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As part of the Murder Mile Podcast - a true-crime podcast of 300+ untold, unsolved and often forgotten murders, all set within on square mile of London's West End - I have uploaded the full unedited transcript of each episode, containing all of the information, histories and backstories which I was unable to provide in the podcast episode owing to time-constraints or last-minute changes to the script.
You can DOWNLOAD episode #46 of the Murder Mile true-crime podcast via iTunes, or you can listen to it now, by clicking the play button on the media player below.
Full Transcript - Episode #46 - Who Killed Freddie Mills? - Part One - TRANSCRIPT
Thank you for downloading episode forty-six of the Murder Mile True-Crime Podcast. Before we begin, please take a moment to listen to this important message.
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SCRIPT: Welcome to Murder Mile; a true-crime podcast and audio guided walk featuring many of London’s untold, unsolved and long-forgotten murders, all set within London’s West End.
Today’s episode is about the death of Freddie Mills; a boxer, a celebrity and a businessman, whose untimely death in a Soho alley is shrouded in so much mystery, that parts of it have become myth.
Murder Mile is researched using the original police files. It contains moments of satire, shock and grisly details, and as a dramatisation of the real events, it may also features loud and realistic sounds, so that no matter where you listen to this podcast, you’ll feel like you’re actually there.
My name is Michael, I am your tour-guide and this is Murder Mile.
Episode 46: Who killed Freddie Mills? Part One
Today I’m standing in Goslett Yard; a dark, drab and gloomy dead-end street, secreted off the choking fumes of Charing Cross Road, and just a stone’s throw away from the Lyon’s Corner House tearoom where deluded dreamer Jacques Tratsart gunned-down his siblings, Denmark Place where one of Britain’s worst mass-murders occurred, and the former Meax & Co Brewery where eight people drowned in a tidal wave of one and a half million gallons of beer – coming soon to Murder Mile.
Being barely 80 feet long by 16 feet wide, but going nowhere, Goslett Yard truly no purpose; as with no houses, no shops, no cars and no people, only a backdoor to Starbucks, the bins for Borderline, a sea of swirling litter and several steamy lumps of doggy dumps, it’s almost as if Goslett Yard was made by mistake. Even the now-defunct pub called The Royal George (literally built in the middle of the street) looks like it was delivered it to the wrong address, and the postman thought “ah sod it”.
Formerly, on the right-hand side of Goslett Yard was the former Cross & Blackwell warehouse, which loomed six-storeys high, as half a block of dark and imposing Gothic architecture left the yard in eternal shadow. And what was once merely a quiet place to park-up at the back of Freddie Mills Nitespot, has now been bulldozed and reduced to rubble, with the only sound being the drone of diggers, the tremble of trucks and the eternal grunt, fart and belch as six workmen stand around staring as one man digs a hole, with fags in their gobs, bacon sarnies on the go and one hand scratching their butt-cheeks, before they all take another well-earned tea-break - a job well done.
And yet, it was here, on Sunday 25th July 1965, in the ominous quiet of Goslett Yard, that (boxer, actor and celebrity club owner) Freddie Mills either committed suicide… or was murdered? (Interstitial)
So who was Freddie Mills?
Frederick Percival Mills - known by everyone who loved him as Freddie – was born on 26th June 1919, as the youngest of four children to two doting parents, Thomas James Mills and Lottie Hilda Gray. As a working-class family living under the shadow of the First World War, life could have been rough, but being instilled with a solid work ethic by his scrap-dealer father, a sense of pride by house-wife mother, a love of play by his adoring siblings, and all within the fresh air of Bournemouth, a small seaside town on the English south coast, Freddie’s life was good, and at the centre of it all – always - was his family.
Gifted his first set of boxing gloves aged eleven, Freddie quickly fell in love with the sport and with his family’s encouragement and full support to fulfil his dreams, he’d regularly spar with his older brother Charlie (already a semi-professional boxer) and – whilst earning his keep as a milkman’s assistant – he was trained by the brother and boxing partner of Welsh former lightweight champion Gordon Cook.
Freddie was a good boy with a big heart, a beaming smile, a loving family and a passion for boxing. But don’t think that this is going to be a story about a poor kid raised in a slum, who used his fists to fight through the mean streets of gangs, drugs, guns and (ultimately) his death… because it isn’t.
By the tender age of sixteen, Freddie had gone professional, and having honed his skills as part of Sam McEwan’s Boxing Booth; a fairground attraction where local men could fight professional pugilists, here he learned not only how to fight, but also how to win the hearts and minds of the crowd, as Freddie became both a professional boxer and a talented showman.
Between 1936 and 1939; although he was a middleweight boxer, Freddie fought middle, light-heavy and heavyweight boxers, and across sixty-four professional fights; he drew seven, lost nine and won forty-eight, three he won by a knockout. And although he wasn’t a very skilled fighter, with a dogged mix of pressure, persistence and an uncanny ability to take a pounding, so beloved had he become among boxers, promoters and crowds, that he was blessed with the nickname of “Fearless Freddie”.
In 1939, he was the Western Area champion. In 1940, he beat the Eastern Area champion. Having enlisted in the Royal Air Force as a physical training instructor, to serve his country during World War Two; in 1942 Freddie won the British and Empire light-heavyweight titles, beating the reigning champion Jock McAvoy on points and knocking Len Harvey (dubbed the “Prince of Boxers”) right out of the ring. By 1948, at the age of 29, Fearless Freddie became the world light-heavyweight champion, a national hero and was one of Britain’s greatest boxing idols in the post-war era.
Freddie was a dedicated athlete, a charismatic entertainer, a winner, a hero and a gentleman. But don’t think that this is going to be a story about a punchy pugilist, whose fall from grace sees him used as a hired goon for an East End gangster, whose death was to be expected… because it isn’t.
Having wisely retired from boxing at the peak of his success, Freddie Mills was one of the few sporting icons to break into television. And although - with a broken nose - he had a face like a melted matinee idol; being blessed with a cheeky smile, twinkling eyes and a childish sense of fun, Freddie became a family favourite, presenting the music show Six-Five Special, being a quiz show panellist on What’s My Line and appearing in several British films such as Carry-On Constable and Carry-On Regardless.
Freddie Mills was a loveable character, a charming personality, a trusted celebrity, and he absolutely loved it. But don’t think that this is going to be a story about a famous face who smiled for the cameras, and yet, deep down, he had a dark and twisted side… because it isn’t.
Freddie was a boxer, an actor and a businessman, but – first and foremost - he was a faithful husband and a doting father. As having married Christine Marie (also known as “Chrissie”) on 30th September 1948; not only did Freddie become the proud dad of two daughters – Susan and Amanda – but he also raised Chrissie’s son Don (from a previous marriage) as his own, and all of whom he adored. For Freddie, life was perfect. And there was nothing he loved more than his family.
And yet, at a little after 1am, on Sunday 25th July 1965, in the backseat of his silver Citreon DS19, with a single bullet wound to the head, forty-six year old Freddie was found dead. (Interstitial)
But how and why?
The afternoon of Saturday 24th July 1965 was sunny and bright, as under a cloudless sky, Freddie stood in his back garden, skimming the leaves off his swimming pool and smiling with delight as his beloved daughters – Susan (aged 13) and Amanda (aged 7) – played and giggled in the garden.
He’d made a good life for his family; they were healthy, happy and wholesome; living harmoniously in a newly built two-storey detached house at 186 Denmark Hill, in a middle-class part of Brixton, South London. And as he soaked up the sun’s warmth, dressed in a pair of shorts, as a 46 year old man, he was still in good shape, and unlike many ex-boxers, he’d still got his health, his life and a livelihood.
At 4pm, having struggled to sleep properly for several weeks - being burdened by the usual worries of a businessman, still recovering from a bout of pneumonia and with his sleep-pattern having gone-to-pot since he’d opened his own Soho nightclub called Freddie Mills’ Nitespot just two years earlier - whilst Chrissie and the girls went out shopping, Freddie popped upstairs for a mid-afternoon nap.
By 7:30pm, having barely slept a wink, as an all-consuming headache he’d had (on and off) since 1948 raged in his brain, Freddie slugged back a cup of coffee, as he snugged on the sofa with his girls, giggling at the loony antics on The Morecambe & Wise Show. And as much as Chrissie pleaded with him to take the night off, he couldn’t, as being a film star, a boxing idol and a showman with a solid work ethic, Freddie had a club to run, a family to provide for and a legion of fans he would never disappoint.
At 9:40pm, as per usual; being dressed in a smart dark suit, a crisp white shirt, black polished shoes and a stylish chequered tie, Freddie kissed his girls goodbye, having made plans to meet Chrissie and his 26 year old step-son Don at the club, at around 1am, and hopped into his silver Citreon DS19.
The journey from his home at 186 Denmark Hill to his club at 143 Charing Cross Road, in Saturday night traffic, took forty-five minutes, and he arrived at roughly 10:30pm, having taken no detours.
And although, he would usually park-up outside of his club on Charing Cross Road, his car being keenly watched by Robert Deacon the doorman, that night, with his head furiously thumping, Freddie pulled off the bright lights of the busy city street, as he crept his car into the silent darkness of Goslett Yard, which he had done many times before.
So far, nothing out of the ordinary had happened.
With co-owner of the club Andy Ho not arriving until 11:15pm, and Freddie being less of a manager and more of a famous figurehead, whose role was to compare the cabaret, shake hands with the fans and pose for photos, Freddie knew he wouldn’t be needed until midnight. So, suffering from a blinding headache and having asked the doorman to wake him in an hour, with his car secreted in an unlit, secluded but peaceful passage, Goslett Yard was the perfect place for a little nap.
As instructed, at 11:45pm, with the cabaret band tuning-up, Robert Deacon sauntered down Charing Cross Road and turned right into Goslett Yard, ready to wake Freddie.
With structures on all sides; a row of brown-bricked work-sheds to the left, two black-fronted garages ahead and the tall white rear of a vague office space to the right, as the night had almost no moon, and with a single street-lamp too far away, the eerily silent dead-end was plunged into blackness.
At the end, diagonally parked, with its bonnet facing the far-right corner and its boot to the street; with its engine off, lights out and being barely visible amidst the gloom was Freddie’s silver Citreon.
Being only three weeks into his job as the club’s doorman, 23 year old Robert Deacon approached the car cautiously, as although Freddie was a real gent; with him feeling unwell, being the boss and having had a few drinks to pacify his pounding head, he knew it wasn’t his place to be too pushy.
As Robert’s feet clomped along the cobblestones, he sidled up to the passenger’s side of dark-lit silver Citreon and saw the unmistakable stocky silhouette of Freddie; sitting bolt upright, with both hands flat on his lap and his head slumped slightly forward. And yet, oddly, he wasn’t sat in the driver’s seat, but in the back behind the passenger’s seat, totally still and ominously silent.
Eager to wake his boss, with the rear window open, Robert called out “Mr Mills” as his knuckles rapped on the car door, but Freddie didn’t move. He hollered again, “Mr Mills”, but still there was no reply. Opening the left-rear door, Robert shook the big fella’s thick broad shoulder and barked “Mr Mills, it’s time”, but – unusually for a man with lightening quick reflexes - there was no reaction.
Smelling the booze on his breath, seeing his comatose state and spotting a froth of saliva form around Freddie’s mouth and nostrils, Robert thought nothing more of it, and went back inside the club.
Roughly forty minutes later, with the cabaret delayed and the crowd getting restless, the club’s 47 year old head-waiter Henry Grant entered Goslett Yard. And being familiar with his boss’s occasional need to nap, but his insistence on never missing a performance, Henry vigorously shook the ex-boxer’s left shoulder, shouting “Freddie, wake up”, as with a firm hand, he sharply slapped Freddie’s face.
But Freddie didn’t blink, wince or budge an inch.
Dashing back inside the club, Henry alerted Andy that the boss didn’t look well and tried to telephone Freddie’s wife, but with Chrissie being on-route to the nightclub, she couldn’t be reached.
At a little after 1am, Chrissie and her 26 year old son Don arrived at the club, but there no time to drink or dance, as – with a great sense of urgency - the club’s short and portly co-owner Andy Ho ushered them both outside and took Chrissie’s arm as he frog-marched them both to Goslett Yard, nervously mumbling “I think Mr Mills is very ill and his car is somewhere around the back, I’m told”.
Sidling through the yard’s dark gloom, up to the ominous silence of the silver Citreon, as she saw the familiar silhouette of her seemingly dozing husband, Chrissie gently cooed though the open rear window “Freddie? Freddie?” hoping to wake him, but – as before – he didn’t answer.
Eager to rouse him, Chrissie moved round to the rear driver’s side door and calmly sat on the backseat; a tender arm reached around Freddie’s broad shoulders, as she shook him, cooing “Freddie? Freddie?” but again, he didn’t budge. And although the yard was dark and inside the car was even darker, being seated next to Freddie, at his feet Chrissie spotted a .22 rifle (propped against the seat in front with its muzzle upright) and down his crisp white shirt she saw a slowly spreading pool of blood, which trickled down his cheek from a bullet hole in his right eye.
Clutching Freddie towards her, Chrissie cried “Andy, Freddie has shot himself, call an ambulance” as she held him close, his blood staining her blouse, but already (with help on its way) his face was cold.
The ambulance arrived at 1:39am, but on arrival at Middlesex Hospital, Freddie was pronounced dead.
So, where’s the mystery?
What we’re dealing with here is surely a suicide? A lone businessman suffering from depression and riddled with debts, who has a few drinks to quell his headache, parks his car in a dark secluded dead-end at the rear of his own nightclub, and with a .22 rifle pointed at his head, he shoots himself dead.
There was no sign of a struggle, no screams nor shouts; no suspicious characters were seen, no drugs or poisons were found in his system (just a moderate level of alcohol), only his fingerprints were found, there were no threats on his life and he had no known enemies. Even his own wife was heard to cry out “Freddie has shot himself”. And after a thorough Police investigation, on 2nd August 1965, the coroner recorded this as “death by suicide”, confirming that Freddie Mills had taken his own life.
It all seem simple enough, right? Well, not quite, you see there are elements to this case which don’t make a lot of sense. For example:
No-one saw or heard anything, not even a gun-shot.
No fingerprints were found on the gun, not even Freddie’s.
Unusually for such loving family man, there was no suicide note.
That night, he had made plans to meet his wife Chrissie and his step-son Don at the club, and had expressly asked Robert Deacon the doorman to wake him just prior to midnight, ready for the cabaret.
And finally, Freddie was shot - not in the head or the heart - but in the eye, which (based on his injuries and the lack of powder burns to his lid) suggests that his eye was open at moment he fired the shot.
All of which could easily be explainable, but there are also elements which are not. Such as:
The alcohol: Chrissie confirmed that Freddie had only drank coffee at home, we know he didn’t take a detour on his forty minute drive from his home to the club, nobody at the club served him, no bottle was found in the car, and yet, Freddie’s blood had 37 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres.
The seating position: Freddie had supposedly shot himself in the face, and yet, if he had, why was he sitting in the backseat of his own car, why was he still sitting upright, and why – if he had been holding the rifle, with the muzzle aimed at his head – were both of his hands found flat on his lap?
The timing of his death: Freddie parked in Goslett Yard at 10:30pm, Robert Deacon struggled to wake him at 11:45pm, as does Henry Grant at 12:30am, and Chrissie at a little after 1am. And yet, even though Freddie was clearly in medical need, no-one called for an ambulance for one and a half hours.
The bullet-holes: there were two; one bullet was fired from the rifle into Freddie’s right eye, and the other was fired from inside the silver Citreon into the base of passenger’s side door.
And even stranger is the weapon itself: firstly, if Freddie had shot himself, with the incline of the rifle’s muzzle aimed at his head, having pulled the trigger, surely gravity would cause it to fall towards him? But it didn’t, it fell away, and was found leaning against the driver’s seat in a very neat upright position, almost as if it had been placed there. And secondly; Freddie didn’t own a gun, no-one had ever seen him with a gun, and yet, the gun which ended his life wasn’t your average lethal weapon? It was an FN self-loading .22 calibre Belgian repeater rifle, the kind used to shoot targets at a fun-fair.
And if that’s not strange enough? Answer me this; why did the police not investigate the scene until several hours after the body was found? And why was the body of Freddie Mills (and the rifle) moved from the scene of the crime before the Police had even arrived?
Within eight days, the Police, the pathologist and the coroner had concluded that Freddie Mills had committed suicide, a verdict which his family openly disagreed with, and the case was closed.
But was this a suicide, or was it a murder? The facts just didn’t add up. And as those who knew Freddie started to talk, details started to emerge, and alternative theories began to form.
Was Freddie really just a depressed ex-boxer who was secretly struggling with crippling headaches and depression? Was he a businessman who ended it all over a series of bad debts? Was he a loving family man who made a snap-decision to kill himself, without saying goodbye to those he loved?
Or did Freddie Mills (the charming, fun-loving gentleman) have a secret dark side? Was he in debt to the Mafia? Were the Triads trying to muscle him out of his Soho club? Did he pay the infamous gangsters known the Kray Twins to end his life? Was this married man a secret homosexual who was depressed after the death of his gay lover? Was this all part of a Police cover-up to disguise a bungled investigation? Or was Freddie Mills; the light-heavyweight champion boxer, beloved film star and all-round family man, the sadistic murderer of eight prostitutes whose bodies were left ripped and naked across West London? Was Freddie Mills the infamous maniac known as The Hammersmith Stripper and is this the shameful secret he took to his grave? The only way to know is to find out who killed Freddie Mills?
OUTRO: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you so much for listening to Murder Mile.
Don’t forget to tune in next week for part two of who killed Freddie Mills? And if you’re a murky miler, stay tuned for more extra goodies after the break, but before that, here’s my recommended podcasts of the week; which are Out of the Shadows and Dumb and Busted. (PLAY PROMO)
A huge thank you goes out to my new Patreon supporters, some of whom will get to find out who killed Freddie Mills days before the whole world and who all get free ebooks of the Murder Mile scripts. Ooh. As well as more goodies coming soon. It’s like a veritable murder Christmas. These lucky people are Dena Siegert, Jessica Shannon, Tracy Armstrong, Nina Colliver, Beth Kelley and Olivia Wallis, Thank you ladies, you are all truly amazing.
Murder Mile was researched, written & performed by myself, with the main musical themes written and performed by Erik Stein & Jon Boux of Cult With No Name.
Thank you for listening and sleep well.
Sources: This episode of Murder Mile True-Crime Podcast was researched using the original declassified police investigation files from the National Archives.
Music: Additional music was used (in the case of Cult With No Name) with their kind permission and all other artists under a Creative Commons License 4.0 (Attribution) via Free Music Archive.
A full track listing follows:
Sounds: With additional sounds courtesy of the Free Sound Project, used under a Creative Commons License 4.0 (Attribution).
Michael J Buchanan-Dunne is a writer, crime historian, podcaster and tour-guide who runs Murder Mile Walks, a guided tour of Soho’s most notorious murder cases, hailed as “one of the top ten curious, quirky, unusual and different things to do in London”, nominated Best True-Crime Podcast at the British Podcast Awards 2018 and featuring 12 murderers, including 3 serial killers, across 15 locations, totaling 75 deaths, over just a one mile wal
Michael J Buchanan-Dunne is a crime writer, podcaster & tour guide of Murder Mile Walks, hailed as one of the best "quirky curious & unusual things to do in London".
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