He may be in his 90th year, but “Mad” Frankie Fraser is still causing mayhem.
It has emerged that the former gangland enforcer, who has spent 42 years in prison for 26 offenses, has been issued with an antisocial behavior order (ASBO) after an incident in his residential accommodation.
Fraser, who was jailed for 10 years in the so-called “torture trial” in 1967, is now frail and in poor health, but according to a new documentary, he is clearly not going gentle into any goodnight. He was given an ASBO after getting into an argument with a fellow resident and remains unrepentant about his life of crime.
Last seen in public in October last year at the funeral of his former boss, Charlie Richardson, Fraser is one of the few remaining members of a generation of “celebrity criminals.” His life of crime started aged nine when he worked for the notorious Sabini gang, which ran protection rackets at the racecourses at a time when off-course betting was illegal.
“At the races, I’d be bucket boy,” Fraser said in the documentary, Frankie Fraser’s Last Stand, which is to be broadcast on the Crime and Investigation network on Sunday at 9pm.
A bucket boy would offer to clean the bookies’ blackboards with a sponge, for which they were obliged to pay the Sabinis.
Both Fraser and his sister, Eva, were also active juvenile thieves.
“You name it, we nicked it,” he said. “As I was growing up, I never had to buy a shirt — Eva made sure she nicked them for me.”
A deserter during World War II — he pretended to be mad to avoid the call-up — Fraser was certified insane three times and spent time in Broadmoor, a high-security psychiatric unit where he was frequently punished for breaking prison rules or for fighting prison officers.
“I’ve done more bread and water [prison time] than any man alive,” he said.
Of the war years, when he was heavily involved in theft from bombed-out stores, he said: “You wanted to win the war, but you wanted it to go on forever. It was a thief’s paradise. Gor blimey. Whatever you nicked you could sell, they’d be queuing up to buy it off you.”
After the war, he worked for underworld boss Billy Hill, for whom he carried out razor attacks.
“Hill paid by the stitch — if you put 50 stitches in a man’s face, you could expect ￡50 [US$78],” said James Morton, Fraser’s biographer.
News reports were checked to see how much was owing.
Fraser was jailed along with other members of the Richardson gang for violently punishing people who the Richardsons believed owed them money. His decision to join the Richardsons rather than their rivals, the Krays, has been described as “like China getting the atom bomb.”
He emerged from jail in 1989 and has not been back since.
“Maybe he was bored with going to prison,” Ronnie Richardson, Charlie’s widow, told the TV program.
In 1991, while emerging from Turnmills nightclub in Clerkenwell, London, he was shot at by an unidentified gunman. One of his sons, David, said Fraser was unharmed and did not inform on his assailant.
“If you play by the sword, you’ve got to expect the sword as well,” his son said.
Over the past decade or so he was on the cabaret circuit and ran gangland tours of London’s East End, taking in such sights as the Blind Beggar pub, where Ronnie Kray shot dead George Cornell, one of the Richardson gang, in 1966.
A famous Monty Python sketch featuring the Piranha brothers, Doug and Dinsdale, has often been associated with Fraser and the Kray twins, and some aspects of the new documentary may add to this impression.
Fraser has complained in the past that “I had no help from my family — my mother and father were dead straight so I had to make my own way.”
The new documentary returns to this theme, suggesting he had a hard time in prison because there were no criminals in his family.
“My father was the most honest man I’ve ever come across,” Fraser said, who also refers to his Native American antecedents, saying his grandmother was “a Red Indian.”
His sons said Fraser has no regrets: “He said: ‘No, I wouldn’t have done my life any other way.’”