We are saddened to have to report the passing of Ronnie knight who died peacefully yesterday (June 12th 2023) at the ripe old age of 89.
Ronnie Knight was the former husband of actress barbara ‘Babs’ Windsor and a fugitive in Spain for a decade. He was jailed for seven years at the Old Bailey in 1995 for his part in the £6million Security Express robbery in east London in 1983 after he admitted handling £314,813. His plea of not guilty to robbery was accepted by the Crown. Sentencing him, Judge Gerald Gordon said he took into account that Knight had voluntarily returned from Spain to stand trial and had pleaded guilty.
If there is an aristocracy in the underworld, then Ronnie Knight was its ambassador to Spain. He had the highest profile of the hundreds of villains who took advantage of an extradition loophole to establish themselves on what became known as the Costa del Crime.
Born in Hoxton in 1934, Ronnie committed minor offences in his youth. But his brothers, Johnny and James, were regarded as more deeply involved in major crime, while Ronnie achieved his prominence by running two of the favourite London gangland watering holes of the time: the Artistes and Repertoire Club in Charing Cross Road and its neighbour, Tin Pan Alley.
Here Ronnie Knight played host to the criminal fraternity and the demi-monde that enjoyed rubbing padded shoulders with it. Showbiz names were always made welcome.
Knight loved celebrity. In Spain, his somewhat mocking nickname was The Celebrity. His book, Black Knight, published in 1990, recalls some of the people he met at a party thrown by the female impersonator Danny La Rue: “Noel Coward, tinkling away on the ivories for all he was worth… Roger Moore drew the girls like horseflies to a cow-pat.”
He not only loved celebrity but married into it. He left his first wife, June, to marry the young actress Barbara Windsor – “I fancied her so much my front teeth ached.”
Knight’s clubs were profitable and he had a sideline in pool tables. He also made a small fortune from his share in peep-show clubs in Soho. Had it not been for events in 1970 Knight might have remained in Britain.
But in 1970 his younger brother, David, was beaten up in a pub in Islington. The Knight brothers went looking for the assailants in Soho. During the subsequent altercation, David was fatally stabbed by Alfredo “Italian Tony” Zomparelli. At his trial, Zomparelli pleaded self-defence and was jailed for four years for manslaughter. In September 1974, Zomparelli, now free, was shot dead in the Golden Goose arcade in Soho. Six years later Knight was arrested for the murder after a hitman claimed that Knight had paid him £1,000 to carry out the killing.
Knight denied any involvement. Barbara Windsor stood by him at the trial and he was acquitted.