Tag Archives: Mad Frank Fraser

A prison friend remembers the last time he saw gangster ‘Mad’ Frank Fraser

Mad Frank in 2002

Mad Frank Fraser in 2002

In February 2012, I wrote a blog which mentioned the British criminal ‘Mad’ Frank Fraser.

Someone recently posted a comment on the blog which I think is interesting enough to print here. I have tidied-up some of the punctuation.

The comment reads…

I first met Frank in 1976 at Cardiff Prison.

I first spoke to him by saying: “How can you wear jeans?”

He looked at me and said: “Come with me, son.”

I went to his cell.

He said: “Sit.”

I did.

He threw a book at me: “Read this.”

I threw it back at him.

“I said: “You read it.”

He said: “I like you – You’ve got bottle.”

Then I knew who he was.

He became a friend of mine. We used to have a good laugh.

Not many would speak to him.

He was my cup of tea.

I was 21 at that time. I use to play football on Saturdays, but there are four nations.

I’m Welsh.

Frank said: “Colin, you haven’t been picked to play for Wales. I will be back in five minutes.”

(When he returned) he said to me: “Yes, you are playing. Sorted. I want you to play for the English side. But Colin,” he said, “you must score or I will have to break your legs.”

I scored in every game and the English won.

Frank would run up and down the line threatening to break my leg if I didn’t score. He was shouting no end.

One game, he needed me to sort this guy on the other side. (When I did) he shouted: “Now, job done!”

I was sent off. Frank was so happy.

The last time I spoke to Frank was when he asked me if I could go and see if his wife was in the visitors’ room and how long had she been waiting.

She had been there for two hours.

I went back. I told Frank.

He said: “Thanks Col, mate.”

He said: “Disappear now. You won’t see me again, Col.”

He said: “Just go. Bye, Col.”

“But Frank…” I said.

He said: “Go. Go now.”

From a distance, I hear Frank: “Bye, Col.”

Sad for me.

Then I hear all the alarms go off.

The prison officer told him No his wife wasn’t there. So Frank cut his throat.

Last time I seen him.

Dragged away. My mate Frank.

Colin your English top scorer.

I found out he had money on me to score.

Respect to you Frank

xxxxxx from Colin.


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So I was talking to ex-gangster Mad Frank Fraser behind the Blind Beggar pub when this little girl came up to us…

Mad Frank at the historic Clink jail in 2002

Mad Frank interviewed at The Clink in 2002

Thirteen years ago today, in 2001, former gangster Mad Frank Fraser was being filmed for a documentary about his life.

Filming took place at the Clink prison museum near the reconstruction of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre on the south bank of the River Thames.

I chatted to Frank over coffee between camera set-ups.

He told me there had been no recent talk of filming the story of his life: “I think they’re waiting till after I die,” he said flatly, “because then they can say anything. They could make up things or, if I did something when I was defending myself, they could just say I slashed someone for no reason at all.”

Frank was, as always, gentlemanly and very slightly deaf in one ear. He and his then wife Marilyn Wisbey, daughter of a Great Train Robber, lived in a rented flat off the Old Kent Road. The next day, they were both travelling up to Birmingham to sign copies of their new books: her first autobiography Gangster’s Moll and his Diary (his third autobiographical book).

We had lunch in a clean but characterless local cafe a short walk along Clink Street: Frank, me, the cameraman, the sound man and a stills photographer from Tunbridge Wells who had done a few fashion shoots but really wanted to break into travel photography.

At one point, Frank, the sound man and I were sitting alone at a table when the sound man suddenly said without warning: “Do you want to see some magic?”

He entertained us with some close-up magic, putting a paper napkin into his closed fist then making it disappear. When he and I were alone later, he faked bending and swallowing a fork and told me forlornly that Americans just accepted magic tricks for their simple entertainment value, but the British wanted to see tricks over and over again to work out how they were done. He was interested to work in movie special effects because his father used to run a firework display company.

After lunch, we relocated to an upstairs room at the Clink, which had the walls and ceiling in prison/dungeon/torture chamber style but which also had a bar and giant stand-up fridge for drinks and a small glitter-ball dangling from the ceiling. Presumably it was occasionally used for private parties and discos.

Mad Frank interviewed at Repton Boys Club

Mad Frank was interviewed in the ring at Repton Boys Club

We then all drove to Repton Boys (boxing) Club in Bethnal Green where the Kray Twins used to box.

Frank had brought along a colour photo of him shaking the hand of an ashen-faced, bed-ridden Reggie Kray just a few days before he died.

Reggie had white bandages on his right wrist.

Then we drove to the Blind Beggar pub in Whitechapel where Ronnie Kray shot George Cornell in 1966.

Standing outside the Grave Maurice pub opposite the London Hospital where he once deposited a man with a hatchet in his head, Frank was greeted by strangers coming out of the pub inviting him in to drink with them. Walking back to the Blind Beggar, along the pavement lined by Indian and Pakistani-owned stalls, everyone – even small Asian children – recognised him.

Finally, as we were saying our goodbyes in the large Sainsbury’s car park behind the Blind Beggar and I was talking to Frank, a lone little girl, aged about 13, came up and asked to shake his hand. He did with an: “Of course.” She said nothing, then turned and went away, a happy smile on her face.

“Did you see that?” he asked.

“You don’t have to worry about any feature film,” I told him: “You’ll be Uncle Frank to her forever.”

The police say Mad Frank killed 40 people, though it sounds like a figure just plucked out of thin air, either by the police or by Mad Frank himself for publicity purposes.

So it goes.

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One man can change the world with a bullet (or six) in the right place….

(A version of this blog was also published in the Huffington Post under the title What Links Dead Comedian Malcolm Hardee, Gangster Mad Frank Fraser & a British Political Sex Scandal?)

My local handyman (who is a very interesting person; he was at university – UCL, London – with the mother of Kate Middleton, our possibly future Queen) came round to mend my side gate yesterday. He was telling me he hated reading Charles Dickens and could not understand what people see in Dickens’ writing.

“Just caricatures,” he fumed. “Just caricatures. But,” he continued, “Horace Walpole is worse. “The Castle of Otranto is utter shit yet people thought it was a great piece of writing at the time and they thought Horace Walpole’s name would be remembered. Now, quite rightly, no-one remembers him except dusty academics. He’s a footnote. Who knows which ‘famous’ people’s names are going to survive from the 20th century? It’s pot luck.”

Also yesterday, Bill Alford sent me a Facebook message telling me he had posted on Flickr ninety-five… count ’em that’s ninety-five… photographs he took in the years 1985-1987 at the late Malcolm Hardee‘s legendary – nay, notorious – seminal alternative comedy club The Tunnel Palladium.

In among the early photos of Keith Allen, Clive Anderson, Phil Cool, Jenny Eclair, Harry Enfield, Jeremy Hardy, Ainsley Harriott, Jools Holland, Eddie Izzard, Phill Jupitus, Josie Lawrence, Neil Morrissey, Mike Myers (yes, that Mike Myers), Vic Reeves, Jerry Sadowitz, Screaming Lord Sutch, Squeeze and many others at Malcolm’s Tunnel Palladium, there is a photo of a trendy-looking gent captioned Johnny Edge.

All ninety-five… count ’em that’s ninety-five… of Bill’s photos are interesting – a nostalgic flashlight on an earlier comedy era – but the photo of Johnny Edge was the one which interested me most because I never met Johnny Edge.

I only knew of him by reputation.

He died almost exactly a year ago, on 26th September 2010.

He was just an ordinary bloke living in south east London, whom most people had never heard of yet, when he died, he merited very lengthy obituaries in the Daily Telegraphthe Guardian and the Independent.

In that sense, he was a bit like Malcolm Hardee.

Most people in Britain had never heard of Malcolm Hardee but, when he drowned in January 2005, such was his importance to the development of British comedy, that he merited near full-page obituaries in the Daily Telegraph, the Evening Standard, the Guardianthe Independent and The Times – indeed, he managed to get two obituaries in the Evening Standard and two in the Guardian.

Malcolm had told me tales of Johnny Edge coming to his comedy clubs and, when I showed the Flickr photo to a friend who worked at Malcolm’s later comedy club Up The Creek, she immediately recognised him:

“Oh yes. I recognise him. He was a regular. He always seemed to me to be on his own. I didn’t know who he was, but other people seemed to know him and treat him with respect, like he had been in known bands or something, He looked ‘reggae’ and he held himself well, maybe just because he was older and quiet. He seemed nice. I think if he had been in a rock band I would have heard which one, which is why I wondered how people were familiar with him… Now I come to think about it, maybe Malcolm always put his name ‘on the door’ so he got in for free. Logically, I think that is highly likely.”

When Malcolm had told me about Johnny Edge being a regular at his clubs, I could feel the slight thrill he had in being able to say he had met and, to an extent, known him.

Johnny ‘Edge’ was a nickname. He was actually Johnny Edgcombe. What he did in 1962 was the catalyst that triggered the Profumo Scandal in 1963 which played no minor part in bringing down the Conservative government in 1964.

Edgecombe had fired six shots at osteopath Stephen Ward’s mews flat, where Edgecombe’s ex-girlfriend Christine Keeler was hiding.

Malcolm’s barely-contained thrill at having a link with Johnny ‘Edge’ was the same thrill I could sense in him when famed 1960s South London gangster Charlie Richardson came to a party on Malcolm’s floating pub the Wibbley Wibbley. It is the same thrill some people feel if they have an even tenuous link with the Kray Twins.  I have heard more than one stand-up comic joke about the TARDIS-like capacity of the Blind Beggar, seeing as how most of the population of East London appears to have been in the pub the night Ronnie Kray shot George Cornell.

It is the thrill of one or two degrees of separation from important historic or society-changing events.

Malcolm had three degrees of separation from the Krays, which I think he always cherished and which is mentioned towards the start of his autobiography I Stole Freddie Mercury’s Birthday Cake (now out-of-print, but currently available from me via Amazon at  the remarkably reasonable price of £49.99 + p&p).

When Mad Frank Fraser, the Richardson’s ‘enforcer’ was shot in the thigh during a fight at Mr Smith’s Club in Catford, he was eventually left lying in the front garden of Malcolm’s aunt Rosemary and uncle Doug. The shooting was part of the bad blood and linked events which led to the shooting in the Blind Beggar which brought the Kray Twins and, to an extent, the Richardsons down.

Links within links within links.

To an extent, I share Malcolm’s thrill with one or two degrees of linked separation from national, international or parochial history. Everything and everyone is inter-linked.

Malcolm never met Mad Frank Fraser. I have and I am glad to have met and chatted to him a couple of times: the man who once lay bleeding in Malcolm’s aunt and uncle’s front garden.

Links within links within links.

Once, Mad Frank told me he worried “a bit” what people would say about him after he was dead, because what people are seen as being is ultimately not what they are but what people write about them in retrospect.

A butterfly flapping its wings in the Amazonian jungle really can change the world. Ordinary unsung individuals can be part of the chain that creates historic events. Or, to quote anti-hero Mick’s line in Lindsay Anderson’s trendy 1968 film If….

“One man can change the world with a bullet in the right place…”

Or six bullets.

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