Portrait: Mr big shot

He's got the Roller, the jewellery and he admits that being a villain draws the women. But Dave Courtney - who inspired Vinnie Jones' character in `Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels' - also bears the scars of his life of crime

The reason you become a criminal is because you want more than other people, you want more than your pounds 250 a week flipping burgers in McDonald's gets you. I wanted the nice clothes, the flash jewellery, the cars, holidays, all the things you're not supposed to do with your money.

But crime isn't like other jobs. The bigger and better crime you do, the less you can tell people about it and the less you can spend. Someone tells you, you've got to keep a low profile, don't get the wife that fur coat, don't buy the fancy watch. But I didn't become a criminal because I wanted to keep a low profile. I'm an ego-junkie, I like the glamour. I couldn't live like I do now unless I'd retired. You have to give it up to enjoy the fruits of crime. I'm 40. I've retired quicker than most villains because I feel my luck is about to run out. I've been very lucky. I've only served one prison sentence. I've got off with some very serious stuff which made me very, very rich and made my enemies disappear. I can justify 99 per cent of what I've done.

To be a good villain doesn't necessarily mean you have to be the best fighter or the best shot, but you have to be a good judge of character. You have to look hard. People spot any weakness in you. You have to have an inner confidence in your own ability. It's no good going round to beat someone up if you think they can beat you up - you've got to think, I am the best, or close.

They used a lot of my exploits for Vinnie Jones in Lock, Stock ... , like when he gets that bloke lying on the sunbed, and carrying round two sawn- off shotguns. I've been in the unfortunate position of having quite a lot of guns pointing at me and the one that frightened me the most was a dirty old sawn-off shotgun, so I knew how scary two would look - I've had a pounds 3,000 highly polished nickel-plated Russian thing pointing at me and it didn't even frighten me, it was like a toy. I think the film is part of a nostalgia for the old-time villains like me, there's a morality and code of honour about us which you don't get nowadays. That's why I modelled my home on Camelot and myself on King Arthur, because they were honourable then. It was the only time when fighting was fair. You both got given a sword, you both got given the same bit of armour, you both got a horse at each end of the field and you charged into each other and you had a fight. I've got a mural of myself as Arthur outside my house, and a sword in a stone in the back garden and a round dining-room table which goes over the pool table. Twelve of us sit round it and we all have our own swords.

Being a villain does draw the women - the danger and the excitement, and looking like I do - but not a lot of them want to run off into the sunset and marry you. I met my wife Jennifer 11 years ago, she didn't have the foggiest who I was; she was a little 19-year-old black singer. It was love at first sight. The premier division of the British crime scene is predominantly white - Freddie Foreman and his wife, Frankie Fraser and his wife, Reggie Kray and his wife - so Jennifer is actually the first black lady of crime, and she's the best gangster's moll there is, but not a silly one who's turned on because I've got a big gun. The kids won't go into the business, because they are fortunate enough to see the downside.

As soon as I walk out of the door the rest of the world only sees Dave Courtney and his white Rolls-Royce, the black Harley-Davidson, the gold jewellery, the Versace suits, but the kids know about the bullet holes in my leg and stab wounds in my back, I've got holes all over my body. People have been so brainwashed about criminals: that they are all nasty, horrible, evil men who beat up their wives, eat babies, sell drugs to children, but they're not. The fact that you do something horrible doesn't make you a horrible person underneath it all. It's just a job, same as any other and I don't bring it home.

`Stop the Ride, I Want to Get Off' by Dave Courtney is published by Virgin on 16 September at pounds 16.99. He is one of the subjects of the `Cons to Icons' exhibition at Tardis Studios, 55 Turnmill Street, London EC1, which runs from 1-15 November.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
peopleMathematician John Nash inspired the film Beautiful Mind
Richard Blair is concerned the trenches are falling into disrepair
newsGeorge Orwell's son wants to save war site that inspired book
Life and Style
Audrey Hepburn with Hubert De Givenchy, whose well-cut black tuxedo is a 'timeless look'
fashionIt may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
Arts and Entertainment
The pair in their heyday in 1967
Life and Style
fashionFrom bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

    £40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

    Guru Careers: Software Developer

    £35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

    Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

    £25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

    Day In a Page

    Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

    Abuse - and the hell that follows

    James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
    Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

    It's oh so quiet!

    The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

    Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

    Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
    New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

    Evolution of swimwear

    From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine