Mark 'Chopper' Read: Ruthless Aussie criminal dies aged 58
Five things you didn't know about the notorious 'standover' man who turned to art and writing
MARK 'CHOPPER' READ, one of Australia's most notorious criminals and the inspiration for the 2000 movie Chopper, has died at the age of 58. Read, who was diagnosed with liver cancer last year, spent 23 years in prison for crimes including kidnapping and malicious wounding. He was never charged with murder despite once boasting he had killed 19 people (a figure he later revised down to "between four and seven"). Here are five things you might not know about the Aussie criminal enforcer and 'standover' man:
He asked another prison inmate to hack off his ears
In the late 70s, Read was looking for a way to get out of H Division, the tough high security wing of Pentridge Prison in the state of Victoria. His solution was to ask another prisoner, Kevin Taylor, to hack off his ears with a razor. "Later he [Read] would joke about starting the 'van Gogh Club' but the ear-cutting wasn't funny at the time," writes Andrew Rule in the Herald Sun. "He lost a lot of blood".
He tried to kidnap a judge – in court
In 1978, Read attempted to kidnap Judge Bill Martin while appearing in an Australian court. Read jumped onto the bench, held a single-barrel shotgun to Martin's head and demanded the release of his friend Jimmy Loughnan from prison. "The stunned silence was broken only when the judge inquired, 'Will someone get this bastard off me?'" reports the Sydney Morning Herald. Read later wrote to the judge and apologised for the incident.
Loughnan repaid the favour by stabbing Read nine times
One of the most memorable scenes in /Chopper/ is when Loughnan repeatedly stabs Read (played by Eric Bana) in prison. Read later blamed Loughnan for his inability to get a transplant after he was diagnosed with liver cancer. He told The ABC he had "too much scar tissue around his liver" for the operation to go ahead.
He became a successful author...
Once described as a "ruthless gunman" and a "violent psychopath", Read was well placed to write about his life as a criminal. His first book, Chopper: From the Inside was described by one reviewer as "badly written, cliched, chaotically organised and partly bogus". It was also a bestseller and the first of a dozen 'true crime' books written by Read. The reviews were better when he wrote a children's book in 2002. Hooky The Cripple: The Grim Tale Of A Hunchback Who Triumphs, was described as "a fine balance between mawkish tragedy, revenge thriller and ironic courtroom drama".
...and a profitable artist
Struggling to pay the bills in later life, Read turned to making and selling art. His colourful paintings weren't to everyone's taste, but they found an audience and sold for up to $6,500 each. In 2011 he had an exhibition at one of Melbourne's oldest brothels, a venue he chose for its sentimental value. "Me and Mad Charlie robbed this place back when it was a double-storey house in 1973," he told the SMH. ·