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Crime writer Mike Gray explores dark side of Wimbledon Common's history
It’s hard to escape the fact that London is home to a murky underworld of organised crime.
We’ve all heard stories about infamous East End gangsters such as the Kray twins.
But as you wander through Wimbledon Common during the summer months, consider this: these serene and picturesque fields provided a group of notorious criminals with the perfect cover, as they planned one of the biggest robberies in British history.
Greg Wilford spoke to author Mike Gray has been exploring this dark past in this latest book, 101 Interesting Facts on Britain's True Crimes.
The crime-writer, who was born in Wandsworth, said: "Wimbledon Common was the secret meeting place of The Great Train Robbers. The gangs would meet up on the Common and disguise the 'meet' as a kick around, so no one could be in ear shot of the discussions."
The scene of another audacious high-profile crime lays a few streets away in Arthur Road.
He said: "This was the famous kidnapping of what should have been Rupert Murdoch's then wife, but instead the kidnappers took Mrs Murial McKay by mistake. She was driving Murdoch's Rolls Royce while he was on holiday. They held her for ransom, and to this day her body has never been found."
Mr Gray, 56, has written five true crime books, and is an expert on Ronnie Biggs.
He said he became fascinated by the crime-world, and explained he crossed paths with the Great Train Robber He said: "My father was a prison officer at Wandsworth prison for 30 years and I was born facing the prison walls.
"When I was a nine-year-old boy I stood next to the red furniture van, that only minutes earlier Ronnie Biggs had escaped into on 8th July 1965--it was that moment when I began to show signs of an interest in the subject, and in 1974 when he was re-arrested in Brazil my interest was ignited once more. I wrote to him in Brazil and we became very good friends."
101 Interesting Facts on Britain's True Crimes will be available from May 30 from Amazon.co.uk and Apexpublishing.co.uk
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