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Chopper Read

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Chopper

Mark Brandon Reid with his signature glasses

"Do i look like mother theresa to you?"

Mark Brandon "Chopper" Read (born 17 November 1954) is an Australian ex-criminal, who wrote a series of semi-autobiographical and fictional crime novels. The 2000 film Chopper was based on his life.

Read was born to an ex-army father and a mother who was a devout Seventh-day Adventist. He was placed in a children's home for the first five years of his life. He grew up in the Melbourne suburbs ofCollingwood, Thomastown, Fitzroy and Preston. He was bullied at school, claiming that by the age of 15, he had been on the "losing end of several hundred fights", and that his father, usually on his mother's recommendation, beat him often as a child. Read was made a ward of the state by the age of 14 and was placed in several mental institutions as a teenager, where, he later claimed, he was subjected to electroshock therapy.

When he was still young, Read was already an accomplished street fighter and the leader of the Surrey Road gang. He began his criminal career by robbing drug dealers, based in massage parlours in the Prahran area. He later graduated to kidnapping and torturing members of the criminal underworld, often using a blowtorch or bolt cutters to remove the toes of his victims as an incentive for them to produce enough money so that Read would leave them alive.

Read spent only 13 months outside prison between the ages of 20 and 38, having been convicted of crimes including armed robbery, firearm offences, assault and kidnapping. While in Pentridge prison's H division in the late 1970s, Read launched a prison war. His gang, dubbed "The Overcoat Gang" because they wore long coats all year round to conceal their weapons, were involved in several hundred acts of violence against a larger opposing gang during this period. Around this time, Read had a fellow inmate cut both of his (Read's) ears off in order to be able to leave H division temporarily. While in his early biographies Read claimed this was to avoid an ambush by other inmates, by being transferred to the mental health wing, his later works state that he did so to "win a bet". The nickname "Chopper" was given to him long before this, from a childhood cartoon character.

Read was ambushed and stabbed by members of his own gang in a sneak attack, when they felt his plan to cripple every other inmate in the entire division and win the gang war in one fell swoop was going too far. Another theory is that James "Jimmy" Loughnan and Patrick "Blue" Barnes wished to benefit from a contract put on Read's head by the Painters' and Dockers' Union. Read lost several feet of intestine in the attack. Ironically, Jimmy Loughnan and Ned Clonan were longtime friends of Read's. Read was, at the time, serving a 16 and a half-year sentence after attacking a judge in an effort to get Loughnan released from prison.

Described variously as witty, charismatic, sadistic and frightening, Read has claimed to be involved in the killing of 19 people and the attempted murder of 11 others. However, many of his associates in the underworld say he is prone to making up numbers to increase his own notoriety and the sales of his books, and Read himself has stated several times he would "never let the truth get in the way of a good yarn". In a 2007 interview, Read admitted to being involved in the deaths of four people, all of which were on the grounds of self-defense, he said.

Read has also spoken of his old mid 1980s to early 1990s rivalry with Alphonse Gangitano in the TV series Tough Nuts. Read explained he had a disagreement with Alphonse with regards to an old age neighborhood hero who Gangitano admired. It is alleged that Gangitano burst open the toilet cubicle door with a number of associates and began a serious assault on Read who made his escape but not before spreading his faeces into Gangitano's face.

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