'Black Widow' robber Linda Calvey tells why she couldn't have shot dead Brink's-Mat raider Ron Cook
PUBLISHED: 08:15 06 July 2019 | UPDATED: 15:32 08 July 2019
The self-confessed armed robber known as the East End's 'Black Widow' who spent 18 years in prison for murdering her partner is out to clear her name after 30 years.
Linda Calvey is the stuff of East End underworld legend, now a great-grandmother aged 71, who tells her story for the first time about her life of crime ahead of her new book, The Black Widow.
It is being launched on Thursday at the Blind Beggar pub in Whitechapel where Ronnie Kray shot rival gangster George Cornell in 1966.
She became known as 'the Black Widow' because every man she lived with was either shot dead or in prison.
Linda holds her hands up to the string of armed robberies her gang carried out across east London—but denies killing Brink's-Matt gangster Ron Cook at the home they shared near the Royal Docks for which she got life.
Police had been following Carvey and her 'associates' after a tip-off from a private detective who had been hired by a jealous wife of one of the gang members believing he was having an affair.
The private eye saw them holding up a post office in Hornchurch and tipped off Scotland Yard.
The gang was under police surveillance when they next tried to hold up the Globe Road post office in Stepney Green. Three were captured, while Linda was caught in her brother's flat nearby. She got seven years.
It was this conviction she believes that later got her "fitted up" for the murder of her partner Ron Cook in their home in Custom House in 1989 for which she was sent down for life.
Ron was on 'home leave' from prison while still serving 16 years for his part in the infamous £26million Brink's-Mat security warehouse bullion robbery near Heathrow in 1983.
A gunman burst into their house in St George's Avenue and shot him twice.
Linda was implicated because she was a known armed raider who could handle a shotgun. Ron was killed by a shotgun.
Linda's slide into the East End's underworld that had been dominated by the Krays began as an ordinary girl growing up in Stepney in the 1960s when she fell in love at 19 with bank robber Mickey Calvey.
Mickey was later killed in 1978 in a shoot-out with police during a bank raid in Eltham. She met Ron Cook soon after.
Yet she has waited 11 years since her release before telling her story.
"All I wanted was a quiet life with my family after that horrendous time locked up for 18 years," she says. "I just wanted to catch up with my children and all grandchildren who were born when I was away.
"But now I'm hoping the truth will come out to put the record straight."
She pins her hopes on the detectives who put her away in 1990, now retired, to have a conscience about the forensic test the day Ron was shot which she says cleared her of having handled a gun. The test result was never given at her trial, she insists.
Memories of Ron's killing stay with her every day of her life.
"There was a loud bang when the street door was kicked open," she recalls.
"I wasn't sure if Neil, my son, was at home. I screamed out 'Neil, Neil', thinking a maniac had run into my house."
But the police later took it to mean 'kneel' —as if commanding the victim to 'kneel' ready to be shot, which convinced the Old Bailey jury.
"Ron was shot in the arm," Linda remembers. "The man pulled his mask down and I recognised him. He fired a second shot that killed Ron, then run out leaving me in my kitchen with Ron on the floor dead."
Police took her to Canning Town police station as a witness to murder and gave her a 'gunshot residue' test on her hands which she said proved she hadn't handled a gun.
"The head of the murder squad asked me two days later why I hadn't told them I was Linda Calvey the armed robber," she said.
"I was now their suspect, despite being eliminated by the forensic test. I was fitted up because I did armed robberies."
Linda slid into the East End's underworld with eye wide open, she admits.
"I married a bank robber when I was 22 because I fell in loved with him," she said. "I knew Mickey Calvey was a bank robber the day I met him at his homecoming party after his release from prison. I went into it with my eyes open."
She started as a get-away driver—but soon progressed to taking part in the hold-ups directly and went 'tooled up' with a sawn-off shotgun.
The easy cash flowed. So did the risks. Linda shared a prison with Rose West and Myra Hindley.
But for all that, she would not do the same if she had her life again.
"I have great regrets that I ever went down the criminal path," she reflects.
"I look back sorry for my family, my children, grandchildren, parents and my brothers and sisters who've all had to live with the stigma of people saying their mum or their daughter is a murderer."
She believes her book will jog the conscience of a retired cop somewhere who would stand up and say Linda Calvey, known as 'The Black Widow' because every man she has ever been involved with is either dead or in prison, didn't shoot Ron Cook afterall.
The Black Widow, by Linda Calvey, is being launched Thursday at the Blind Beggar in Whitechapel, priced at £18.99 (Mirror Books).