Just over ten years ago, I co-wrote the biography of the 1980s middleweight boxer Errol Christie. To promote the book, we did a series of films on issues around boxing and racism plus recorded meetings with people of interest in Errol’s life. One of those was Frankie Fraser – the diminutive ‘enforcer’ for the Richardson gang in the 1960s.
The Richardson brothers – Charlie and Eddie – were south London gangsters over fifty years ago. They faced off against the Kray twins in east London. And like all gangsters, they were big supporters of the boxing scene. I got to meet Eddie Richardson a couple of times at boxing reunions and he featured in the book I co-wrote with Errol.
Then the opportunity arose to meet Frankie Fraser. He was notorious for the methods used to terrorise anybody who crossed the Richardsons. This famously included pulling teeth with pliers and alleged removal of toes. Frankie spent half his life in prison, a total of about 42 years behind bars. So to say he was a hardened criminal would be putting it mildly.
I organised a day of filming with him and Errol at the office I was based in at that time. On the morning, he wised up to the fact that I hadn’t offered him any money. “I don’t get out of bed for nothing,” I was informed. So I waved £100 in front of him but that was turned down quickly. Realising that £200 would get me nowhere, I jumped straight up to £300 – out of my own pocket I hasten to add. I then got his final demand:
“Three hundred and two pounds and twenty pence.”
Well, I didn’t refuse. The result of our filming is down below. When we’d finished, I was a little tardy putting my hand in my pocket and he sidled over, looking up at me with what I can only describe as very dark, lifeless eyes. “You got my charitable donation?” That is actually what he said. And I meekly forked it out for him.
There was then an amusing taxi ride back to Camberwell with him and Errol – as we all lived in south London. The taxi driver recognised my two accomplices and for once, a London cabbie said nothing. Amazing!
Frankie Fraser died in 2014 at the age of 90. Sadly, my boxing buddy and subject of the book Errol Christie succumbed to cancer in 2017. He was the same age as me – just three weeks younger – and it was a terrible blow. Such a nice guy and we’d become close friends before then. But I often look back at the very odd day I spend with a great boxer and a legend of the British gangster scene.
Here’s the film I produced that day with Jermaine Allen and Adam Evans on camera.