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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 #47 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 #47 - Who Killed Freddie Mills? Part Two - TRANSCRIPT
Thank you for downloading episode forty-seven of the Murder Mile True-Crime Podcast. This is the second and final part of Who Killed Freddie Mills, so – if you haven’t - listen to episode forty-six first. But before we begin, please take a moment to listen to this important message.
(Christmas music): Ho-ho-ho, it’s not quite almost sort-of Christmas-ish, ho-ho-ho; a festive time of wildly confusing Pagan and Christian rituals, but mostly it’s about gorging on food, family arguments, watching a Bond film and spending lots of money. Ho-ho-ho. So if your house is like this…
Son: “Daddy, for Christmas, I want a Murder Mile mug”, Dad: “Oh really. And have you tidied your bedroom? No? Well, go and f**king tidy it then!”, boy cries. Wife: “Honey, for Christmas, what I really want is…” (dad whispering “please say a divorce, please say a divorce”) “…a Murder Mile card with badges and stickers”, Dad: “Ah shit”. Granny: “Son, what I want was … (dad whispering “please say it, please say it”)… a lovely one-way trip to Switzerland…”, Dad: “Yes! Hallelujah”, “…but first I want a voice cameo in a Murder Mile episode”, Dad: “you got it granny”.
…why not treat your loved ones to a Murder Mile eBook (me “it’s a good distraction as you bash them over the head”), gift vouchers to a Murder Mile Walk (me “if they’re really obnoxious, I’ll bump them off for you”), a Murder Mile ring-tone (me “if you’ve forgotten where you’ve buried the body, just call”) and a whole episode dedicated to them (me “think of it as an early obituary”). And by “loved ones”, I really mean “yourself”. Sod the family, they’re all an ungrateful bunch of bastards. Ho-ho-ho.
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Thank you for listening and enjoy the episode.
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 part two about the mysterious death of Freddie Mills; was it a suicide, or a murder, involving debts, threats, depression, a bungled investigation, a secret sexuality, or was he a sadistic serial killer with a guilty conscience?
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 47: Who killed Freddie Mills? Part Two
In the early hours of Sunday 25th July 1965, in the darkest corner of Goslett Yard, an eerily silent dead-end just off Charing Cross Road, Freddie Mills (the champion boxer, wholesome celebrity and beloved family man) was found dead. There were no gunshots heard, no fingerprints found, no threats on his life, no witnesses, no suspects, and exactly how, when and why he was shot is unknown.
The crime-scene was simple: Freddie had sat alone, in the left rear seat of his own silver Citreon DS19, for one and a half hours, to sleep-off a raging headache and the alcohol he had consumed. Its engine was off, its lights were out, the rear windows were open and the car was in complete darkness. And having suffered from insomnia, depression and being crippled by escalating debts, using a .22 calibre rifle, Freddie shot himself in the head. The gun was found in his car, the bullets matched the gun and with the Coroner ruling his death as a “suicide”, eight days later the case was closed.
But several elements of the case just didn’t make sense…
According to those who knew and loved him, not only was Freddie a fighter, a winner and champion, who rolled with the punches and always got-up when he was knocked down, but as a loving father and doting husband who was so full of life, fun and joy, who loved his family above everything else, if he did kill himself in a fit of depression, why was there no suicide note?
These are the elements that are in question: if he had been drinking, where was the bottle? If this was Freddie’s car, why was he sat in the left rear seat? If this was the gun which killed Freddie, where did it come from, who owned it, why was it found neatly propped against the seat in-front, and why was he shot using a fairground rifle? If he had shot himself, why was he still sitting upright with both hands flat on his lap, and why had he been shot in his right eye? And – more bafflingly – why did the Police delay investigating the crime-scene for several hours, and why was the body of Freddie Mills (and the rifle itself) removed before the Police had even arrived?
After his death, several theories started circulating suggesting that Freddie had a dark-side. Five deep secrets that (for many years) he had kept hidden from his friends, family and his legion of fans, which linked him to debts, gangsters, police corruption, a secret life as a bisexual and a sadistic past as the depraved slayer of eight women in West London, known as The Hammersmith Stripper.
What makes each theory stick is the fact that they are all plausible, so let’s look at them a little closer:
Theory One: Freddie Mills was murdered by Chinese gangsters who were trying to take over his club.
It’s true; Freddie was the co-owner of a Soho nightclub with his Chinese business partner – Andy Ho; two years prior the Freddie Mills Nitespot had been a Chinese restaurant, which was situated just one street away from Chinatown, an area ruled by the Triads, who (during that era) were rapidly expanding their criminal empire through extortion, blackmail and murder.
But with no threats on Freddie’s life, no known association with the Triads and no evidence that the actor, chef and the club’s co-owner Andy Ho (who was Freddie’s friend and business partner for more than two decades) was himself a Triad? If this was a murder used to force an unwilling businessman to part with his club; why didn’t they kill Andy Ho, why didn’t they kill Chrissie (who was also a co-owner) and why would they make - this incredibly powerful message - look like a suicide?
Theory Two: Freddie Mills committed suicide over the death of his gay lover.
It’s true; Freddie was distraught at the death of his close friend Michael Holliday, a popular singer with chart hits in the 1950’s and 60’s. And being a fragile man with drug issues, a history of mental illness and a secret sexuality, on the 29th October 1963 - having headlined at the Freddie Mills Nitespot (a cabaret situated in Soho - the homosexual capital of the West End) - Michael Holliday tragically overdosed, just two years before the mysterious death of Freddie.
But were Freddie and Michael gay lovers? No. Freddie was a big-hearted happily-married man, who loved and cared for everyone, who feared for his friend’s mental health and had tried and failed to prevent Michael’s suicide. And although the press tried to paint Freddie as a secret homosexual who – they claimed – had been arrested in a public lavatory and charged with indecency (a charge for which there is no evidence); Ronnie Kray, the openly bisexual East End gangster who knew Freddie and dated Michael Holliday, stated before he died “Freddie was a real man's man, he wasn't that way inclined”.
Theory Three: Freddie Mills was either murdered by, or his suicide was staged by the Kray twins.
It’s true; Freddie Mills knew the infamous East End gangsters Ronnie & Reggie Kray; who had a history of violence, regularly frequented his club, both had access to guns, were in London at the time of his death, and in the following years, both Ronnie & Reggie Kray were convicted of murder.
So did the Kray twins murder Freddie Mills? No. Of course they didn’t. Not only was every club in 1960’s Soho frequented by gangsters, and not only was Freddie not a threat to them, but as ex-boxers themselves, Ronnie & Reggie Kray were in awe of Freddie and considered it an honour to drink and chat with the former light-heavyweight champion of the world; a man they called their “friend”.
Two years after Freddie’s death, when his wife Chrissie asked Detective Chief Superintendent Leonard 'Nipper' Read - the man who made it his mission to bring down the Kray twins – to re-examine the case, even he had to reluctantly state that there was no evidence that the Krays were ever involved.
And besides, the idea that Freddie’s death was either a murder or a staged suicide, simply doesn’t make any sense. As why would Freddie pay someone to stage his suicide or murder? And even if they did, why would they shoot him in the eye, using a fairground rifle, and not leave a suicide note?
And yet, if you still truly believe that Freddie was murdered, by being shot, in the eye, with a fairground rifle? Ask yourself this; why would a hired assassin choose to commit a murder using fake bullets? Yes, fake bullets, which weren’t made of lead, they were made of clinker; a stony residue made from burnt coal which is designed to fragment when it hits a wooden target, just like it would, at a fun-fair.
Theory Four: the Police (deliberately) bungled the investigation into the death of Freddie Mills.
It’s true; the Police delayed a full examination of Goslett Yard for several hours and the body of Freddie Mills (and the rifle itself) was removed from the crime scene before the Police had even arrived… but the investigation wasn’t bungled.
When (the ambulance drivers) Leslie Rowe & Thomas Spalding arrived at 1:39am, the alley was so dark they had to use torches, as did the Police, who preserved the scene by sealing off the street and didn’t conduct a thorough examination of Goslett Yard or the car until after sunrise at 4:31am.
And why was Freddie’s body removed from the scene? Simple, because he wasn’t dead.
Having been shot sometime prior to 11:45pm, although Freddie was motionless, unresponsive and bleeding, having detected very faint signs of life, Rowe & Spalding (the ambulance drivers) transferred Freddie to Middlesex Hospital and they took charge of the rifle so the doctor could determine what type of gun and bullet his patient had been shot with - all of which was standard practice for a suicide.
And Theory Five: Freddie Mills was an infamous serial-killer known as The Hammersmith Stripper.
It’s true; between 1959 and 1965, in West London, eight young prostitutes were strangled by a serial sexual sadist who dumped their naked bodies in or around the River Thames, and according to Chief Superintendent John Du Rose (who headed-up the investigation) his prime suspect was a “respectable married man and an ex-boxer, in his forties, who had committed suicide in mid-1965”.
Even Michael Litchfield, reporter for tabloid newspaper The Sun confirmed that Mills had met with John Du Rose, a fellow freemason at the West End’s masonic lodge, and Freddie had confessed to the murders in return for a reduced sentence - a devastating confession which Du Rose secretly recorded.
So was Freddie Mills (the world champion boxer, the beloved film star and devout family man) secretly the brutal slayer of eight prostitutes in the 1960’s, who was known as the Hammersmith Stripper? No. Of course he wasn’t. This theory, like all of those we’ve just discussed, is complete and utter dog-shit. And here’s why:
Freddie was not a sexual sadist with a hatred for women; he was never cruel, mean or spiteful; he was a good man with a big heart, who (above everything else) loved his family.
Freddie had no criminal record; not one charge for assault, indecency, soliciting, harassment, peeping, prowling or public lewdness, all of which you would expect from a serial sexual sadist.
Of the seven thousand men who were interviewed by the Police in connection with the Hammersmith Stripper, whose cars were seen curb-crawling in the area, a silver Citreon DS19 with the licence plate DLR610 does not appear in the Police database, and Freddie Mills was never questioned.
Freddie doesn’t match the Identikit image of the Police’s primary suspect, who was a short, slim, elfin-faced youth with a long straight nose, beady little eyes and sticky-out ears.
And even if you exclude the fact that Chief Superintendent John Du Rose confirmed that Freddie Mills was never a suspect, at any point, in any part of the investigation into the Hammersmith Stripper? This taped confession which Michael Litchfield claims exists… has never been seen, has never been heard, and even in John Du Rose’s own autobiography, it is never once mentioned or referenced.
So how did this theory begin?
It began with a simple misunderstanding; Chief Superintendent John Du Rose stated that his prime suspect in the investigation was a “respectable married man and an ex-boxer, in his forties, who had committed suicide in mid-1965”. A description which perfectly fits Freddie Mills and his very public death which – across Britain - was front-page news.
Only Du Rose wasn’t talking about Freddie at all, he was talking about Mungo Ireland; a mid-forties, ex-boxer and happily married man who worked as a security guard on the Heron Trading Estate in Acton (an area synonymous with prostitution and where the body of the Hammersmith Stripper’s last victim was found) and having become the Police’s prime suspect in the murders, Mungo Ireland left a note which read "I can't stick it any longer… to save you and the police looking for me I'll be in the garage", where his dead body was found having gassed himself.
So if Freddie Mills wasn’t murdered by the Triads, if his death wasn’t staged by the Kray twins, if the police investigation wasn’t part of a masonic cover-up, and if he wasn’t a sadistic serial killer with a guilty conscience? Was he really just a former boxing idol, a fading film star and a failing businessman, who was wracked with debts and - in a booze-fuelled fit of depression - took his own life? What really happened that night?
To understand Freddie’s death, we have to go back to 1948, when he was at the peak of his success.
On 26th July 1948, Fearless Freddie fought the American boxer Gus Lesnevich in-front of a 46000 strong crowd in West London’s White City stadium. And although Freddie wasn’t a skilled fighter; with a dogged mix of pressure, persistence and an uncanny ability to take a pounding, as Lesnevich launched a brutal attack in the 12th and 13th rounds, Freddie went the distance and won on points, to become the world light-heavyweight champion, a national hero and one of Britain’s greatest boxing idols.
Freddie was at the top of his game, with nowhere to go, but down.
Two months later, Freddie was set to defend his title against Lesnevich, but the fight was cancelled, as having been diagnosed with a misaligned vertebrae at the base of the skull, Freddie was crippled with migraines and dizziness – symptoms which would plague him for the rest of his life.
In November 1948, Freddie beat Johnny Ralph in Johannesburg for the Empire heavyweight title, breaking a metacarpal in his right hand. In June 1949, Freddie fought Bruce Woodcock to retain the British, Empire and European title, but was floored four times and knocked out in the 14th round. And in January 1950, having lost three teeth and with his gums imbedded in his upper jaw, Fearless Freddie lost his world light-heavyweight title to Joey Maxim who knocked him out in the 10th round.
Once month later, Freddie Mills retired from boxing.
Making full use of his celebrity status; being blessed with a cheeky smile, twinkling eyes and a childish sense of fun, Fearless Freddie made the move into television and quickly became a family favourite. But as the fifties made way for the sixties, and his crippling migraines started affecting his memory, his speech and had developed into facial tics, acting work for Freddie Mills had begun to dry up.
Freddie was no dummy, he knew his career as a boxer and an actor was short-lived, so being eager to provide a stable future for his beloved family, Freddie had invested his winnings in several properties and businesses in and around London.
In 1946, four years before his retirement from boxing, Freddie and his friend Andy Ho opened the Freddie Mills’ Chinese Restaurant at 143 Charing Cross Road, where – having wisely used his celebrity status to pull in the punters - it remained as a profitable and popular business for almost twenty years.
And although, in the 1940’s, Chinese restaurants were a rarity, by the 1960’s they were commonplace. So being eager to regain his success, in May 1963, Freddie invested £12000 (which is a quarter of a million pounds today) and converted the premises into a cabaret and nightclub called the Freddie Mills Nitespot, which was instantly a success… for four months… and then it closed.
Faced with tough competition, spiralling overheads and with Freddie’s celebrity status almost non-existent (except amongst 1940’s boxing aficionados like the Kray twins), as the nightclub sunk deeper into debt, Freddie was forced to sell-off his other properties simply to stay afloat, and although, in September 1963, the Freddie Mills Nitespot was up for sale, no-one would buy it.
Being a born fighter with an uncanny ability to take a pounding, Freddie re-opened the Nitepot in August 1964… but again, the club struggled and Freddie was taken to court for non-payment of bills.
And then; being crippled by migraines, dizziness and bedridden with pneumonia, on Friday 23rd July 1965, just two days before his death, at Marylebone Magistrates Court, Freddie (and Andy Ho) were found guilty of keeping an illegal fruit machine and fined £68 each. With his finances laid bare before the court, it was only then that Chrissie (his wife) learned how dire their situation was – that Freddie Mills (the world champion boxer, actor, businessman, devoted father and loyal husband) was broke.
With his cheeky smile and that infamous twinkle in his eye now gone, as he secretly struggled to cope with depression, having been trained (as a boxer) never to show any weakness, Freddie fought on.
And although, never once in Freddie’s life had he ever given up, here he had reached rock-bottom.
On Tuesday 20th July 1965, Freddie drove to the home of 58 year old Mary Gladys Ronaldson, an old friend from his fledgling days as a semi-professional pugilist at Sam McEwan’s Boxing Booth, who was currently working at the nearby Battersea funfair. Under the pretence that he had been hired to open a charity fete in Esher that week and that he wanted to dress as a cowboy, he asked Mary for a gun.
The gun she offered him was an FN self-loading .22 calibre Belgian repeater rifle, the type used to shoot targets at the fun-fair. Mary had no issues loaning him the gun; she knew Freddie, she trusted him and with the unloaded rifle having been removed from the shooting gallery as it was old, faulty and “prone to misfire”, she knew it would be perfect as a prop and harmless as a lethal weapon.
With no other option – unable to confide in his friends, too ashamed to tell his family and knowing that most gangsters are gossips - Freddie accepted her offer and returned on Thursday 22nd July 1965 to collect the rifle. That day, he seemed anxious, stressed and after he had left, although the faulty rifle was unloaded, of the five bullets that her son had left on the mantelpiece… three were missing.
Exactly what happened that night, only Freddie knows, but the most logical theory is this.
On the evening of Saturday 24th July 1965, the night that Freddie was shot; being gripped with depression, a migraine, pneumonia and chronic insomnia, having kissed his beloved wife and daughters goodbye, Freddie hopped into his silver Citreon DS19 and drove to Goslett Yard.
Freddie was a champion, a fighter, a winner; who had achieved greatness and (to many) was an idol, who once had it all, but now it was gone; his fame, his health and his wealth.
Being trained to hide his weakness, Freddie sat alone, in the darkness of his car, a loaded rifle in his hands, barely a few feet from an off-licence, a pub, and the half-empty nightclub which (every second it stayed open) it bled him dry, as with just £387 to his name, within the week, he would be bankrupt. And to the family who he truly adored, with his life insured, Freddie knew he was better off dead.
Freddie was a man torn, as – having returned the gun once before, written no suicide note, and yet he had made plans to compare the cabaret and to meet Chrissie and Don - for almost an hour he sat alone; mulling over his life, with alcohol in his blood, a throbbing pain in his brain and tears in his eyes.
Having test-fired the rifle – and seeing the dense ‘clinker’ almost penetrate the steel base of the passenger’s side door - as the faulty rifle worked fine, and seeing no other way out, closing his eyes tight, Fearless Freddie put the muzzle of the rifle to his forehead.
No-one would see anything, as the car was hidden in a dark dead-end.
No-one would hear anything, as a fairground rifle wouldn’t make a bang, but a muffled pop. (POP)
And with the crime-scene being a chaotic mess of distressed relatives and friends, all concerned for Freddie who wasn’t dead, but dying, it’s clear to see how, where and why the confusion began.
So who moved Freddie and sat him upright with his hands on his lap? Well, before the ambulance men had arrived, four people clearly stated that they had moved Freddie; Robert Deacon the doorman shook him (“Mr Mills, it’s time”), Henry Grant the head-waiter shook and slapped him (“Freddie, wake up”), Chrissie had hugged and cradled him (“Freddie? Freddie?”), his blood staining her blouse, as did his step-son Don. And for at least an hour and a half after he was shot, Freddie wasn’t dead.
So who moved the rifle and where were the fingerprints? Well, according to the Police, as guns are oily, usable fingerprints are only recovered in less than 5% of all cases. And again, in their own witness statements, three people admitted to moving the gun; Leslie Rowe & Thomas Spalding (the ambulance men) and Freddie’s step-son Don who stated “I’m certain I put it back in roughly the same place”.
So why was Freddie shot in the eye? Well, it’s entirely possible that the faulty gun didn’t go off? That he only opened his eyes to wonder why he wasn’t dead, that he only moved the gun from his forehead to see what was wrong, and with the rifle being “prone to misfire”, a light thud may have dislodged the firing pin, accidentally shooting a lethal blast of clinker into his eye and into his brain?
Although, what really happened that night, only Freddie truly knows.
Freddie Mills was a good man; he wasn’t a gangster, a secret homosexual or a serial sexual sadist, he was a devoted family man with a cheeky smile, twinkling eyes and a big heart, who struggled alone, with injury, debts and depression, and – for the final time – lost a brave fight.
And although, a series of shallow self-serving cowards have fabricated a series of scandalous tales and rumours simply to make themselves a name, some cash, or to boost their ratings, Fearless Freddie did not deserve to be treated this way. So let us remember him properly; here’s to Freddie Mills, the world light-heavyweight champion boxer, film star, businessman, loving husband, doting father and legend.
OUTRO: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you so much for listening to Murder Mile.
Don’t forget to tune in next week for the start of Murder Mile’s huge eight-part series into the untold story of one of Britain’s most terrifying serial killers. Who is it? Find out next week.
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 Obscura and Asian Madness. (PLAY PROMO)
A huge thank you goes out to my new Patreon supporters, some of whom will get to find out who my new multi-part series is about days before everyone else. Ooh. So thank you to M.J. Maccardini and Hannah Mirza. And to Thomas Wiedemann who donated to save Murder Mile from poverty. Thank you folks, you are 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 Archive.
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 walk
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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