Steve Tully was at Parkhurst with Reggie Kray. He plucked up the courage to ask the notorious gangster to be his mentor and soon graduated from petty Brighton criminal to violent psychopath.

The career criminal - who is now going straight - spoke to GARETH DAVIES about fighting over Reggie's wife, broken ribs and being taught how to scam and rob millions.

HIS first act of violence was in a cafe in Whitehawk at the age of 14.

Someone came at him with a knife, he smashed a glass bottle, rammed it in the boy’s face and twisted it.

He was sent down for GBH and it was the start of decades of crime and prison.

Nine years later, he became one of the UK’s most notorious villain’s pupil.

He was at Parkhurst prison for robbery in and was under the same roof as gangster Reginald Kray.

When he arrived, Reggie Kray was on a hospital wing, but his London rival Charlie Richardson had taken a shining to Steve.

Now 57 and going clean Steve said: “I was made welcome because I was a young man. I was 23 at the time and I’d fought the system and that was how prisons worked. I was accepted.

“Charlie came up to me one day and said, “Do you want a cup of tea?”

“I said 'of course' and went to his cell and he was sat there in his armchair and a record of the sound of a train going round and round, a silver teapot, he poured me a cup and we talked.

“He gave me this book called Positive Mental Attitude and I went back to my cell and read the book.

“The message I got was that if you want something in life, then just go for it.

“In other words, if you walk into a record shop and the record you want isn’t available then go above them to the retailer, then the wholesaler, until you get to the top or get what you want.

“That’s how I interpreted it.”

Shortly afterwards, Richardson had been moved on, and fresh-faced Tully decided to approach the daunting Reggie Kray.

He said: “I thought of the book and went to knock on his door.

“He came to the door and I said, “Mr Kray, can I speak to you?” and he said, “Yes, come in, son.”

“I walked in and he made me a cup of tea, and it was the worst cup of tea I’ve ever had - full of tea leaves.

“He asked me what I wanted to talk to him about and I said I wanted him to teach me everything he knew.

“I said: “I want you to be my teacher”, and he replied, “well, I’ve never been asked that before, son. Let me think about it and I’ll let you know”.

“Ten minutes later I went back to my cell and the following morning there was a knock on my door – it was Reg.

“He said to me “I had a dream last night my mother was in it, that’s an omen for me to do as you asked”, and that was it – the start of the education.”

Steve says the Kray-Richardson rivalry was overplayed the myth helped the twins’ notoriety grow.

He said: “I once went on a visit to Broadmoor to see Ronnie Kray with Charlie Richardson, Frankie Fraser and Joey Pyle.

“A lot of that is rubbish, but that wasn’t the general attitude of the people inside.

“They had their different rivalries because it was very territorial, but they respected each other.

“That’s why when Ronnie died, Reg wanted someone from each area North, South, East and West London to be a pallbearer to bring the gang members together.

“It’s not as intense as it’s made out to be."

According to Steve, Reggie Kray wasn’t just a politician in prison, he was the prime minister.

Everything would go through him and he had everyone onside, including the prison guards.

The pair grew closer, and their first Christmas Day together, Reg turned up at Steve’s cell with a mop as a beard, a red hat on, a red shawl over his shoulder and a sack with a mouth organ and guitar in it for his adopted son.

Steve said: “It was a powerful at the time because he’d never had a son and I’d never really had a father.

“It was probably the first and last time that we’d ever done it and it represented something we’d never had.

“It was good fun, I still feel warm about that memory.”

But the two inmates' relationship wasn't completely smooth.

Reggie Kray’s first wife Frances Shea committed suicide shortly after they tied the knot, and it was a no-go area.

Steve found out the hard way, and said: “The only time there was any violence between me and Reg was about Frances.

“I had a girlfriend – Trisha – and I came back from a visit one day and Reg said something derogatory about her.

“I said to him, “What about you and Frances?” and as I said it he hit me on the chin and lifted me off the floor.

“If he wanted to break my jaw, he could’ve done, but it was still a decent hit.

“It hurt. Not physically, but inside, that he’d done it.

“I walked off and just before we were about to get locked up at night, about 8.58pm, I went over to his cell and offered him my hand and said, “No hard feelings, Reg”.

“He came over and put his hand out and I punched him in the ribs, ran over to my door, shut it, locked it.

“I woke up the next morning fearing the worst and he was there holding his side and swearing, “Dodger, you’ve broken my rib – I can’t breathe”.

“That was over Frances, and he was deeply protective of her.”

Dodger was the nickname Reg had given Tully – after Oliver Twist’s Artful Dodger.

Their relationship was the start of an education that would see Steve make £1.5 million in five years after being released, but ultimately costing him 12 years behind bars.

He lived as glamorously as was possible inside, as he and his new teacher Reggie receiving visits from Roger Daltry, Barbara Windsor and Diana Dors.

Steve said: “I got a massive education and loads of connections, but he told me, 'I can lead you to water, I can’t make you drink. You must make these people your friends'.

“In the days and evenings he’d just talk to me about life, business and people and it was nice – it made time go quickly.

“Ron used to write to us and he took me in as well, so it was like having a family I never had.”

He was released in 1985 and one of his first missions as a free man was to meet his pen pal – Ronnie Kray.

“I’d only been out three days and Ronnie taught me an amazing lesson,” Tully recalled.

“He asked if I would go and visit him at Broadmoor, so I got in the car with my brother-in-law and drove up, but we got lost.

“The time was getting away from us and I knew we weren’t going to make it for visiting hours, so I phoned the prison and explained the situation.

“I got back to the East End and got a phone call from Broadmoor, they asked me to come up first thing for the 9am visiting.

“I said certainly and at 6am the following day I got up an got dressed to get ready and I managed to get there ten minutes early.

“I went to sign the book and the receptionist told me he doesn’t want to see me today.

“I explained to him Ron had called me the night before and he went to check again, but he came back and said no, Ron definitely didn’t want to see me.

“I walked away swearing under my breath and two weeks later Charlie rang me and said Ronnie would like to see me that day.

“I was a bit reluctant, but obviously I gave in, and we went up to Broadmoor.

“We walked in and Ronnie walked out like a colonel, glasses on, immaculately dressed and he said to me, “Afternoon, Steve. I suppose you’re wondering why I didn’t see you last time?”.

“I told him I was and he replied, “Well this is my first lesson to you – if you say you’re going to be somewhere at a certain time, I expect you to be there”.

“That was important because if you’re late to a meeting in the criminal world it can have real consequences.”

He headed to The Krays’ patch in East London to put what he’d learned into practice.

In five years, he amassed £1.5 million through robberies, fraud and various scams before heading back to Brighton in 1990.

He’d returned to his hometown and the roots of his criminality.

In 1968, aged just ten, Steve read John Pearson's book Profession of Violence.

A delinquent child, he was put into care at the age of eight, and rose up through detention centres, borstal and eventually prison.

Returning to Brighton and Hove, the criminal scene had changed, but he had spread his net.

He was a partner in a wine bar – formerly Churches and The Greenhouse Effect – and was continuously arrested and acquitted of a series of crimes.

It caught up with him when he was 45.

He drove up to Suffolk in the snow to rob a jewellers, but it turned sour.

After cutting a member of staff with a blade, he swallowed a ring, and was sent down for 12 years.

It was only at this stage he was diagnosed a psychopath.

Steve said: “To find out I have a psychopathic personality disorder and I’m in the high percentile of those is quite shocking to me.

“I don’t regret what I’ve done. You learn.

“There are some decisions you make which are wrong, and I think that’s the same for everyone whether you’re a criminal or a straight fella.

“Some people learn from it, others don’t.”

He’s been clean of crime since his release in 2009, and is trying to re-build his life away from crime.

Walking the same streets he did as a criminal has its challenges, especially as everyone knows him as Dodger.

Steve said: “It’s not worth it. There’s no glamour in it.

“Most people say it’s just another old man running his mouth and carry on with what they’re doing, but if there’s a few out there that listen and it changes their view on gangs and crime, then it’s worth my while.

“I’m not trying to go round with a halo above my head. I am what I am and I’d just like to try and help.”

Steve Tully will soon be releasing his book.

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