Why I was dubbed the Black Widow

Serv­ing prison time with true mon­sters, I fi­nally vowed to change my ways Linda Calvey, 71, Chig­well

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I wielded guns to threaten peo­ple in rob­beries

As the prison guard slammed the door shut with a bang, I shud­dered.

‘This is it, now,’ I gulped, look­ing around my dark, dingy cell in Hol­loway prison.

With just the clothes I stood up in, a bed, small mir­ror and basin, this was go­ing to be my new life.

A far cry from the ex­otic hol­i­days, up­mar­ket restau­rants, fancy clothes and ex­pen­sive jew­ellery that I’d taken for granted for the past 20 years.

Af­ter mar­ry­ing my first hus­band Mickey Calvey in Oc­to­ber 1970, I hadn’t wanted for any­thing.

He’d come home from work with beau­ti­ful gifts for me – a gold neck­lace, fancy fur­ni­ture, a bone-china tea set…

Well, he’d call it work, but I knew full well his job wasn’t in

an of­fice or a fac­tory. He was a gang­ster in Lon­don’s tough East End. Mickey and his gang car­ried out armed raids on post of­fices, fur­ni­ture stores, banks and shops.

And I lived a pam­pered life off the pro­ceeds.

A beau­ti­ful home, hol­i­days, a wardrobe full of de­signer clothes, and my fin­gers cov­ered with di­a­mond rings.

Young, swept away with the glam­our of it all, I turned a blind eye. Told my­self that they were vic­tim­less crimes.

Besides, all those places were cov­ered by in­surance.

They’d get the money back, wouldn’t they?

Any­way, or­gan­ised crime had al­ways seemed nor­mal to me.

I’d grown up in the East End, min­gling with the likes of the Kray twins and Fred­die Fore­man.

Reg­gie Kray and ‘Mad’ Frankie Fraser had both even pro­posed to me at one point, be­fore I’d met Mickey.

Only, in De­cem­ber 1978, things came to a head.

Mickey was shot dead by the po­lice dur­ing a bun­gled su­per­mar­ket raid.

My whole life crum­bled. Left alone to raise our young kids – Me­lanie, then 8, and Neil, then 4 – I turned to crime my­self.

I started out as a look­out, then a get­away driver – be­fore wield­ing guns to threaten peo­ple dur­ing rob­beries.

It was around then that I dated gang­ster Ron­nie Cook, but things turned sour.

Only, years later, in 1990, my ex Ron­nie was found shot dead. The cops reck­oned I’d done it.

They held a gun to my head as they ar­rested me.

‘Don’t shoot!’ I’d begged, hands trem­bling.

It shook me to the core.

Is that how scared those peo­ple had felt dur­ing my armed rob­beries?

I felt ashamed.

Po­lice ac­cused me of pay­ing my boyfriend Daniel Reece £10,000 to kill Ron­nie.

They said that Daniel had lost his nerve at the last minute and that I’d picked up the gun and then shot

Ron­nie to death my­self.

At my trial in Novem­ber 1991, I’d de­nied it all – but the jury hadn’t believed me.

So here I was, aged 43, in Hol­loway Prison, in De­cem­ber 1991 – about to serve 18 years for mur­der.

Daniel had also been jailed for mur­der.

As the days, weeks and months went on, I strug­gled to ad­just to my life be­hind bars.

I hated the bland prison food, the scruffy track­suits we had as uni­forms.

The only chance of fresh air was one hour a day in the prison yard.

I lived for weekly vis­its from my kids, who were be­ing looked af­ter by rel­a­tives.

Although I al­ways put on a brave face, I was con­sumed with guilt.

They’d lost their dad, now they’d lost me, too.

‘I miss you,’ Neil, then 17, told me.

‘I’m sorry,’ I’d say, hold­ing back the tears.

De­spite both be­ing in prison, me and Daniel de­cided to marry in De­cem­ber 1999, in the church in Durham prison.

By then, cops had dubbed me the Black Widow – be­cause my men ended up ei­ther dead or in jail...

In prison, there was plenty of time to think.

I knew I only had my­self to blame for all this.

Crime had robbed me of my free­dom and my fam­ily.

I’d been naive and self­ish. Had hurt so many peo­ple. Not just strangers, but the peo­ple I loved most.

‘I’ll never be in­volved in crime again,’ I vowed.

As the years went on, I ended up meet­ing some in­fa­mous in­mates as I was trans­ferred be­tween dif­fer­ent pris­ons.

Myra Hind­ley worked in the laun­dry room, and she used to come into the li­brary, where I was work­ing.

Rose West was in the same prison for a while, too. We didn’t speak.

While I knew what I’d done was bad, the crimes those mon­sters had com­mit­ted were truly un­for­giv­able.

Fi­nally, on the day of Me­lanie’s birth­day, in Au­gust 2008, aged 60, I was re­leased.

But with no state pen­sion and barely a penny of my own, I had to stay in a hos­tel un­til I found my feet.

It was tough, but I was de­ter­mined to re­build my life.

I’d met busi­ness­man Ge­orge Ceasar in a pub on day-re­lease the year be­fore I got out, and we mar­ried in 2009.

‘You’re not into crime are you?’ I asked him.

‘I run a bleach fac­tory,’ he laughed.

What a re­lief!

He knew about my past but ac­cepted that I’d changed my crim­i­nal ways.

We lived to­gether hap­pily in the Es­sex coun­try­side.

Af­ter he sadly died from cancer, aged 84, my old nick­name, the Black Widow pre­dictably resur­faced.

It’s true that I al­ways out­live my men – but I guess that hap­pens when you live your life in the crim­i­nal un­der­world.

These days I tend to spend my time writ­ing, look­ing af­ter the grand­kids and look­ing af­ter my gar­den.

I can’t change my past, but I’m not proud of it.

So I’m telling my story – as proof that crime never pays.

I grew up in the East End with the Krays

With my kids Neil and Me­lanie

To­day: I’m not proud of my crim­i­nal past

My third hubby Ge­orge, an or­di­nary busi­ness­man

The Black Widow by Linda Calvey (£18.99, Mir­ror Books) is on sale now.

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