Ray “The Cat” Jones again…

My post of 24 January 2009 about career criminal Ray “The Cat” Jones caused a flurry of interest. I got a couple of messages saying Ray was dead, and further confirmation of this in a comment added to that blog yesterday:  “Ray died in 2001, just so you know.” Likewise, Neil Milkins told me: “I have made some enquiries with a nephew of Ray, Michael O’Dowd of Nantyglo. (Ray was his mother’s brother.) He said Ray died of cancer in London about 7 years ago.” To clarify my own distant relative status with the greatest cat burglar of all time, Ray’s mother was an older sister of my maternal grandfather David Callaghan (AKA Dai Callan), and my mother – Julia Callan-Thompson – was named after this particular aunt.

Moving on, Ray “The Cat” Jones appears as ‘Taffy Raymond’ in the autobiography of the old school heavy Eric Mason. After flashing up the name of Peter Scott, Mason gives an account of Jones loosing heavily in a Notting Hill spieler and then slipping out with his criminal accomplice George “Tatters” Catham to do a quick robbery. Upon their return Jones and Catham negotiated the price of a jewel with the governor of the spieler before resuming their places at the gaming table. South London gangster Mad Frankie Fraser tells a similar tale about Billy Benstead, and as a lead in to this story mentions that Tatters Chatham and Ray Jones numbered among the other leading cat-burglars who were also degenerate gamblers. As noted in my previous Jones blog, Fraser also cites the unaided escape Ray made from Pentonville as one of the greatest prison breakouts of all time;  Mad Frankie says Jones broke both legs going over the wall and still managed to get away. Elsewhere, Fraser makes a passing reference  to cat-burglar Raymond Jones having a brother known within the London underworld as Taffy Jones. But since Ray was lumbered with this appellation by Cockney villains, it may be that Mad Frankie is getting confused. In my experience Fraser and his ghost writer are not 100 percent reliable as sources.

Towards the end of his life,  Ray garnered a certain amount of newspaper attention as a kind of aftermath to  Peter “The Human Fly” Scott publishing his autobiography Gentleman Thief:  Recollections of a Cat Burglar (1995). Scott had been a small time tea leaf until Ray introduced him to major league larceny and the support network that is essential to the headline grabbing criminal. Scott incensed Jones by using his book to claim sole credit for stealing movie star Sophia Loren’s jewels when she was filming at Elstree in 1960.

In the late nineteen-nineties and using a spokesman called Michael Morgan, Jones ran a campaign to get the public to demand that the police arrest him for this 1960 burglary. Jones asserted there had been a cover-up and that the authorities wouldn’t charge him with stealing Loren’s jewels because he’d paid corrupt police officers twelve thousand pounds for information that enabled him to secure the haul. It has even been claimed that because the police knew Jones had been wrongly jailed for another burglary, they decided not arrest him for this particular theft.

Ray claimed to have nicked sixty million pounds worth of goods during his life-of-crime. Like many other underworld figures, Jones and Scott seem to have constantly bigged up their own importance. That said, Jones was an ‘honest’ working-class criminal, not a middle-class slimeball like Scott, so while Ray may have on occasion bent the truth, what he had to say is considerably more reliable than the rot on offer in Gentleman Thief.

According to gangster Albert Donoghue, Loren’s valuable gems were fenced by George Mizel whose Hatton Garden jewellery repair business was a front for this type of activity; however, many London villains active back then believe that upon examination the Loren ‘treasures’ turned out to be paste copies, and not the valuable originals. The same sources add that fortunately Jones and Scott had also lifted this Italian sex siren’s smalls and they did terrific business flogging off her underwear. Peter Scott certainly enjoyed targeting female film stars and he readily admits he got a sexual thrill from riffling through their possessions and stealing their knickers; so this tale about Loren’s paste jewels and stolen underwear is credible albeit unproven. Regardless of its truth or falsity, it certainly makes a good story.

Bruce Reynolds in his Autobiography Of A Thief also applies the name Taffy Raymond to Ray The Cat and says: “Michael Black’s real name was Michael Hackett, a former Leicester boy who had originally been taken under the wing of Taffy Raymond in the early 1950s. Taffy was one of the older climbers who was good at finding up-and-comers, normally at the Billiard Hall in Windmill Street or somewhere like that, and he would ‘educate’ them and set them to work..” (Page 266)

Sources:  Eric Mason – The Brutal Truth: The Inside Story Of A Gangland Legend (Mainstream, Edinburgh 2000).  Bruce Reynolds – Autobiography Of A Thief (Virgin Books, London 2005). Albert Donoghue and Martin Short – The Enforcer: Secrets of my life with the Krays (John Blake Publishing, London 2001). Peter Scott  – Gentleman Thief: Recollections of a Cat Burglar (Harper Collins, London 1995). Frankie Fraser with James Morton – Mad Frank: Memoirs of a Life of Crime (Warner Books, London 1995); Mad Frank And Friends (Warner Books, London 1999); Mad Frank’s Diary (Virgin Books, London 2001); Mad Frank’s London (Virgin Books, London 2002). Seven or so years ago when I last checked Ray out online there was some local south Wales newspaper coverage of him freely available on the web, and although that has subsequently disappeared, I made notes from it at the time. That said, you can still check “Who Done It?” Independent, November 8, 1998, via HighBeam Research or a copyright deposit library –  this carries the strap-line: “Ray ‘The Cat’ Jones, who has spent more than 30 years in prison, now wants recognition for the Sixties theft of Sophia Loren’s jewels. Will Cohu hears his story”. Also available via the same sources is “Ray The Cat Book Bid,” Wales On Sunday, March 3, 2002.  For this blog entry I also made use of notes from conversations I had with Mad Frankie Fraser and various other ‘old hands’ circa 2002.

Further details of Ray’s life and crimes – including exact dates for his birth and death – would, of course, be greatly appreciated in the comments.

And while you’re at it don’t forget to check – www.stewarthomesociety.org – you know it makes (no) sense!

About mistertrippy

Stewart Home was born in south London in 1962. His mother Julia Callan-Thompson was a showgirl and club hostess. He has never held down a regular job for more than a few months at a time. On those rare occasions when he's been forced to work, Home has taken employment as a factory labourer, agricultural labourer, shop assistant, office clerk and art class model. Deciding he didn't like working in factories as a teenager, Home pursued cultural and political interests, writing many books and participating in even more gallery exhibitions.
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23 thoughts on “Ray “The Cat” Jones again…

  1. Dave Kelso-Mitchell says:

    He’s dead?

    So our cats are finally safe.

  2. It’s Peter Scott who should be dead, not me ‘n’ Ray!

  3. Rubes says:

    I wonder if he was mates with my cat burgling ‘godfather’ ****** (name removed by admin), who was also a stuntman, and paedophile… There, he’s outed now.

  4. mistertrippy says:

    Sorry Rubes, I can’t run with this as you posted it, so I’ve removed the name. Let me explain. If you or anyone else were abused by the person you named then he is complete scum; and therefore if Ray The Cat ever came across him, then I hope Ray gave the nonce a good kicking. However, this is a serious allegation and I don’t know anything about you or the background to what you say, so I’m not prepared to leave the name here because I haven’t seen proof that what you say is true. Often proof is difficult but without that I won’t run this allegation on my site. I’m not saying what you wrote isn’t true, simply that I’ve no way of knowing unless you give me more information – and even if you convinced me in private, I might feel it wasn’t advisable for me to go public with it because to do that with such a serious allegation you need very good proof. A couple of years ago I had someone contact me who completely convinced me a figure from the sixties I’d written about had sexually abused her when she was a schoolgirl. Although I’m convinced what she told me is true, the proof is circumstantial and while my view of her abuser has sunk to the level of considering them scum, I wouldn’t name them as a paedophile in public because there is no smoking gun (and to understand and evaluate the circumstantial evidence you need a massive amount of background information and insight into the matter).

  5. Mr Spock says:

    Capitalist property relations are illogical, how right Ray was to transgress them thru theft, but this is only a short term solution and what you really need is the revolutionary transformation of human society!

  6. Rubes says:

    Fair enough, Mr Trippy (great name) this isn’t the place to air it, so apologies. (Though it is true and there were others, and right now I’d like to shout his name from the tree tops.) But it’s worth bearing in mind that fascinating though they might seem, these dare devil gangsters aren’t always so cool and glamorous as their legends would have you believe. Still, I’m sure you know that.

  7. tivvy says:

    glad that you have checked out what i said so i guess you and i are slightly related mister trippy,

  8. tivvy says:

    ray died feb 2001 from cancer

  9. mistertrippy says:

    Yeah, looks like we’re slightly related – and what a huge family we both come from!

  10. Ray was one of the good guys, and like you say, the greatest cat burgler in the world ever!

  11. K Mail says:

    Sorry I haven’t been on here sooner but I was having a cat nap!

  12. howling wizard, shrieking toad says:

    My cave cat enjoys cat nip.

  13. howling wizard, shrieking toad says:

    shrieking toad likes to read Gissing in the corner of my cave, by flickering candle light.


  14. Les Gray says:

    Don’t forget my number 2 hit and tribute to Ray recorded with Mud – “The cat crept in, crept in and crept out again…”

  15. howling wizard, shrieking toad says:

    Iain Sinclair namechecks Mr Home @ the 2.43 mark.

    Iain Sinclair on “London: City Of Disappearances”


  16. Death is not true therefore I’m not dead and they’ll never take me alive!!

  17. Díre McCain says:

    Speaking of cats, the very first thing I saw on this Friday the 13th in the third month of the International Year of Natural Fibres was an adorable black kitten defecating on the neighbor’s freshly coifed lawn. And this is what he said…

    “A gem cannot be polished without friction, nor a man perfected without trials. Toot toot!”

  18. howling wizard, shrieking toad says:

    He lives, he wakes – ’tis Death is dead, not he;
    Mourn not for Adonais. Thou young Dawn,
    Turn all thy dew to splendour, for from thee
    The spirit thou lamentest is not gone;
    Ye caverns and ye forests, cease to moan!
    Cease, ye faint flowers and fountains, and thou Air,
    Which like a mourning veil thy scarf hadst thrown
    O’er the abandon’d Earth, now leave it bare
    Even to the joyous stars which smile on its despair!

    He is made one with Nature: there is heard
    His voice in all her music, from the moan
    Of thunder, to the song of night’s sweet bird;
    He is a presence to be felt and known
    In darkness and in light, from herb and stone,
    Spreading itself where’er that Power may move
    Which has withdrawn his being to its own;
    Which wields the world with never-wearied love,
    Sustains it from beneath, and kindles it above.

    He is a portion of the loveliness
    Which once he made more lovely: he doth bear
    His part, while the one Spirit’s plastic stress
    Sweeps through the dull dense world, compelling there
    All new successions to the forms they wear;
    Torturing th’ unwilling dross that checks its flight
    To its own likeness, as each mass may bear;
    And bursting in its beauty and its might
    From trees and beasts and men into the Heaven’s light.

    The splendours of the firmament of time
    May be eclips’d, but are extinguish’d not;
    Like stars to their appointed height they climb,
    And death is a low mist which cannot blot
    The brightness it may veil. When lofty thought
    Lifts a young heart above its mortal lair,
    And love and life contend in it for what
    Shall be its earthly doom, the dead live there
    And move like winds of light on dark and stormy air.

  19. K Mail says:

    My cousin Vinnie ‘The Rotary Canopener’ Obama stole Sophia Loren’s tampons which, on the face of it, is less impressive but, as a critique of feminism, rocks in ways that mere rock-thiefdom cannot.

  20. K Mail says:

    My cousin Vinnie ‘The Rotary Canopener’ Obama stole Sophia Loren’s tampons which, on the face of it, is less impressive but, as a critique of feminism, rocks in ways that mere rock-thiefdom cannot.

  21. K Mail says:

    Hmmm…Looks like I’d already said that unless I’m so telepathically enjoined to my ecto-klone that we said it simultaneously

  22. Ray Newton says:

    I was getting rid of some books yesterday that had passed their ‘sell by’ date long ago, One was a copy of ‘The Writers Hand Book 1994’.

    However, before dumping, I flipped through the pages as I know I have a habit sometimes of slipping things between the pages to keep them as a place of safe keeping.

    I came across a letter from Raymond (the Cat) Jones, he had enclosed two newspaper cuttings in which he was featured. They date from around the time of his letter 1994.

    His letter was prompted by having read one of mine which ‘The Times’ had featured and where the topic was crime. His purpose was to ask me if I would be interested in writing his life story.

    He spent six pages giving me a brief account of his life which at first seemed a little ‘way out’. He invited me to go round to see him.

    I didn’t dismiss it, but thought I would look into it more later. I popped the letter in a ‘safe place’ meanwhile. Yes, you have already guessed where.

    Unfortunately, I was busy at the time attending Kingston University as a mature student reading psychology. It slipped my mind, and when I did think about it, I had forgotten where I had put it.

    Today, I have been reading his letter in depth. I am so sorry now I did not take him up on his suggestion. He interests me from many points of view, particularly from a psychological one. It appears to illustrate just how much unsought, negative, events in our life can turn us from to what we aspired, and possibly could have achieved with a positive influence, had we not experienced them, instead of the road that leads us to at best, penury, or at worst, perdition (in some cases the two can be indivisable).

    By the look of his picture on one of cuttings when it says he was 78, (that would make him now about 93) it could be assumed he is now no longer with us, but there appears some doubt as to his death from what I have read. Is anyone certain? His story is now ‘haunting’ me. I deeply regret not at least going to see him, and let him tell me the ‘whole story’, then who knows……..
    Ray Newton

  23. Pingback: The testament of Ray Jones, the greatest cat burglar in the world, ever! « Mister Trippy