Web Page 2070
13th July 2014
Top Picture; Freddie in Boxing Mode
Second Picture: Freddie Mills’s grave
Third Picture: Poster for 6.5 Special
Freddie Mills: The Legend, Mystery and Tragedy
On 24th July 1965, a car parked in Goslett Yard in Soho was discovered with the body of a man who lay dying from a rifle wound to the right eye. The body was identified to be that of British light-heavyweight legend , and he was declared dead later that night at Middlesex Hospital.
Freddie Mills was born in Dorset and took the hard route to boxing stardom by becoming a professional fighter in a fairground booth, taking on all-comers. It was here he met former British lightweight champion Gipsy Daniels, who passed on some of his hard-earned ring experience.
Freddie Mills was crowned light-heavyweight champion in 1948 after defeating American Gus Lesnevich over fifteen rounds at London’s White City Stadium, he was of the most popular sportsmen in Britain for over twenty years owing to his colourful character outside of the ring and aggressive courage inside it. He amassed a record of seventy-seven wins, eighteen defeats and six draws from a career that spanned from 1937 to 1950. He won the British and Commonwealth titles by knocking out Len Harvey at White Hart Lane inside two rounds in 1942 and won his world title four years later at the Haringay Arena, having previously lost his first attempt in 1946.
Freddie Mills also made a couple of attempts to move up to the heavyweight division, once against Joe Baksi, (where he gave away 25lb), and later against Bruce Woodcock for the vacant British and Commonwealth titles in 1949. However as brave and tenacious as he was he did not have the physical stature to move up to the heavyweight division being only 5’10½” tall and having a reach of only 72”, statistics that are outdone by most current boxers from middleweight upwards.
Upon his retirement he invested heavily in a restaurant in Soho, which later became a club and it was behind this club that he was found. He was buried in Camberwell New Cemetery in South London. The coroner at the time ruled that he had committed suicide, but the mystery surrounding how he met his end is as hazy now as it was back in the 1960’s.
Freddie Mills’ family have always disputed that took his own life. Reporter James Hogg made a documentary in 1985 in which the boxer's widow Chrissie Mills said that his behaviour on the day of his death was not conducive of man contemplating suicide. His step-son, Donnie McCorkindale described the coroner’s inquest as a ‘bad detective story’ and was convinced that he was shot by an assailant through the open window of his car and the scene was staged to make it look like a suicide.
Professor David Wingate, resident medical officer at Middlesex Hospital the night Mills’s body was brought in, concluded from his medical examination that someone had taken the gun off Mills and shot him with it. Professor Wingate was not called to give evidence at the coroner’s inquest. As a result, several theories as to the circumstances of his death sprang up, some plausible and some less so, but all pointed to various degrees of foul play. Of these theories there are four that are often repeated, but to this day, remain unsubstantiated.
The first relates to the Kray twins and according to various sources, the club Mills owned was suffering financially and he became heavily indebted to the Krays. Chrissie Mills was convinced that her husband fell victim of gangsters who were extorting money from West End club owners at the time – although she does not specifically mention the Krays. Legend has it that a former wrestler who owned a club in the West End at the same time was also approached and protection money demanded of him, and serious consequences would follow if he refused. However Freddie Mills had been suffering from severe headaches and depression, possibly as a result of too many blows to the head and this could have made a significant contribution to his mental state at the time.
A second theory states that it was Chinese gangsters who killed him and staged it as a suicide. Members of London’s Chinese underworld wanted to take Freddie's Soho club and turn it back into a restaurant. This was at a time when London’s Chinatown was just beginning to relocate itself from Limehouse in East London to Soho.
The final two wildly contrasting theories are a claim that he was a homosexual and the other a deadly heterosexual. Ronnie Kray’s then wife Kate refuted the claim that he as a married man with two daughters was secretly a homosexual and had been engaged in a love affair with Michael Holliday. Rumours also spread that Mills and Ronnie Kray were lovers, a rumour that was fiercely denied by the openly bisexual Ronnie Kray. Connected with this was the suggestion that he had been arrested in a public toilet, charged with homosexual indecency and killed himself rather than face the consequences of this knowledge entering the public domain. This may seem like an extreme measure, but bear in mind that homosexuality was not decriminalised in the UK until 1967 and attitudes were very different then.
The most spectacular theory suggests that Freddie Mills was the unidentified serial killer known simply as ‘Jack the Stripper’. This name was bestowed upon the serial killer who murdered at least eight young prostitutes between 1959 and 1965, removed their clothes (hence the name) and left their naked bodies in and around the River Thames. The theory goes on to say that believing himself to be close to being identified and apprehended, he took the decision to take his own life.
All of these theories make for interesting reading and it’s surprising that Hollywood hasn’t got involved to cash in on the mystery that surrounds Freddie Mills’s death. We will probably never fully know whether there were contributing factors or foul play. Whether or not the coroner’s inquest is a true representation of the events that took place, Freddie Mills should be remembered for the excitement and joy he gave thousands of people every time he stepped into the ring as Britain’s biggest boxing idol of the post-war period.
Plus not forgetting his anchor post in the 6.5 Special.
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News and Views:
On this Day 13th July 1960-1965
On 13/07/1960 the number one single was Good Timin' - Jimmy Jones and the number one album was South Pacific Soundtrack. The top rated TV show was Rawhide (ITV) and the box office smash was Psycho. A pound of today's money was worth £13.68 and Burnley were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.
On 13/07/1961 the number one single was Runaway - Del Shannon and the number one album was South Pacific Soundtrack. The top rated TV show was Labour Party Political Broadcast (all channels) and the box office smash was One Hundred and One Dalmations. A pound of today's money was worth £13.25 and Tottenham Hotspur were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.
On 13/07/1962 the number one single was I Can't Stop Loving You - Ray Charles and the number one album was West Side Story Soundtrack. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street (Granada) and the box office smash was Lawrence of Arabia. A pound of today's money was worth £12.89 and Ipswich Town were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.
On 13/07/1963 the number one single was I Like It - Gerry & the Pacemakers and the number one album was Please Please Me - The Beatles. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street (Granada) and the box office smash was The Great Escape. A pound of today's money was worth £12.64 and Everton were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.
On 13/07/1964 the number one single was House of the Rising Sun - Animals and the number one album was Rolling Stones - The Rolling Stones. The top rated TV show was Labour Party Political Broadcast (all channels) and the box office smash was Dr Strangelove. A pound of today's money was worth £12.24 and Liverpool were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.
On 13/07/1965 the number one single was Crying in the Chapel - Elvis Presley and the number one album was The Sound of Music Soundtrack. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street (Granada) and the box office smash was The Sound of Music. A pound of today's money was worth £11.69 and Manchester United were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions. The big news story of the day was First Mariner 4 photos of Mars received.