However, McLean was by far the bigger man and also much younger than Shaw. Shaw was well into his forties when he and McLean fought and was giving away stones in weight. Shaw states on his website that the two unlicensed boxers he most admires are Cliff Field and Johnny Waldron, both of whom also defeated McLean.
Unlicensed boxing record
|9 Wins (8 KOs), 2 Losses|
|Win||8–2||Lou 'Wild Thing' Yates||KO||3||xx-xx-xxxx|
|Win||7–2||Harry Starbuck||KO||1||29 June 1979||Dartford Football Stadium, Dartford|
|Loss||6–2||Lenny McLean||KO||1||11 September 1978||Rainbow Theatre, Finsbury Park, London||For title of The Guv'nor.|
|Loss||6–1||Lenny McLean||KO||1||10 April 1978||Cinatra's, Croydon, London||Lost title of The Guv'nor.|
|Win||6–0||Ron Stander||KO||3||xx-xx-1977||Alexandra Palace, London||Remained The Guv'nor.|
|Win||5–0||Lenny McLean||TKO||3||xx-xx-xxxx||Remained The Guv'nor.|
|Win||4–0||Terry Hollingsworth||KO||1||22-03-19xx||Cinatra's, Croydon, London||Remained The Guv'nor.|
|Win||3–0||Mickey Gluxted||TKO||3||xx-xx-xxxx||Remained The Guv'nor.|
|Win||2–0||Paddy 'Mad Dog' Mullins||KO||1||xx-xx-xxxx||Remained The Guv'nor.|
|Win||1–0||Donny 'The Bull' Adams||KO||1||xx-xx-xxxx||Became The Guv'nor.|
In other media
Shaw was something of a minor celebrity in the tabloids in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Shaw has also sometimes appeared in the press in recent years, such as his attending of Ronnie Kray's funeral, or his 2009 court case (see 2009 court case section below).
Shaw was the subject of a 2006 documentary DVD, released in the US by Entertainment Programs, Inc. & in the Uk by Gangster Videos, entitled Roy Shaw: Brute Force. It was directed by Liam Galvin and contained original footage of Shaw's unlicensed boxing matches, and also interviews with Shaw himself and other former criminal underworld figures and boxers he was associated with. It was followed up with a second DVD Roy Shaw's Fight School which was also released by Gangster Videos. In 2010, he appeared in Galvin's movie Killer Bitch which featured a host of crime legends.
Shaw has been mentioned or discussed in numerous books, most notably in arch-rival Lenny McLean's 1998 autobiography The Guv'Nor. and Hard Bastards by Kate Kray.
Shaw co-wrote a book with Kate Kray, the widow of Ronnie Kray, entitled Roy Shaw: Unleashed (2003). The book is a collection of stories and anecdotes about the criminal underworld of London in the 1970s/1980s, as well as Shaw's boxing career. Shaw's autobiography, entitled Pretty Boy (2003), was also co-written by Kray. It goes into further detail Shaw's early life, personal and private life, time in prison, and also expanding on stories begun in his previous book.
Roy Shaw was celebrated in song in 2011 when a group called The Sharks released "The King Of London (aka The Ballad Of Pretty Boy Shaw)". The song was written by band member Alan Wilson who met and became friends with Roy Shaw via their mutual friend Ronnie Biggs.
In 2000, Shaw was one of the best known mourners to attend the funeral of Reggie Kray, a lifelong friend. Shaw said of Kray: "Kray came from an era before drugs became common currency, when there was honour among thieves and few criminals double-crossed their friends. In those days there was loyalty. Nowadays they are all having each other over all the time."
Having served all his prison sentences, Shaw stated that he was going legitimate and had retired from both a life of crime and bareknuckle boxing. Shaw became a businessman and author with numerous financial and non-financial ventures, such as a best-selling autobiography. He appeared in two documentary DVDs by Director Liam Galvin, 'Roy Shaw: Brute Force' and 'Roy Shaw-Fight School' and later made a cameo in the notorious Gangster Film 'Killer Bitch', he also became involved in numerous internet ventures, and real estate investment. The land investments, something Shaw had actually been involved in since before his first prison sentence, were the ventures which eventually made Shaw a millionaire.
2009 land sale court case
Shaw formerly owned highly valued land in Chadwell Heath, northeast London, which he sold in a £2.6 million land sale in 2008. Shaw allegedly gave £643,000 of this to Linda Finnimore, 43, a former girlfriend he had met in Spain some two and a half decades earlier. Finnimore had managed Shaw's business affairs and acted as a manager when he was a boxer, and the two had allegedly enjoyed an extravagant lifestyle together. At one time Miss Finnimore called herself Linda Kray, claiming to be a daughter of Reggie Kray upon which Shaw would allegedly show her off to other underworld figures as a "trophy wife", although in reality the two never married.
After the sale of land in Chadwell Heath, Finnimore, who had remained amicable with Shaw before the sale, then proceeded to file a lawsuit with the High Court against Shaw. She claimed that he had broken their verbal contract that he would give her half of the £2.5 million, some £1.25 million of it, much more than the £643,000 she had received. Shaw claimed there was no such verbal contract, and that furthermore, he had not even authorised the money she had already taken from the land sale. Shaw had sole legal possession of the land when he sold it, and there was no written contract between Shaw and Finnimore regarding the land sale.
High Court judge Sir John Lindsay said both characters were part of a "criminal milieu... of villains and gangsters", and that Shaw had liked to "show her off as a girlfriend" and that Finnimore had been "untruthful" in her case evidence. Of Miss Finnimore, the judge said: "She, for whom the word 'feisty' could have been minted, is more educated than he and far more intelligent. Unfortunately, her considerable skills have not always been applied to acceptable purposes." Mr Mark Morris of Aardvark Forensics Ltd provided expert evidence to the Court and demonstrated how a number of forged documents had been created on a personal computer.
Mr Justice Lindsay ultimately dismissed Miss Finnimore's claims against Shaw in March 2009 and ruled there was no such verbal contract and ordered Finnimore to repay the money, together with sums of £208,450, £20,000 and £57,000, plus interest. Shaw was awarded nearly £1 million in total. Judge Lindsay said that when it was put to Mr Shaw in court that he intended to transfer £643,000 to her, he replied: "Don't talk so silly – she took me for a right mug."
- Bushell, Garry. "Simply The Best 7 Days A Week :: News :: Fighting hardman Roy "Pretty Boy" Shaw dies aged 76". Daily Star. Retrieved 15 July 2012.
- "End of an era". BBC News. 11 October 2000. Retrieved 10 April 2010.
- "Court awards Kray associate £1m". BBC News. 2 March 2009. Retrieved 10 April 2010.
- Gary Holland "History of London Boxing", 9 April 2008
- "British Council: The British Films Catalogue".