Feature

No longer Australia’s most wanted

The most feared criminal in Australian history is the author of a dozen best-selling books about how he made money terrorizing other criminals.

Mark Brandon Read is proof that crime can pay, said Matt Siegel in The New York Times. The most feared criminal in Australian history is the author of a dozen best-selling books detailing his career as a “headhunter” who made money terrorizing other criminals. In the 1970s and ’80s, Read—known in Melbourne as Chopper—kidnapped drug dealers and pimps, and tortured them with blowtorches until they handed over their earnings. He extorted money from illegal casino bosses, walking into gambling dens and threatening to light the explosives clamped between his teeth. “There’s no sense carrying it in your pocket, is there?” says Read, who now lives in a quiet Melbourne suburb with his wife. He is thought to have murdered 19 people, although he disputes that figure. “Honestly, I haven’t killed that many. Probably about four or seven, depending on how you look at it.” And, he notes, he was always polite to his victims. “Just because you’re going to kill a man is no reason for discourtesy.” It’s now Read who’s facing death. He was diagnosed with liver cancer last year, and has only months to live. Has he thought what will happen when he meets his maker? “If anything, I’m owed an apology,” says Read, who spent 24 of his 58 years in jail. “I don’t think [God] was very fair with me. There’s no one I owe an apology to.”

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