Sunday, 28 Nov 2021

‘UK’s most lethal gangster pulled teeth with pliers – but I lived to tell tale’

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‘Mad’ Frankie Fraser was once dubbed ‘Britain’s most dangerous man’ and was famed for ripping out people’s teeth with pliers.

So it was only natural for Professor Dick Hobbs to feel a little intimidated when he stood outside the vicious gangster’s flat in 1995.

He was there working on a documentary about crime during the Second World War.

By this point Fraser – an “enforcer” in the feared Richardson gang in the 60s – had already spent 42 years in prison for 26 offences.

Ringing the buzzer, Fraser finally answered in his thick East End accent.

Hobbs, an expert on violence and organised crime, told the Daily Star: “We said ‘Mr Fraser please’ and he said ‘It’s John Major here’.

“I looked at my producer and thought he is called Mad Frankie… There's a clue there.

“We tried again and he said ‘No it’s John Major here what do you want’ and he kept it going for a little while.

“Then there was a pause and by now he had us on edge. That’s what gangsters do, they keep you on edge and they don’t necessarily use violence, especially against straight goers like ourselves.

“But they will let you know they are there and that’s what Frankie did. He then said ‘only joking boys, come on up’ and he pressed the button. "

Seconds later Hobbs laid eyes on Fraser for the first time.

He said: “As we walked up the stairs I was faced by the biggest 5ft5 man I had ever seen in my life.

“He was standing there at the top of the stairs and he had the sun shining in behind him. He knew exactly what he was doing.

“He wore pristine formal trousers and a smart white shirt and he was letting us know he was the boss.”

Fraser further asserted his dominance when he offered the pair coffee.

Hobbs, now 70, accepted the offer whereas the producer politely declined – much to Fraser’s distaste.

Criminologist Hobbs remembered: “He shouted ‘Have a coffee!’ and my colleague said ‘Yes, alright then’ and that was that, we were having a coffee.”

Despite being around 70 at the time, Fraser remained intimidating.

Hobbs explained: “He had very dark eyes and he would look right into you. There was just something about him and it is very hard to say what it was… But his eyes for sure and the way he carried himself.

“He was the only villain I’ve ever met who was full on villain and he was unapologetic.

Hobbs added: “He had no regrets and was all about villainy. I met him maybe 10 years later and by then he was an older man but he still had those dark eyes and jet black hair and he was still sharp mentally.

“He was just so committed to the criminal way of life. Frankie was staunch, didn’t grass and was an old school villain and he was probably the last of those.”

Gangland enforcer Fraser died in hospital in 2014 after his family withdrew his life support.

Hobbs recently detailed his encounter with Frankie and other criminals in his new book, The Business: Talking with Thieves, Gangsters and Dealers.

He wrote about some chilling encounters during his 40 years of specialising in meeting and speaking with villains.

And he said some gangsters left him repulsed.

He explained: “There were those people I got to know and like and had respect for and then there were the others who I would cross the road to avoid at all costs.

“There was a small but significant minority who got off on the violence. When they are describing gouging someone’s eyes out or stabbing someone repeatedly you can see in their face they are getting off on it.

“When you are in the presence of someone like that it tends to stick with you. You hear about violence which is genuinely disturbing.”

During his unique career of meeting criminals in pubs, Hobbs also had an encounter with the infamous Charlie Richardson who was in the sadistic ‘torture gang’ with Fraser.

Hobbs was introduced to him when he was old and frail but said: “He was still an interesting man, bright, sharp and still manipulative where he could be.

“He was different from the others, he read books, had respect for education and he was interested in what I was doing whereas the other old school villains had no regard for what I was doing which was fair enough.”

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