SYDNEY // Mark “Chopper” Read, one of Australia’s most notorious and colourful crime figures, died on Wednesday after a long battle with liver cancer. He was 58.
Read, who spent 23 years in prison for a variety of crimes including assault and armed robbery, wrote more than a dozen books detailing his long career of violence, including one entitled How to Shoot Friends and Influence People. He gained international fame in 2000 after Australian-born actor Eric Bana played him in the film Chopper.
Read earned the nickname “Chopper” after asking a fellow inmate to slice off his ears during one of his prison stints. Read once said he made the request in a bid to get transferred out of the rough cell block where he was housed. Another time, he said it was an attempt to win a bet.
He was never convicted of killing anyone, though he claimed in his books to have murdered 19 underworld figures. Critics said he greatly exaggerated the extent of his crimes in a bid to gain more publicity.
He was known for bilking fellow criminals out of their fortunes and torturing his victims with blowtorches, though he said he never hurt an innocent person. He once tried to kidnap a judge at gunpoint in a failed attempt to get a friend freed from prison.
* Associated Press