Frankie Fraser

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Frankie Fraser
Born Francis Davidson Fraser
(1923-12-13)13 December 1923
Waterloo, London
Died 26 November 2014(2014-11-26) (aged 90)
King's College Hospital, Denmark Hill, London
Cause of death Surgery
Occupation Criminal

Francis Davidson "Frankie" Fraser, better known as "Mad" Frankie Fraser (13 December 1923 – 26 November 2014),[1] was an English gangster and criminal who spent 42 years in prison for numerous violent offences.[2][3]

Early life

Born on Cornwall Road in Waterloo, London,[4][5][6][7] Fraser was the youngest of five children and grew up in poverty. His mother was of Irish and Norwegian ancestry; his father was half Native American.[5] At the age of five he moved with his family to a flat on Walworth Road, Elephant and Castle.[7] Although his parents were not criminals, Fraser turned to crime aged 10 with his sister Eva, whom he was relatively close to.[8] 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.[9]

In 1941 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.[10] 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.[11]


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 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.[12]

The Richardson Gang

It was in the early 1960s that he first met Charlie and Eddie Richardson of the Richardson Gang, rivals to the Kray twins.[13] 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.[14] In 1966 Fraser was charged with the murder of Richard Hart who was shot at Mr Smiths'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.[15]


Fraser's 42 years served in over 20 different prisons in the UK were often coloured by violence.[3] 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. He was released from prison in 1985.[16]

Later life

Fraser was a celebrity, appearing on television shows such as Operation Good Guys,[17] Shooting Stars,[18] and the satirical show Brass Eye,[19] 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.[20] 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.[21]

Fraser gave gangland tours around London, where he highlighted infamous criminal locations such as the Blind Beggar pub.[22] 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, preferring to keep silent.[8]

Fraser was an Arsenal fan, and his grandson Tommy Fraser is a professional footballer,[23] 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.[24]

Fraser's wife, by whom he had four sons, died in 1999.[8] Fraser was a resident at a sheltered accommodation home in Peckham. According to Eddie Richardson, Fraser had Alzheimer's disease for the last three years of his life.[25] 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.[26] On 21 November 2014 he fell critically ill during leg surgery at King's College Hospital, Denmark Hill[27] 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.[28]


  • Fraser, Frank & Morton, James (2000). Mad Frank's Diary: A Chronicle of the Life of Britain's Most Notorious Villain. Virgin Books. ISBN 1-85227-874-9. 
  • Fraser, Frank & Morton, James (1995). Mad Frank: Memoirs of a Life of Crime. Time Warner Paperbacks. ISBN 0-7515-1137-4. 

See also


  1. Campbell, Duncan (26 November 2014). "'Mad' Frankie Fraser: original hardman who loved to cause panic". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 January 2016. 
  2. Williams, Rhys (17 February 1994). "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 Independent. Retrieved 21 August 2014. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 [1][dead link]
  5. 5.0 5.1 Morton, James. "Frankie Fraser obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 November 2014. 
  6. "Find & contact The White Hart in Waterloo". The White Hart. Retrieved 28 November 2014. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 Morton, James. Mad Frank's Underworld History of Britain. Virgin Books. ISBN 0753512750. Retrieved 28 November 2014. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 "Frankie Fraser - obituary". The Daily Telegraph. 26 November 2014. Retrieved 27 November 2014. 
  9. Crossley, Neil (3 May 2005). "Pick of the day". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 November 2014. 
  10. Newton, Michael (2007). Gangsters Encyclopedia: The World's Most Notorious Mobs, Gangs and Villains. Collins and Brown. ISBN 9781843404026. 
  11. Kent, Graeme (2013). On the Run: Deserters Through the Ages. ISBN 9781849545709. 
  12. Rogerson, Paul (14 December 2010). "BOOK REVIEW Gangland Soho". Law Society Gazette. Retrieved 21 August 2014. 
  13. "Local and community news, opinion, video & pictures - Southport Visiter". Southport Visiter. Retrieved 2014-08-21. 
  14. Willetts, Paul (27 August 2010). "Paul Raymond: Downfall of 'The King'". Daily Express. Retrieved 21 August 2014. 
  15. McCrystal, Cal (5 February 1995). "Mad Frank's Return". The Independent. Retrieved 21 August 2014. 
  16. Flood, Alison (12 February 2009). "Tories condemn prisoners' freedom to read criminal memoirs". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 August 2014. 
  17. "Operation Good Guys" Safe as Houses (TV Episode 1998) - IMDb
  18. Frankie Fraser - IMDb
  19. (1997-01-26). "Brass Eye - Season 1, Episode 5: Crime". Retrieved 2014-08-21. 
  20. "A Retiring Fellow". 2013-06-06. Retrieved 2014-08-21. 
  21. "Classic Media Entertainment". Retrieved 2014-08-21. 
  22. Campbell, Duncan (11 June 2013). "'Mad' Frankie Fraser handed an asbo ... aged 90". The Guardian. Retrieved 26 November 2014. 
  23. Ashton, Neil (25 September 2008). "Brighton breezy by the sea as future looks less stormy now". Daily Mail. Retrieved 15 June 2009. 
  24. "'Mad' Frankie Fraser grandson wanted by police". BBC Sport. 21 February 2011. Retrieved 21 February 2011. 
  25. Gardner, Bill (26 November 2014). "Gangland enforcer 'Mad' Frankie Fraser dies at 90". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 3 January 2016. 
  26. "Mad Frankie Fraser given Asbo at age of 89 after bust-up at care home". Daily Mirror. 12 June 2013. Retrieved 2 August 2013. 
  27. "Gangster 'Mad' Frankie Fraser dies at 90". BBC News. Retrieved 28 November 2014. 
  28. "Mad Frankie Fraser dead: Notorious gangster dies in hospital aged 90 following leg surgery". Daily Mirror. 26 November 2014. Retrieved 26 November 2014. 

External links