Charlie Richardson: Death of a gang leader known for pinning victims to the floor with six-inch nails
- Richardson, together with brother Eddie, was one of most feared gangsters in 60s London
- Pair ran empire embracing fraud, protection, gambling and torture
- 'Torture Gang' were as infamous as Kray twins and Frankie Fraser
- Richardson dies from blood poisoning after gall bladder complaint
By John Stevens, Lucy Osborne and Chris Parsons
PUBLISHED: 19:42 EST, 19 September 2012 | UPDATED: 07:11 EST, 20 September 2012
Richardson, pictured in 2007, was one of London's most notorious gangsters
Infamous London gang leader and rival to the Kray twins Charlie Richardson has died.
The 78-year-old – a heavy smoker – had suffered from emphysema for some years but is understood to have died from blood poisoning following a gall bladder complaint. His sister Elaine and some of his children were by his bedside.
Richardson was at one time the most feared criminal in the capital. He developed an empire in South London in the 1950s and 1960s which embraced fraud, gambling, protection rackets – and generated terror through torture, claims which he later denied.
He was arrested on the day England won the World Cup in 1966. His trial heard he was alleged to have used iron bars, pliers and electrodes on anyone who crossed him.
The Camberwell-born crime lord was found guilty of fraud, extortion, assault and grievous bodily harm, and was jailed for 25 years.
Together with his brother Eddie, he was as infamous as Ronnie and Reggie Kray and ‘Mad’ Frankie Fraser.
Known as the ‘Torture Gang’, their trademark was pinning victims to the floor with six-inch nails and removing their fingers and toes with bolt cutters.
The Richardson Gang were also known for torturing enemies at their scrap metal yard by attaching electrodes to their nipples and genitals and delivering electric shocks, having already placed them in baths of water to make the electricity more potent.
The gang would frequently carry out mock trials for victims, before administering punishments including whippings, cigarette burning and teeth being pulled out by gang member 'Mad' Frankie Fraser.
They were then made to clean up their own blood.
The brutal method of trial by kangaroo court and subsequent torture was said to be known as 'taking a shirt from Charlie', as Richardson would often give victims a clean shirt in which to return home afterwards.
Crime lords: Charlie Richardson (left) and brother Eddie's trademark was said to be nailing victims to the floor before removing their toes with bolt cutters
Renowned: Charlie Richardson (2nd right) along with brother Eddie (3rd right, holding face) dabbled in torture, protection and drug dealing in the 60s
They also set up bogus firms, acquiring goods on credit and selling the stock before making off with the cash.
Born into a war-torn London, Charlie was two years older than his brother Eddie and six years older than their youngest sibling, Alan.
He and Eddie, turned to a life of crime when the departure of their father left their family penniless.
Eddie Richardson last night confirmed his brother died yesterday morning in a London hospital.
He said: ‘I haven’t spoken to him in years so I am not the best person to speak to about his death. But he will be missed by his six children.
‘I can’t say he was a good father, but he was a father. He leaves a big family behind him.
‘Members of his family were with him in hospital. I’m sure they will be upset and disappointed, losing a dad is difficult.
‘I lost count of how many grandchildren he had.
‘It came as a surprise to some, but not to me. He had been ill for years and has suffered with breathing problems – emphysema – for a long time due to smoking.'
Today it emerged he had refused to get medical treatment for his stomach pain because he was scared of doctors, despite suffering in agony for weeks.
His close friend David Fraser, son of Richardson Gang enforcer “Mad” Frankie Fraser, said: “He kept putting off going to the doctors.
'When he finally went, he was admitted to hospital and never came out.'
He died in the arms of his wife, Ronnie.
Mr Fraser, who spent time in prison with the ex-gang leader, added that his death came as a shock as he had been expecting to meet him for lunch this week.
'He was in pain for a few weeks. Ronnie kept saying: "You have got to go to the doctor," but he was a typical man.'
Brothers in arms: Charlie Richardson (left) and Eddie Richardson at the peak of the criminal powers, along with Mrs Charlie Richardson (later Mrs Jean Coulter)
Slick: Charlie, pictured left in a 60s TV programme, headed up the Richardson Gang, whose members included 'Mad' Frankie Fraser (right)
Rivals: Charlie Richardson was known to be as fearsome in the London crime underworld as Ronnie and Reggie Kray (above)
In 2004 his life story was told in a film starring former pop star Luke Goss.
Richardson always insisted the torture stories were just a myth and were simply used to help convict his gang.
He added: ‘If you can find anyone who says they got nailed to the floor by us or got their toes cut off I will give you £10,000 for each one.
'We were fitted up. I never touched a single toe. I did 18 years for nothing.’
Reborn: Charlie Richardson's life was turned into a 2004 film, with Luke Goss taking the role of the notorious gangster
He escaped from an open prison in 1980 and fled to Fance.
During attempts to publicise his requests for freedom, Richardson even dressed as Santa Claus and gave presents to children.
He was later re-arrested and returned to jail, before being allowed out again on day release in 1984.
Richardson first met the Krays in prison, and a feud developed between the two sets of siblings in 1965.
The two pairs had several run-ins over the years and their rivalry nearly spilled over into full-blown war in the late 1960s.
LONDON'S GANGLAND UNDERWORLD IN THE 1960s
The Richardsons, along with 'Mad' Frankie Fraser and George Cornell, were the main rivals of twin brothers Ronald "Ronnie" Kray and Reginald "Reggie" Kray during the 1950s and '60s.
The two rival sets of brothers controlled London, operating through armed robberies, arson, protection rackets, assaults and torture, with the Krays based in East London and the Richardson gang from South London, also entrenched in the West End.
Their turf war began after a brawl during a Christmas party at the Astor Club in December 1965.
It was here that George Cornell, insulted Ronnie Kray, calling him a ‘fat poof’ after first meeting the Krays while in Shepton Mallet Prison.
Shortly after the incident Cornell was seen walking down Whitechapel Road shouting: 'Where's that fat w*****?' referring to Ronnie Kray.
Ronnie Kray showed up at the Blind beggar pub where Cornell was drinking, and shot Cornell through the head at close range.
In March 1966 a gun battle took place in a club called Mr Smiths in Rushey Green with the Richardson gang going there with the intentions of wiping out the Krays.
However there was only one member of the Kray gang present. He was shot dead. Frankie Fraser , a good friend of the Richardsons was shot in the hip and Eddie was shot in the backside.
They were taken to hospital and on their release they were charged with affray and sentenced to 5 years in prison. Frankie Fraser was originally charged with the murder of Dickie Hart but was found not guilty.
Other notable characters in the Richardson gang included the notorious hit man Jimmy Moody, Roy Hall (who operated the electric generator), Albert Longman, and Tommy Clark.
Moody was the main enforcer for the Richardsons, but also did 'freelance work' for the Krays and became one of the most feared criminals to emerge from the London underworld.
A further member of the gang, Harry Beard, is known for frequently urinating on a collector of protection money, who was twice warned by the Richardsons after he pocketed the money.
Another infamous killing at the time was that of Jack "The Hat" McVitie, a minor member of the Kray’s gang, killed by Reggie Kray, in a move that eventually led to their convictions.
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