Dave Courtney was no ordinary man.
Over the weekend, the notorious hardman was found dead in his home that is decorated with union flags and a picture of himself dressed as a knight with a knuckle duster.
The ingamous gangster reportedly shot himself in the head at the house he called Camelot Castle in Plumstead, South East London. But it was seven miles away in Bermondsey where Courtney was born – and here we look inside his wild life that ended so brutally at the age of 64.
READ MORE: Gangster Dave Courtney had three course meal before firearm death in huge castle home
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Courtney was rebellious from the off. And while he was only nine when the Kray twins were jailed, he claimed he went on to be an underworld gangland figure himself who famously arranged security at Ronnie’s funeral in 1995.
But bizarrely, it was a fight over a takeaway that launched his criminal career that led to him calling himself Dave Courtney OBE (One Big Ego).
A brash and cocky young Courtney, barely out of his teenage years, had taken his brother out on New Year’s Eve when his sibling popped into a local Chinese restaurant for some grub.
An innocent miscommunication meant the food was brought out on plates rather than in takeout boxes, which somehow sparked a brawl after his brother refused to pay.
Remembering the moment that changed the course of his life, Courtney told the Eventful Entrepreneur podcast: “So he comes back to the pub, walks in the door a bit bleeding, me and all the boys have gone running into the restaurant, and some geezer pulled out a big machete.
“I’ve just got my eyes on that, I’m running towards that, and I’m getting all these karate chops around me but they’re not hurting because I’ve got my eyes on the prize.”
Courtney then said he grabbed the knife after biting the bloke's hand and he added: “I’m standing on the floor, pointing it at him, and he just jumped on me… I couldn’t get out of the way if I wanted to,” he said, mimicking that the man had been stabbed.
Things took an even uglier turn when a chef came running out carrying a pan of boiling oil and Courtney remembered: “He was like, ‘get out of my shop’ about four foot away from me, and because the knife was longer I’ve gone ‘bonk’, and he’s tipped it onto himself, he’s Rice Krispied himself.”
He was eventually jailed for his involvement in the violence. But back out on the streets, Courtney, who reportedly served time in Belmarsh, continued to embrace a life of crime by earning a reputation as a debt collector.
He later said he had to keep himself anonymous because it was an illegal trade and he was hired to threaten people who either owed money or were squatting somewhere.
His favourite method was breaking into someone’s home before standing over their bed and waking them up. He also claimed he would tell the person, often lying beside their wife, they had seven days to get the money before he would come back to kill them.
And speaking to Underworld TV, he added: “That works because after you shut the front door, in any other situation at all, if you get beat up at work, don’t go to work, if you get beat up at the pub, don’t go down the pub, if you get beat up at your front door, ask your wife to get the door…
“But if you get whacked up in your bed, that f***s you 'cause every time at the end of the day comes and it’s night, you close your eyes, you start to go to sleep… it’s surprising how many noises the house makes in the middle of the night.”
Courtney, who wielded a knuckle duster for his debt collections, later said he'd been shot and stabbed himself. He also claimed he had his nose almost bitten off before it was sewed back on – and that he had to kill to stay alive.
It was his supposed links to venerable gangland figures like Reggie and Ronnie Kray and Lenny McLean that made Courtney a household name.
And he had a bitter feud with former enforcer of the Richardson gang, ‘Mad’ Frankie Fraser, who accused him of fabricating lies about his past for profit.
Courtney meanwhile said he once took Fraser to Maidstone Prison to visit Reggie Kray and remembering it, he said: “I spoke to him on the way home and the way there so I know what a two faced naughty little man he is.”
And in a chilling message to Fraser, who died in 2014, he looked down a camera and said: “But I cannot let this opportunity go by, Frank, without telling you that you most likely only have about five years to live and I will be a very happy man when I see them throw dirt on you.”
Courtney's exact exploits while in the underworld are not clear – but in one of his books he claimed he'd been found not guilty in 19 separate trials and that he was the target of murder attempts. One example was in 2000 when he walked from the Old Bailey a free man after being accused of planting cocaine on an innocent woman.
He was named as a registered police informant but later said he was pretending to have a relationship with a corrupt detective. Courtney said: “I have never been a grass.”
But through his association with the Krays, he eventually realised that he could make money from stories of his past. And he moved into a world of celebrity when Vinnie Jones’s character in the Guy Ritchie film Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels was reportedly inspired by him.
Flamboyant showman Courtney then appeared in gangster films like Hell To Pay while opening up about his past in crime documentaries. He also went on to write six books and recorded a version of I Fought The Law with Scottish group Mute.
Another of Courtney's charges was in relation to his wife Jennifer Lucrea Pinto. He was accused of beating her up over an alleged lesbian affair but he was cleared in 2004.
This isn't the only issue to rock the marriage either. Courtney, who lived in a home with its own sex dungeon, previously admitted he'd starred in a porn film. And crushingly, his partner found out on their wedding night.
During an interview on the Eventful Entrepreneur podcast, Courtney joked about how he wanted to become a sex symbol, leading him to star in the X-rated production. The plans were set in motion after becoming friendly with the producer while working in security.
He said at the time: “I was going, ‘Wow man, I’d love to make a blue scene’. He went, ‘You want to make a blue film man? It’s the easiest f***ing thing in the world. Go over there and get an aids test, and in 45 minutes you can come back here and you’ll be s******g whatever bird you want for the next hour and a half.”
He agreed after being promised the movie would only appear on hotel porn channels, so no one he knew would see it. Until his honeymoon, in a hotel, when his wife rumbled him.
Courtney added: “I’ve been married for six hours, she’s put on the porn channel – you can laugh – and all of a sudden it went, ‘Dave Courtney English gangster in…’
"And I’m trying to dive on to the bed to grab the television control, but the bed’s too big, and it’s a water bed so it’s vibrating. And there it is, me, in a blue film on my wedding night in the hotel.”
Courtney suffered personal tragedy a decade ago after two men were jailed for murdering his stepson Genson Courtney.
But his own death over the weekend has been difficult to understand for many, especially after he was pictured smiling at a Charlton Athletic match in the hours before.
A neighbour of Courtney said he'd been struggling with pain in recent times. Sheila Wellcome, 68, told The Sun: “I saw Dave at around 8pm. We knew Dave was in a lot of pain from terrible arthritis. He could barely roll a cigarette.
“But he seemed in good spirits. I passed him a cigarette over the wall and he was laughing and joking.”
In a Graft Kings podcast earlier this year, Courtney was asked whether he was worried about the afterlife. Answering, he laughed: “I am the f***ing afterlife. No, I'm not worried about the afterlife.
"I’m actually, although I’m not saying I’m trying to run away trying to look forward to it, I’m actually going to embrace having a little lie down and a rest. Right now I have looked at it like this, as a realist, 64, every single day I have had most of them have been fantastic.
“I would hate to get to 80 and the last 15 years of my life I was all bent up and old. I might live to 81… It wouldn’t frighten me. I think I would be smiling before my head hit the floor.”
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