George Cornell (born George Myers; 13 November 1927 – 10 March 1966) was an English criminal and member of the Richardson Gang, who were scrap metal dealers and criminals. He was shot and killed by Ronnie Kray at the Blind Beggar public house in Whitechapel in the East End of London. Kray was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder three years later and remained in Broadmoor Hospital until his death in 1995.
Cornell was born George Myers in Stepney, east London and took his stepfathers name sometime later to Mary Ann Garrett and Joseph Cornell who were both unwed at the time. Reportedly one of seven children born to unwed parents (although records suggest eight), he was a tough, loyal enforcer who worked for the Richardson Gang; he was known for being totally fearless. A childhood friend of the Kray twins, Cornell was a prominent criminal in east London during the 1960s. Upon moving to South London he joined up with the Kray twins' rivals, the Richardson Gang, led by brothers Charlie Richardson and Eddie Richardson.
Cornell, along with Richardson Gang colleague and friend "Mad" Frankie Fraser, became an enforcer for the Richardsons and was primarily used by them for talks with the Krays. Meetings were often held in pubs such as The Grave Maurice.
On 9 March 1966, Cornell and his friend Albie Woods entered the Blind Beggar pub, ordered some light ales and then sat upon stools next to the bar. At around 8:30pm, both men were approached by Ronnie Kray and a Kray associate, Ian Barrie; upon seeing him, Cornell smiled and said sardonically, "Well, just look who's here". As a warning to the barmaid and the few others in the pub, Barrie fired two shots into the ceiling, while Kray walked towards Cornell, took out a 9 mm Luger, and calmly shot him once in the forehead, just above his right eye. The men turned and departed to a waiting car on the street.
Cornell slumped against a nearby pillar, the bullet, apparently, passing straight through him. He was taken to a nearby hospital, where he died at around 3:30am.
The news spread rapidly. Although Ronnie Kray was identified by several eyewitnesses as he calmly left the public house, no one would agree to testify against him and the police were forced to release him from custody. Cornell was buried in Camberwell New Cemetery, south London.
Old Bailey trial
On 4 March 1969, Ronnie Kray was unanimously found guilty by a jury at the Old Bailey of the murder of George Cornell. His brother Reggie was also found guilty of murdering Jack McVitie, who was killed the year after Cornell. They were both sentenced to life imprisonment.
Ronnie Kray died in jail in March 1995, while Reggie Kray was imprisoned for a total of 32 years before he was released from custody on compassionate grounds in August 2000 as a result of cancer, from which he died a few weeks after his release.
- "Richardsons' scrap metal dealers", retrieved 23 September 2007
- "Cornell moved to south London, joined Richardsons", thekrays.co.uk; retrieved 23 September 2007.
- "Pubs with a Secret History". Evening Standard. UK. 11 April 2001. Retrieved 15 March 2017.
- The Blind Beggar And The Bloody Killing of George Cornell by Ronnie Kray - Flashbak http://flashbak.com/the-blind-beggar-and-the-bloody-killing-of-george-cornell-by-ronnie-kray-4232/
- Cornell shot by Ronnie Kray; retrieved 23 September 2007.
- George Cornell at Find a Grave
- BBC website: "1969: Kray twins guilty of Cornell and McVitie murders"
- Information on Cornell's murder
- Metropolitan Police website, History of The Kray Twins including Cornell