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The life and crimes of Dave Courtney: How East End gangster-turned-‘actor’ who affiliated with the Krays achieved notoriety as a knuckleduster-wielding debt collector before appearing in series of low-rent movies – then shot himself dead at home


Dressed in a smart suit and usually with a mischievous grin on his face, Dave Courtney in recent years became the face of old school London gangsters.

The 64-year-old turned his back on the world of crime and was a reformed figure, often appearing in gritty films or public appearances.

But the police were never far away, regularly hauling him to court over weapons at his famous Camelot Castle in south east London.

And on Sunday morning he used a firearm on himself to shoot himself dead in an apparent suicide.

It was a shocking end to a life lived at full throttle and with some of the country’s most notorious criminals.

Dave was born in Bermondsey, London, in 1959 and endured a tough upbringing.

Dave Courtney Premiere For 'Rise of the Foot Soldier' at the Vue Westend in September 2007

Dave Courtney Premiere For ‘Rise of the Foot Soldier’ at the Vue Westend in September 2007

A number of blunt bladed items are used as decorations in the popular Londoner's home

A number of blunt bladed items are used as decorations in the popular Londoner’s home

Courtney was understood to have been the inspiration for Vinnie Jones' Big Chris character in the Guy Ritchie gangster film Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels

Courtney was understood to have been the inspiration for Vinnie Jones’ Big Chris character in the Guy Ritchie gangster film Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels

He made a name for himself through his supposed affiliation with famous hardmen such as Reggie Kray.

He was only nine when the Krays were jailed, but claims to have arranged security for Ronnie Kray’s funeral in 1995.

Courtney became infamous as a knuckle-duster wielding debt collector, and claims to have been shot, stabbed and had his nose almost bitten off.

When Lock Stock came out in 1998, he watched in amusement as one of his own life moments was immortalised in film.

Writing in one of his books, he recalled: ‘I banged the lid of the sunbed down on him and whacked him hard four or five times. The Perspex behind his head shattered.

‘I waited until he came round enough to hear me. “Listen, you ever take a liberty again with a mate of mine and never mind the sunbed tan, I’ll spit-roast you.”

‘I think I got the message across, judging by the terrified look in his eyes as I walked out.

‘And if that little incident sounds familiar to you, it’s because they later used it in the film Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels – with Vinnie Jones playing me.’

Dave Courtney, a friend of the Kray Twins, at the Cafe De Paris launch party for the opening of the Licence to Thrill ride, which offers a Bond experience, at the Trocadero Centre in London's Piccadilly

Dave Courtney, a friend of the Kray Twins, at the Cafe De Paris launch party for the opening of the Licence to Thrill ride, which offers a Bond experience, at the Trocadero Centre in London’s Piccadilly

Courtney in his Camelot castle home which was festooned with weapons all over its walls

Courtney in his Camelot castle home which was festooned with weapons all over its walls

He claims to have been found not guilty in 19 separate trials but in January 2009 he was given an 18-month conditional discharge at Bristol Crown Court, on a charge of possessing live ammunition without a firearms certificate.

In 2004 he was cleared of attacking his wife Jennifer Pinto over an alleged lesbian affair.

Four years earlier, he walked free from the Old Bailey after he was cleared of being part of a plot to plant cocaine on an innocent woman.

During the trial he was named as a registered police informant using the alias ‘Tommy Mack’.

But Courtney insisted he simply took advantage of the system to disguise a relationship with a corrupt detective.

‘I have never been a grass,’ he said.

He is also known to have spent time in Belmarsh prison.

Courtney became infamous as a knuckle-duster wielding debt collector, and claims to have been shot, stabbed and had his nose almost bitten off

Courtney became infamous as a knuckle-duster wielding debt collector, and claims to have been shot, stabbed and had his nose almost bitten off

Courtney made a name for himself through his supposed affiliation with famous hardmen such as Reggie Kray

Courtney made a name for himself through his supposed affiliation with famous hardmen such as Reggie Kray

In July this year Courtney was hauled to court after police found weapons in his home.

He was charged with housemate Brendan McGirr, 57, who runs an industry prop company, after knuckledusters, daggers and throwing stars were spotted. Pictures inside the property which featured in magazines had shown weapons on the wall.

But on December 29, 2022, when local police visited the address to discuss Courtney’s New Year organised bare knuckle fights, they took exception.

They returned half-an-hour later with a sergeant and identified various weapons scattered around the property.

Courtney has published six books - including titles such as Dodgy Dave's Little Black Book - and recorded a version of 'I Fought The Law' with Scottish pop-punks Mute

Courtney has published six books – including titles such as Dodgy Dave’s Little Black Book – and recorded a version of ‘I Fought The Law’ with Scottish pop-punks Mute

He would refer to himself as Dave Courtney OBE – 'One Big Ego' - and had a painted depiction of himself as a knight in his south London house

He would refer to himself as Dave Courtney OBE – ‘One Big Ego’ – and had a painted depiction of himself as a knight in his south London house

Courtney and McGirr, who say they had no idea they were illegal and had them for years, were hauled before Bromley Magistrates’ Court in July accused of possession of offensive weapons.

Courtney – well-known for his white suit – beat the charge, which was withdrawn after film props company boss McGill pleaded guilty to illegally possessing the items.

Speaking outside court after the charge was dropped against him, Courtney looked relieved.

In recent times he has become something of a celebrity figure, making a living from appearances in numerous television documentaries and a number of low-budget British gangster films. He also starred in, directed and produced his own film, Hell To Pay.

Courtney has published six books – including titles such as Dodgy Dave’s Little Black Book – and recorded a version of ‘I Fought The Law’ with Scottish pop-punks Mute.

He refers to himself as Dave Courtney OBE – ‘One Big Ego’ – and has a painted depiction of himself as a knight in his south London house.



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