Born: 1934 ; Died: September 19, 2012 .
Charlie Richardson, who has died of peritonitis aged 78, was one of the most feared underworld figures of 1960s London who fought a vicious turf war with the more famous Kray brothers.
A scrap metal dealer, he built a criminal empire based on fraud, protection rackets and gambling that earned a reputation for extreme violence and brutality. Known as the Torture Gang, his associates, who included the likes of "Mad" Frankie Fraser, were said to nail victims to the floor, cut off their toes with bolt cutters and give them electric shocks in a bath full of water.
His 1967 trial for fraud, assault and robbery made Richardson a household name and exposed the gruesome tactics of those who worked for him. Jailing Richardson for 25 years, judge Frederick Lawton said: "One is ashamed to live in a society that contains men like you."
With his swept-back hair and immaculate suits, he became a symbol of gangland London and was the subject of a 2004 feature film, Charlie.
Born in Camberwell, south London, Richardson created a lucrative business spanning slot machines, scrapyards and nightclubs. Police accused him of using legitimate businesses as a front for a range of criminal activities.
With his brother Eddie he ran the Richardson gang, who were fierce rivals of the Krays, twin brothers Ronnie and Reggie who ran the infamous 1960s gang on the north side of the River Thames.
Their feud with the Krays began with a fight during a Christmas party at a London club in 1965 when George Cornell, a member of the Richardson gang, called Ronnie Kray a "fat poof". In March 1966 Kray associate Richard Hart was shot dead in a club brawl and two nights later a drunken Cornell's life ended in The Blind Beggar pub in east London when Ronnie Kray turned up and shot Cornell in the head. Cornell's last words were said to be: "Well, look what the dog's brought in."
At one time Richardson had an office in Park Lane and was making millions, benefiting from the protection of corrupt police officers. After visiting South Africa he became involved with the South African secret service and claimed he had tried to bug Prime Minister Harold Wilson's phone for a South African intelligence group.
Newspapers revelled in retelling shocking gangland stories involving Richardson, although it was often hard to sift the facts from criminal folklore. His gang was reputed to make victims mop up their blood before being handed a fresh shirt, supposedly leading to the beatings becoming known as "taking a shirt from Charlie".
Richardson escaped from Springhill Open Prison in 1980 and fled to Europe before being re-arrested and sent back to jail. He was released in 1984.He later dedicated his memoirs, My Manor, to the trial judge and accused the police of making up lurid evidence to help secure a conviction.
Charlie Richardson was married to wife Ronnie. They had six children.
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