Gangster ‘Brown Bread Fred’ Forman: ‘£6m Shoreditch heist wasn’t worth it in the end’ says former Kray twins hitman
PUBLISHED: 17:29 18 April 2018 | UPDATED: 16:47 19 April 2018
A film about former East End gangster and Kray twin hitman Fred Forman has been had its premiere screening at the East End Film Festival. Fred, now a reformed character, tells Emma Bartholomew about being a ‘respectable’ criminal and the 1983 Shoreditch Security Express heist.
“I don’t want to glamorise it,” Fred Forman, 86, told the Gazette. “I just hope it prevents other young people following down that path – getting money isn’t everything, is it?”
Fred is one the last living legends of the Krays’ criminal underworld in the 1960s and known by some as the “Godfather of London”, having been accused of more than 40 murders in his time. His unbelievably bloody past has now been documented in Paul Van Carter’s latest film, Fred.
“Fred is more than a gangster – we wanted to reflect that he’s human,” his Godson Christian told the Gazette at the Soho HQ of Lionsgate film company on Friday, just before they drove to the film’s premiere screening at Mile End’s Genesis.
“Brown Bread Fred” now lives in a retirement home, and is pleased with the finished product which sees him revisiting his old haunts to understand what pushed him towards a life of crime.
“The objective was to provide for my family and give them everything they needed,” Fred told the Gazette.
“Being an evacuee and having no education or schooling, you never had a chance. The only chance of jobs was physical labouring and they were scarce.”
Fred started out stealing washing machines and televisions, then went on to serve 10 years in prison in 1969 for helping Reggie Kray dispose of Jack “the Hat” McVitie’s body.
He was acquitted in the ’60s of the murders of Tommy “Ginger” Marks, who had shot Fred’s brother in the groin, and Frank “Mad Axeman” Mitchell.
“I was a little bit worried and concerned about the film to start with, because of the double jeopardy laws,” said Fred. “I don’t want to be recharged back at the Old Bailey over silly stuff.”
Fred gives away less in the film than in the four books he’s had published about his life, and a Sky News interview where he confessed to the other killings. Fred believes criminality exists on “different levels”.
“You have the petty handbag snatcher and the house burglar and all those lower life, and you don’t want to be associated with them,” he said. “You want to be a respectable criminal if you can put it that way. Someone the general public look up to and say: ‘I wish I was in that.’”
“Going for the big payrolls and the big prizes” apparently adds respectability.
“The worst thing you could do is bring your family up in poverty,” added Fred. “I’ve never had to do that or ask for handouts or benefits, and poncing on society.”
Fred was also sentenced to nine years in prison for handling stolen money from one of the biggest armed robberies in history.
Security Express’ HQ in Curtain Road, Shoreditch, was known as Fort Knox – but that didn’t stop a gang making off with £6million of untraceable bank notes weighing in at five tonnes at Easter 35 years ago.
Soon after the robbery Fred moved to southern Spain’s Golden Mile with his wife Maureen and children, where he bought a nightclub and penthouse apartments to rent.
Despite the country’s non-extradition laws, Fred was “kidnapped” by cops following a scene that could have come straight out of a Hollywood movie, and flown back the UK to stand trial at the Old Bailey.
“They jumped me,” said Fred. “They were all disguised as gardeners and workies. The next thing I know they handcuffed me, and were rushing me in the car 90 miles an hour down the carreterra and straight to Malaga Airport. I broke away from them and they chased me into the departure lounge, but four of them carried me out the stairs to the plane. I put my foot in a silent kick and we went right down to the bottom of the stairs again. I was running around the plane and the pilot was looking out of the window.”
So what does Fred think of the killings in London nowadays?
“Now? Oh, it’s disgraceful, isn’t it,” he said. “All these young people getting stabbed and dying and carrying these great big knives around. And what’s it all over? That’s why I don’t want to glamorise what I’ve done. I’m just telling the truth to prevent people from following in that path.
“I’m not saying it was a good life or a good time, but it’s something that should be told – 16 years of my life in prison. That’s 16 years of Christmases and birthdays and watching your children growing up.
“God, it’s got to affect you, hasn’t it? You miss out on it and you can’t replace it and turn the clock back.”
Fred is on Digital on May 28 and DVD on June 4.