“Chopper” was a “bullshit artist”.
Mark Brandon Read, the notorious criminal who served more than 23 years behind bars, a man who had his ears cut off by a fellow inmate and who was certainly responsible for plenty more gruesome behaviour, made a lot of it up.
Reading from a script prepared by Read’s family, the celebrant who conducted Thursday’s service in Melbourne told of the time when Chopper was interviewed in Pentridge Prison by a young journalist.
“Some of what he told that young reporter was true, some borrowed and some of it was absolute bullshit,” he said, he said of Chopper, who died in hospital last week after a battle with liver cancer.
The tale Read told turned into a book that sold more than 300,000 copies and, as the 80-or-so mourners heard, “the book became the basis of a legend”.
It was a legend from which Read made a living once he served his final prison term, a 13-year stretch in Hobart’s Risdon for shooting a man in the stomach.
Read, who died aged 58, was buried at a private funeral on Monday.
According to his wishes, Thursday’s public service was held to give anyone who wanted to say anything a chance to get it off their chest.
Not many seized the opportunity and those who did spoke of a misunderstood kid who probably suffered from ADHD and who could be a thorough gentleman when he wanted.
Prison social worker Bill Sutcliffe described “Chopper” Read as a “great survivor and a great entrepreneur”.
Another mate, Craig, who declared himself “an old criminal like Chopper”, spoke of a man with a code of honour.
“I’ll give Mark one thing, he never robbed old people and he never touched kids.”
Cameron Miller, whose son Shaun made a close friend of Read before dying last year of a heart disease, said he would always remember “a good man with a big heart”.
Others spoke of “an utter gentleman”, a talented artist and a champion of the underdog.
By his own admission, though, Read, who was never convicted of murder, was a gentleman who killed as many as seven people.
If he wasn’t talking bullshit.