‘It was like a way of getting out of the gutter...Be it a boxer, or a footballer or something. I chose something different. The only trouble with mine was that it always led to the Old Bailey.”
Frankie Fraser’s criminal career stepped up after the Second World War. He started doing smash-and-grab raids and bank hold ups. He claimed to be the first man in Britain to have worn a stocking over his head.
But money made was soon spent. Fraser liked to be seen out in tailor made Savile Row suits. And he liked to go out and party a lot. He later claimed that he distributed any surplus profits to his less successful criminal counterparts. Like much of the Frankie Fraser story, this is hard to either substantiate or disprove. It does, however, reveal much about how Fraser likes to portray himself.
After a stint in prison for attacking the gangster Jack Spot, Fraser’s sister introduced him to the heavy smoking Charlie Richardson and his business minded brother, Eddie. The scrap metal business they ran would soon be the scene for some of the most sickening torture of the sixties. Fraser and Charlie had a similar attitude to conscription. Charlie had tried but failed to fake insanity to avoid the army and ended up court-martialled instead. Fraser would later find he had no problem being certified. He once said he was meant to have worn a policeman’s ear on a chain round his neck. He neither denied nor confirmed the allegation. He simply repeated it.
Initially, it was the Richardson’s instalment of one-arm bandits in pubs and clubs that made Fraser his first big money. Thousands of pounds came his way, whether he was inside or not. Their joint criminal enterprise soon included fraud, gambling and protection rackets. And it was said that it was all enforced under the threat of torture.
Fraser was alleged to take part in kangaroo court trials of enemies. In addition to using an axe to kill and dismember an adversary, Fraser was said to have used pliers to extract teeth. Fraser later denied this. He stated that anyone who crossed him would have been so comprehensively punched that he wouldn’t have had any teeth left to extract.
But allegations persist of torture. The police stated that enemies of the gang were first partially drowned and once wet, electrocuted. After further beatings, bloodied and burnt, victims were always given a clean shirt with which to return home.
Relations at this stage with the Krays were still amicable. When Fraser was doing seven years for cutting a rival, the twins used to send his sister by taxi to whichever prison he was in. After another release from yet another prison, the twins organised a party and a whip round. And during the ‘60s, East London based Reggie Kray sought Fraser’s services. Fraser chose to stay with the South London based Richardsons. Fraser claimed that later reports of gang rivalry were exaggerated.
In 1963, Fraser reported that he had the opportunity to take part in the Great Train Robbery. It was decided, however, that because he was on the run at the time, he would be a liability. He was proud, however, to have known the mum of his future girlfriend, Marilyn. She was the woman who made the balaclavas for the Great Train Robbery. She caused the robbers extra problems when she didn’t make the eyes level.
Back in London, gang rivalries were about to explode. When George Cornell, another Richardson crony, insulted Ronnie Kray, calling him a ‘fat poof’, Ronnie shot him through the head. In March 1966, the Richardson’s revenge attack failed to wipe out the Krays. During the gun battle, Fraser was shot in the hip - Eddie was shot in the backside. The seedy side of the swinging sixties and its bloodstained backstreets were about to be brought out into the spotlight.
On the day England won the World Cup in 1966, the police arrested Charlie Richardson. Fraser would stand trial with him at the Old Bailey in 1967.