Ray 'The Cat' Jones, the Hackney connection… completely missed by Iain Sinclair!

Way back in February I posted a couple of blogs about Iain Sinclair’s book Hackney, That Rose Red Empire. What I didn’t realise back then, or even earlier when I’d given Sinclair a few pointers as regards research on this book, was that Ray ‘The Cat’ Jones was a long time Hackney character who during the 1990s featured regularly in The Hackney Gazette. Since Ray doesn’t appear in Sinclair’s book, I guess this proves that neither of us read the Hackney press with any diligence….
Ray lived for many years at Flat 9, St Andrews House, Cranwich Road, Stamford Hill, London N16 5JB. His long term press spokesman Michael Morgan has also been based in Hackney for many years, and when I met up with the latter man last week he told me that towards the end of his life Ray had used an otherwise empty flat belonging to a mutual friend in Colvestone Crescent, Dalston. This is why press reports about Ray often said he lived in Dalston, although he also kept his council flat in Stamford Hill until his death in 2001.
Among the press clippings Morgan gave me when I met him was the following headlined “Burglar Ray’s dying wish is in the posters’ from The Hackney Gazette of 20 August 1998:
“A cat burglar who robbed the rich and famous for more than 40 years, has been caught putting up his own ‘Wanted’ posters.
Ray ‘The Cat’ Jones, who lives in Colvestone Crescent, Dalston, has started sticking up the posters in Hackney, with a photo of him behind bars and details of his life story.
“The 82 year-old who is suffering from lung cancer, says it is his last chance to tell his story. ” ‘For years high-ranking police officers have stopped publishers printing my story because it would expose past corruption and victimisation,’ says Ray.
” ‘They know I’m about to die and they hope the truth will go with me. Well damn them, this story is coming out,’ he adds defiantly.
“Although now a frail old man, the crafty crook stole an estimated career haul of £60 million of jewels and valuables – despite spending 33 years in jail.
” ‘Most of them were for crimes I didn’t do and honest policemen have admitted that,’ says Ray. ‘I’m not looking for forgiveness. I was a criminal. I just want the people around me know what happened.’ ”
Two years before this, in an edition of 25 April 1996, The Hackney Gazette had carried the headline ‘Cat’s Campaign for recognition’ and beneath it the following story:
“The once-athletic burglar Ray ‘The Cat’ Jones has staged a one-man protest claiming that the police have tried to cover up his involvement in a gems burglary from a movie star.
“Standing next to a huge placard cataloguing his alleged part in the theft of jewels from Sophia Loren, 80-year-old Ray distributed 500 leaflets at Ridley Road market, Dalston, last Friday to passers-by.
“Ray who lives in Stamford Hill claims that he and an accomplice paid for information from two senior police officers that helped them steal the Italian actress’s gems when she was staying in London in the 1960s.
” ‘They are afraid of being exposed,’ said Ray, who confessed to the crime four years ago, but has not been arrested for it. He claimed that all attempts to reveal his role in the heist have been suppressed, including deals to publish his life story.”
When I met Michael Morgan in his Hackney flat, he told me that he’d lost many of the papers and press clippings relating to Ray, but he gave me photocopies of everything he still had. Michael spoke passionately about Ray and his decade-long friendship with him. Ray had clearly been a charismatic figure who made a lasting impression on those he met.
After I visited him, Michael Morgan sent me the following statement about Ray Jones:
“For people who read news on Raymond Jones in the Hackney & national newspapers, Raymond for many years wanted his life story published, the news in 1992 about the burglary of Sophia Loren from May 1960, caused a great deal of public interest, of course those unique court trials were the real reason why Raymond’s life story was stopped by the powers that be. If the trials from the 1930s 40s & 50s had come into the public domain, people reading  about these trials would have been very shocked to think that things like this could happen in crown courts. In 1994 the Mail on Sunday newspaper promised Raymond if he was arrested for the burglary of Sophia Loren they would do a large news story on him a reporter & photographer came out to Borehamwood Police Station and spent six hours there before Raymond was arrested. The story was shelved, why? The Sun newspaper on another occasion spent a day and a half with Raymond in Wales. The story was shelved, why? How sad they could do this to a very ill man, as Raymond was. Two major book publishers promised to publish Raymond Jones’s life story but shelved the plans, why? One of the editors talked to Raymond one day and said, I am sorry, we can’t publish your story we have been stopped and I can’t say more than that.
“Is this democracy? God help us all.
“A very big thank you to Welsh newspapers, The Western Mail and sister paper Wales on Sunday and The Hackney Gazette in London, for their kindness over a very long time and the very many stories that was published in these papers to get Raymond Jones’s life story into the public domain.
“If Raymond’s life story had been published, I am sure the public would have taken Raymond to their heart and would have looked on Raymond, not as a jewel thief but a martyr.
“Raymond Jones passed away on 4th February 2001.”
Thus while I was able to help Iain Sinclair out with his Hackney research into the Mole Man and other matters, I clearly let the side down by not knowing enough about the colorful life of my distant relative Raymond Jones. When Sinclair was working on his Hackney book, I knew my mother‘s cousin was a jewel thief but I didn’t know he had personal connections to Hackney going back to the 1950s and possibly much earlier… So in as far as Iain Sinclair might be criticised for his lack of local knowledge on this score, I too should bear some of the blame…
And while you’re at it don’t forget to check – www.stewarthomesociety.org – you know it makes (no) sense!


Comment by This Is Not Chris Petit on 2009-12-09 08:44:49 +0000

As I write Iain is launching himself into the research for a major biography of Ray The Cat. He’ll have already dialed Home!

Comment by Beneath the pavement, the beach! on 2009-12-09 09:30:29 +0000

Ray was born before his time – in spirit he was a 68er and he understood that crime could be revolutionary!

Comment by Sugar Ray Robinson on 2009-12-09 09:56:01 +0000

Ray Jones is a legend! You can’t ask for more than that!

Comment by Lara on 2009-12-09 10:50:15 +0000

What a great story. But I don’t know why you feel so bad about Sinclair. Surely he should do his own research. You don’t blame the people you interview if they don’t tell you stuff they don’t know. Anyway, Sinclair’s celebrity status has made him a parody, I’m afraid, of himself. I’ve never understood why so many treat him as a God.

Comment by mistertrippy on 2009-12-09 15:55:30 +0000

Good points Lara, and normally I’d agree that it was Sinclair who should have done the research – but in this case Ray is a relative of mine and when Sinclair interviewed me for his book (and I admit he fictionalised what I said, it isn’t done straight at all) I had done a little bit of looking at Ray’s life but it was the thefts, escapes and campaign to be arrested at the end of his life that I’d seen. I came across him because some of my uncles (Ray’s cousins) told me about our most famous criminal relative, and they said he lived/had lived in London but I should have pressed them further as I’m from London too even if they’ve lived all their lives in south Wales. So I didn’t get the Hackney connection until very recently, well after speaking to Sinclair. I’m suprised he missed it coz he is (or was) a Hackney resident, whereas I lived a lot of my adult life in Tower Hamlets and only about 6 months of it in Hackney. But I think it would have been nice for Ray to be in Sinclair’s Hackney book, so I’m sorry he isn’t and he should be because there’s enough of me in there even if a load of that is fiction! – so my most famous criminal relative who lived loads longer in Hackney than me should be there too!

Comment by fi on 2009-12-09 16:59:39 +0000

i dies my hair a lovely strawberry pink. it looks quite nice.

Comment by Agent Zigzag on 2009-12-09 17:22:50 +0000

Ray The Cat was an ordinary decent criminal who never hurt anyone and only robbed the rich, he was also a top rank boxer, and he loved his mother and looked after his family. You can’t say fairer than that coz he’s not only a legend but a top bloke too!

Comment by Minnie The Moocher on 2009-12-09 23:15:02 +0000

Ray’s memory will live forever in the hearts of those without money, and it will always strike terror into the minds of those with too much….

Comment by Eugene Francois Vidocq on 2009-12-10 00:46:59 +0000

Just as well Ray The Gat never turned game-keeper, he’d have put the flics out of a job!

Comment by Paul McCartney on 2009-12-10 01:19:05 +0000

Reading this makes me wish that Ray The Cat had been my dad…

Comment by Fantomas on 2009-12-10 01:48:14 +0000

Sometimes I fantasise that I’m Ray ‘The Cat’ Jones….

Comment by The Other Bruce Reynolds on 2009-12-10 08:36:35 +0000

Ray The Cat had more style in his little finger than all the Great Train Robbers taken together, and he never hurt anyone. Ray is missed!

Comment by Lara on 2009-12-10 10:52:51 +0000

Ray certainly sounds fantastic. I wish he was my relative. Shamefully, quite a lot of mine are the very rich thieves who steal off us all the time and get away with it. Ray, I would have been proud of. Hurry up and write the book then Mr Trippy. You seem to be able to turn em around at the same rate that I make mincepies.

Comment by fi on 2009-12-10 19:18:27 +0000

“i dies my hair a lovely strawberry pink. it looks quite nice.”
i didnt say that. someone is coming in here pretending to be me again. this multiple identity thing has stopped being funny ages ago.

Comment by THE PLAGIARIST on 2009-12-10 21:07:57 +0000

People keep stealing my identity too. Guess I can’t really complain, though, given that my identity is an amalgamation of infinite pre-existing identities not my own… and besides, ownership is theft.

Comment by The Plagiarist on 2009-12-11 01:00:27 +0000

Listen little plagiarist, you’ve just stolen my identity no one can steal yours coz you don’t have one of your own.
“People keep stealing my identity too. Guess I can’t really complain, though, given that my identity is an amalgamation of infinite pre-existing identities not my own… and besides, ownership is theft.”
I didnt say that. someone is coming in here pretending to be me again. this multiple identity thing has stopped being funny ages ago.

Comment by Howling Wizard, Shrieking Toad on 2009-12-11 07:36:37 +0000

Embarresing ‘geography teacher dance’ video of the day — check from the 50′ mark….

Comment by mistertrippy on 2009-12-11 11:15:30 +0000

Howling Wiz that terrible Gang of 4 appearance on The Whistle Test you’ve linked to makes me think of “Terminal Stupid’ except not nearly as good: “you’re a walking disagrace… no trace of humanity”:

Comment by Lara on 2009-12-11 11:31:05 +0000

Thanks HWST. I’ve posted your link. So impressed by the dancing as I was.

Comment by Howling Wizard, Shrieking Toad on 2009-12-13 00:56:58 +0000

The amazing thing is that ‘geography teacher’ dance routines and cod funk were actually taken seriously by vast sections of the record buying public and ‘music intelligensia’ after The Pistols.
Now, that singer just looks like someone from a Private School in Guildfrod or Norwich, who has had one beer too many at a young conservatives/new labour conference party dance.
The other really funny thing is that these bands were also very taken seriously as representing a new ‘young Trotskyite/Leninist’ surge, and actually sold themselves as being part of some kind of post Frankfurt School vanguard, or as having special insight into ‘Situationism’.
Greil Marcus loved them…..maybe that should tell us something.

Comment by Howling Wizard, Shrieking Toad on 2009-12-13 02:00:47 +0000

The other dreadful thing in the ‘post punk early 80’s’ landscape was all those bands who were really really bad Jim Morrison, Iggy, Velvets,Bowie, Roxy rip offs — and these bands were really,really bad for the most part.
See here for another cod funk bass line, and ‘uncle at your mate’s wedding’ dance routine. The drums sound like dustbin lids too. How could anyone fall for such rubbish?
And even worse, get ready for an unbelievably bad Capt Beefheart meets Iggy meets Howling Wolf meets Jim Morrison rip off — how did anyone fall for it ?

Comment by mistertrippy on 2009-12-13 11:24:18 +0000

Bauhaus, yes, very serious, I remember seeing them one time early on and someone front of stage was taking the piss out of their ‘act’, so they smashed a light on her head. A bit OTT as a reaction to some verbals, but that’s what happens when you take yourself too seriously. And very bad dancin’….
Nick Cave I was supposed to interview for a fanzine when The Birthdays Party were still going, but after I watched them play he spent all his time puking into a sink, so I had to interview Roland Howard instead. However, I did a reading with him about 10 years ago and he turned out to be a very nice and friendly bloke, not on a star trip at all…. But much as I liked him personally on that second meeting, the music doesn’t do anything for me……

Comment by Michael Morgan on 2010-01-17 19:20:01 +0000

Raymond Jones passes on on the 4 February 2001, it seems like yesterday. In the 1980’s & 1990’s Ray worked very hard to get his life story out without any luck.
It is wonderful now to see that now the public are getting to know the truth about Ray’s life. I often wonder what his life would have been like if that evil policeman had not stopped in 1937 on SUS. When this court case came to trial, PC Spratt spoke with Ray and said I should never have stopped you but I could not say that in court or I would lose my job. PC Spratt told Ray the police would never forgive you for beating one of their own.
The police tried to fit Ray up with another police assault charge, which he could have got a further 6 years making a total of 12 years in prison and innocent as a new born baby. This last police assault charge was the reason why Ray’s brother Daivd Dai came down from Wales to give evidence for Ray. Because of the wickedness of the police Ray’s brother lost his life in 1940. How much can we believe about the recapture in Staines, Middlesex, 1960 after his escape from Pentonville in 1958. Ray told me he was driving his car in Staines, Middlesex, in November 1960. When four or five police cars converged in on him, Ray said he went to get out off his car and the police officer in charge told Ray to keep his hands down, Ray was then put in one of the police cars with police either side of him, they then set out for Scotland Yard. The police officer in charge asked Ray if he had anything dishonest on his person, Ray said he had a driving licence that was not his, the officer said to put it out the window of the car. The police officer then said to Ray – I know you are doing this 8 years an innocent but I have to put you back, the police officer then said to Ray – if you did any burglaries while you were on the run good luck to you.
Ray said when they got back to Scotland Yard, two policemen approached Ray and said we are arresting you for the burglary of Sofia Loren, the policeman who recaptured Ray said – you will do nothing of the kind we have done enough to this man, at this stage the two police officers came forward again at Ray, to which Ray said go and ask for a share of the money that was paid to the police, the two policemen went red in the face and that was that. Ray has gone to his rest, but his first cousin is making his wish come true.
Michael Morgan.

Published At