Gangland enforcer sets the record straight about 'the bad old days': Rhys Williams meets 'Mad' Frankie Fraser, once known as Britain's most violent man

THE PUBLICATION today of Frankie Fraser's autobiography suggests this paper's report of his death in a shooting outside a London club over two years ago was a little premature. In a pub in Islington, 'Mad' Frankie, 70 and very much alive, says he hopes his book, Mad Frank, will correct 'all the rubbish written about me over the years'.

Fraser has spent 40 years in prison, including seven for slashing Jack 'Spot' Comer, a 1950s gang leader, 10 years for his role as the 'dentist' in the so-called Richardson Torture Gang and five for leading the Parkhurst prison riots in 1970.

Along the way he served time at Cane Hill mental hospital and Broadmoor, from where he acquired the nickname. An affinity for 'doing screws' meant he was also probably one of the few prisoners to spend his last 20 years in prison without remission. His proudest boast is that he beat up the executioner, Albert Pierrepoint, in Wandsworth prison the day he hanged Derek Bentley - 'the best thing I ever done'. As for the much bandied title 'Britain's most violent man', he says: 'Whether I merited that honour, I don't know. Sure I was violent, but only to people like myself . . . I suppose I ranked high. I'm quite proud of that.'

First 'nicked' for stealing cigarettes at 13, Fraser became a minder to the gang leader Billy Hill during the 1950s. When, in the Sixties, control of Soho and the West End passed to the Kray twins and the Richardson brothers, Charles and Eddie, Fraser acted as the Richardsons' enforcer. The word was that he carried a pair of pliers in his top pocket as a reminder to the loose mouthed.

The gang's activities brought Fraser and Charlie Richardson to the Old Bailey in 1967 for the 'Torture Trial'. Fraser was sent down for 10 years, Richardson for 25. 'There wasn't any torture, honest. Wouldn't I have liked to say in all the time I was sitting in my cell, at least I hurt them? At least then there might have been some satisfaction.'

But no. The black box produced by the prosecution which electrocuted victims through electrodes attached to the genitals was 'rubbish'. Allegations that the gang nailed one man's foot to the floor and removed another's teeth with pliers were 'all false . . . Today, we wouldn't have even been charged, let alone gone to prison.

'In those days untold innocent people were convicted. Evidence was really piled on by coppers to make it sound much worse than it was.' Fraser believes the cases of the Guildford Four and Tottenham Three exposed a racket of 'fabricated evidence' and 'villainy' in which the police had been engaged for decades.

For all the brutality perpetrated, a kind of mock heroic romanticism has grown up around London's gang leaders. In films and autobiographies, we are told they loved their mothers and gave to charity. Even the police have fed the myth: when Sir Stanley Bailey retired as chief constable of Northumbria, he reflected on the 'good times' when Messrs Kray, Richardson and Fraser controlled the East End.

Fraser, needless to say, agrees: 'Old ladies would walk anytime without being interfered with, children too. Yes, we were violent, but only between ourselves. Honest hard-working people were safe, women and children untouchable. There's no place in London now where it's safe to walk.'

Fraser should know. Stepping out of Turnmills club in Clerkenwell, in August 1991, he was shot in the head. The police suspected a gangland hit. Fraser claims it was undercover police. Since coming out of his last stretch in 1985, he has gone straight - thanks, he says, to the gentle persuasion of his girlfriend, Marilyn Wisbey, daughter of the Great Train Robber, Tommy. 'It was logical. I am not nippy enough to smash windows and jump into cars anymore.'

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Games Developer - HTML5

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With extensive experience and a...

Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

£26000 - £34000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Product Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Due to on-going expansion, this leading provid...

Recruitment Genius: Shift Leaders - Front of House Staff - Full Time and Part Time

£6 - £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a family ...

Day In a Page

A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

A Very British Coup, part two

New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms
What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist? Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories

What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist?

Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories
Chinese web dissenters using coded language to dodge censorship filters and vent frustration at government

Are you a 50-center?

Decoding the Chinese web dissenters
The Beatles film Help, released 50 years ago, signalled the birth of the 'metrosexual' man

Help signalled birth of 'metrosexual' man

The Beatles' moptop haircuts and dandified fashion introduced a new style for the modern Englishman, says Martin King
Hollywood's new diet: Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?

Hollywood's new diet trends

Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?
6 best recipe files

6 best recipe files

Get organised like a Bake Off champion and put all your show-stopping recipes in one place
Ashes 2015: Steven Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Middlesex bowler claims Ashes hat-trick of Clarke, Voges and Marsh
Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Atwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works