Francis Davidson "Frankie" Fraser (13 December 1923 - 26 November 2014) better known as "Mad" Frankie Fraser, was an English gangster and criminal who spent a total of 42 years in prison for numerous violent offences.
Fraser was part of Britain's Underworld between the 1940s-1960's. He was a known associate of gangster Billy Hill throughout the 1950s. He had 10 years added to a sentence he was serving in 1967 along with The Richardson Brothers in the Torture Trials which were the longest trials in British criminal history.
Fraser knew the twins well, and attended all of the Kray brothers funerals, and sat with Reggie on his deathbed in 2000. Over his long criminal career, Fraser spent 40–42 years in prison. He died in 2014 of complications from surgery.
History[edit | edit source]
Early life[edit | edit source]
Fraser was born on Cornwall Road in Waterloo, London, on 13 December 1923. He was delivered by his maternal grandmother. The youngest of five children, Fraser grew up into a working-class, poverty-stricken family. His mother, Margaret, was of Irish and Norwegian ancestry; his father was James Fraser (born 1885) was half Native American. Fraser's father worked hard long hours as a wood sawyer at the local cricket bat makers, Stuart Surridge, for around two pounds a week.
At the age of five he moved with his family to a flat on Walworth Road, Elephant and Castle. Although his parents were not criminals, Fraser turned to crime aged 10 with his sister Eva, whom he was close to. He attended St. Patricks Roman Catholic School in Waterloo. Fraser was a deserter during World War II, on several occasions escaping from his barracks. It was during the war that he first became involved in serious crime, with the blackout and rationing, combined with the lack of professional policemen due to conscription, providing ample opportunities for criminal activities such as stealing from houses while the occupants were in air-raid shelters during the Blitz.
In 1941, aged seventeen he was sent to Borstal for breaking into a Waterloo hosiery store, then given a 15-month prison sentence at HM Prison Wandsworth for shop-breaking. Such were the criminal opportunities during the war, Fraser later joked in a television interview many years later that he had never forgiven the Germans for surrendering. In 1942 while serving a prison sentence in HM Prison Chelmsford he came to the attention of the British Army. Although he was conscripted he later boasted that he had never once worn the uniform, preferring to ignore call-up papers, desert and resume his criminal activities.
Post-war[edit | edit source]
After the war, Fraser was involved in a smash-and-grab raid on a jeweller, for which he received a two-year prison sentence, served largely at HM Prison Pentonville. It was during this sentence that he was first certified insane and was sent to Cane Hill Hospital before being released in 1949. During the 1950s his main occupation was as bodyguard to well-known gangster Billy Hill.
He took part in more bank robberies and spent more time in prison. He was again certified insane while at HM Prison Durham and this time sent to Broadmoor Hospital. Afraid of being heavily medicated for bad behaviour, Fraser stayed out of trouble and was released in 1955. In 1953, he allegedly hit legendary hangman Albert Pierrepoint when he was on his way to execute Derek Bentley, who was wrongly convicted of the murder of a policeman. In 1956 the British mobster Jack Spot and wife Rita were attacked, on Hill's say-so, by Fraser, Bobby Warren and at least half a dozen other men. Both Fraser and Warren were given seven years for their acts of violence.
Although invited to take part in the Great Train Robbery, he declined as he was already on the run from police.
The Richardson Gang[edit | edit source]
It was in the early 1960s that he first met Charlie and Eddie Richardson of the Richardson Gang, rivals to the Kray twins. According to Fraser, it was they who helped him avoid arrest for the Great Train Robbery by bribing a policeman. Together they set up the Atlantic Machines fruit-machine enterprise, which acted as a front for the criminal activities of the gang. Frankie Fraser teamed up with the Richardson gang in the mid-1960s.
In 1966 Fraser was charged with the murder of Richard Hart who was shot at Mr Smith's club in Catford while other members including Jimmy Moody were charged with affray. The witness changed his testimony and the charges were eventually dropped, though Fraser still received a five-year sentence for affray. He has always maintained that, while he fought with Hart, he did not shoot him. He was also implicated in the so-called 'Torture trial', in which members of the gang were charged with burning, electrocuting and whipping those found guilty of disloyalty by a kangaroo court. Fraser himself was accused of pulling out the teeth of victims with a pair of pliers. In the trial at the Old Bailey in 1967 he was sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment.
Prison[edit | edit source]
Fraser's 42 years served in over 20 different prisons in the UK were often coloured by violence. He was involved in riots and frequently fought with prison officers and fellow inmates. He also attacked various governors. He was one of the ringleaders of the major Parkhurst Prison riot in 1969, spending the following six weeks in the prison hospital owing to his injuries. Involvement in such activities often led to his sentences being extended. Whilst in Strangeways, Manchester, in 1980 Fraser was 'excused boots' as he claimed he had problems with his feet because another prisoner had dropped a bucket of boiling water on them after Fraser had hit him; he was allowed to wear slippers.
A constant troublemaker in prison, attacking governors and warders over perceived injustices which inevitably resulted in floggings, bread and water and the loss of remission, Fraser had by this time been certified insane on three occasions. The first came when he was in the army during the second world war, the second time when he was sent to Cane Hill psychiatric hospital in Coulsdon, Surrey, and the third when he was transferred from Durham prison to Broadmoor.
Fraser was released in 1988 and almost immediately served a two-year sentence for receiving. On this release, he determined to write his memoirs. Mad Frank (1994), which went on to sell around 100,000 copies, was the first in a successful series. Possessed of a ready wit and good repartee, he followed this up with stage performances both in the East and West End, where he appeared with his then companion of 10 years, Marilyn Wisbey, the daughter of a Great Train Robber, Tommy Wisbey. In 1996 he was cast as the gangleader Pops Den in the film Hard Men, which premiered at the London film festival.
Later life[edit | edit source]
Fraser was a celebrity, appearing on television shows such as Operation Good Guys, Shooting Stars, and the satirical show Brass Eye, where he said Noel Edmonds should be shot for killing Clive Anderson (an incident invented by the show's producers), and writing an autobiography. In 1996 he played (his friend) William Donaldson's guide to Marbella in the infamous BBC Radio 4 series A Retiring Fellow. In 1999 he appeared at the Jermyn Street Theatre in London in a one-man show, An Evening with Mad Frankie Fraser (directed by Patrick Newley), which subsequently toured the UK.
He also appeared as East End crime boss Pops Den in the feature film Hard Men, a forerunner of British gangster movies such as Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, and had a documentary made of his life Mad Frank which was released as part of the DVD The Ultimate Gangster DVD (2003 Gangster Videos), which featured crime figures Charles Bronson, John McVicar, Paddy Joe Hill, Albert Reading, Dave Courtney, Roy Shaw, Norman Parker, Marilyn Wisbey and axe victim Eric Mason. This programme was also shown on the Crime & Investigation and Biography channels in the UK and was directed by Liam Galvin. London-based production company Classic Media Entertainment has secured the film rights to Mad Frankie's life. A feature film production is currently in development with Fraser's endorsement.
Fraser gave gangland tours around London, where he highlighted infamous criminal locations such as The Blind Beggar pub. In 1991 Fraser was shot in the head from close range in an apparent murder attempt outside the Turnmills Club in Clerkenwell, London. Part of his mouth was shot away in the incident. He refused to discuss the shooting with the police, stating that: “If you play by the sword you’ve got to expect the sword as well.”
Fraser was an Arsenal fan, and his grandson Tommy Fraser is a professional footballer, and formerly captain of League Two side Port Vale. Another of Fraser's grandsons, James Fraser, also spent a short time with Bristol Rovers. Another grandson, Anthony Fraser, was being sought by police in February 2011 for his alleged involvement in an alleged £5 million cannabis smuggling ring. In his later years he led £45 a head minibus tours of London’s gangland hots spots including the scrap-metal yard from which his friends Charlie and Eddie Richardson ran their South London crime empire. Fraser's wife, by whom he had four sons, died in 1999. A keen Arsenal supporter, Fraser had four sons, the first three of whom, Frank Jr, David and Patrick, followed to an extent in his footsteps. His fourth son, Francis, in Fraser’s joking words, “let me down” by having no criminal career at all.
Death[edit | edit source]
Fraser was a resident at a sheltered accommodation home in Peckham, South London. According to Eddie Richardson, Fraser had Alzheimer's disease for the last three years of his life. In June 2013 the 89-year-old Fraser was served with an anti-social behaviour order (ASBO) by police after a row with another resident. On 21 November 2014 he fell critically ill during leg surgery at King's College Hospital, Denmark Hill and was placed into an induced coma. On 26 November 2014 Fraser died after his family made the decision to turn off his life-support machine.
Publications[edit | edit source]
- Fraser, Frank; Morton, James (2000). Mad Frank's Diary: A Chronicle of the Life of Britain's Most Notorious Villain. Virgin Books.
- Fraser, Frank; Morton, James (1995). Mad Frank: Memoirs of a Life of Crime. Time Warner Paperbacks.
|People associated with The Krays|
|Kray Family||Ronnie • Reggie • Charlie • Violet • Charles|
|Shea Family||Frances • Frank • Elsie • Frank Sr.|
|Lee Family||Cannonball Lee • Grandma Lee • Aunt Rose • Aunt May • Uncle John|
|The Firm||Albert Donoghue • Ian Barrie • Leslie Payne • Big Pat • Ronnie Bender • Ronnie Hart • Teddy Smith • Jack Dickson • The Bear • Chris Lambrianou • Tony Lambrianou • Connie Whitehead|
|The Richardsons||Charlie Richardson • Eddie Richardson • George Cornell • Mad Frankie Fraser • Roy Hall • Jimmy Moody • Barry Harris • Albert Longman • Tommy Clark|
|Gangsters & Criminals||Freddie Foreman • Jack Spot • Billy Hill • Bert Rossi • Albert Dimes • Eric Mason • Johnny Squibb • Ginger Marks • Leslie Holt|
|Civilians||The Barmaid • Blonde Carol • Maureen Flanagan • Nipper Read • Lord Boothby • John Pearson • David Bailey|
|Victims||George Cornell • Frank Mitchell • Jack the Hat|