Who: Mark Brandon ‘Chopper’ Read
What: Australian criminal and celebrity
Where: Born in Melbourne, Victoria
Why: Famous for spending 23 years in jail for kidnapping and malicious wounding, later became a crime author and artist.
When: Born November 17 1954, died October 9 2013.
“Why would I shoot a bloke ‘BANG’, then drive him to the bloody car and wizz him off to the hospital at a hundred miles an hour? It defeats the purpose of having shot him in the first place.” – Eric Bana as Chopper Read, in the film Chopper.
Chopper Read remains a divisive figure in Australian pop culture. Claiming to have murdered nineteen people, he spent 23 years in prison for kidnapping and malicious wounding – never convicted of murder – he spent his early years abducting and torturing other criminals for money and as a hitman in Melbourne’s underworld. He started a prison war in the late 1970s while at Pentridge Prison in Coburg, Victoria, leading his ‘Overcoat Gang’ in acts of violence against larger gangs. He had a fellow inmate cut off both his ears around this time. At first he said this was to be transferred to the mental health wing for his safety, but later stated it was to win a bet. After life in prison, he wrote successful crime novels, selling over half a million copies, and moved into rapping and painting as a form of self-therapy for his anger issues. Eric Bana later played him in an Australian biopic titled Chopper, garnering him international fame. He contracted hepatitis C in prison, but refused a liver transplant in favour of the organ going to someone else. Diagnosed with liver cancer in April 2012, he died of the illness on October 9 2013, at the age of 58.