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|??/??/?? - MURDER 3: Mad Axeman Mitchell
'Mad Axeman' Mitchell was a huge, powerful and violent
man, but that did not save him when he became an embarrassment
to the Krays.
Within a few months of the McVitie murder, the twins,
now convinced they were invincible, carried out yet
another bizarre killing.
The victim this time was to be an old friend, Frank
Mitchell. Mitchell was built like a bull. He was six
feet four inches tall and weighed 17 stone. But his
brainpower did not match his physique.
Although he was a daring East End bandit, he kept getting
caught. Feared by staff Catching him was one thing;
holding him was another.
A fanatical bodybuilder and weightlifter, one of his
party tricks was to lift two of the biggest members
of the Kray 'firm' off the ground together, one in each
In jail he was feared by the staff, and was once flogged
for beating a prison officer senseless. In 1955 he was
declared mentally defective and sent to Rampton, a maximum
security psychiatric hospital. Two years later he escaped,
broke into a house and attacked the owner with an iron
When he was recaptured he lashed out at police with
a pair of meat cleavers. Sent to Broadmoor, he again
escaped, broke into another house and attacked the occupants
with an axe. He was quickly recaptured and sentenced
to life. The newspapers dubbed him the 'Mad Axeman'.
He was sent to Dartmoor, where his behaviour suddenly
improved dramatically. He started breeding budgerigars
in his cell, treating them with gentle love and care.
He was allowed out on work parties and was so docile
that by September 1966 he was transferred to the Honour
Party, working outside the jail every day.
Mitchell became legendary, casually strolling off to
local pubs for a pint or two and once taking a taxi
to and from Tavistock, 10 miles away, to buy a budgie
from a pet shop. But Mitchell was unhappy because the
Home Office refused to give him a date for his eventual
When the Krays heard this, they decided to 'spring'
him and bring him to London. It has never been clear
why they did this. One theory was that it was another
demonstration of their absolute power. Another is that
they wanted Mitchell to kill someone on their behalf.
Whichever it was, it was a plan that went badly wrong.
Easy escape On 12 December 1966 Mitchell went on a work
detail with four other prisoners and just one guard
to repair a fence at a firing range on Bagga Tor. At
3.30 p.m. Mitchell asked if he could walk across the
moor to feed some of the wild ponies. His request was
granted. He never came back.
Members of the firm were waiting with a car on a quiet
road nearby to whisk him back to London. His escape
made headlines. While police set up roadblocks throughout
the West Country, Mitchell was already sipping Scotch
with some of his old pals in a flat prepared for him
in Barking Road, East Ham.
But Mitchell had the mind of a 10-year-old boy and was
soon bored with being cooped up in the flat. The Krays
sent over a blonde nightclub hostess called Liza to
keep him company. Mitchell fell madly in love and announced
to his minders that he planned to marry her.
Several days after the escape, two letters in his childish
scrawl were sent to the Times and the Daily Mirror asking
the Home Secretary for a release date. Each letter had
his thumbprint on the bottom to prove his identity.
The Home Secretary appeared on TV, saying nothing could
be done until Mitchell surrendered. The 'Mad Axeman'
was now becoming a real liability. Rumours were spreading
that the Krays had organised his escape.
If he was caught, he might talk in order to get a release
date and be able to marry Liza. Ten days after his escape
he was visited at the flat by Reggie, who told him he
was going to be moved to the country. The next day other
members of the firm arrived in a van to take Mitchell
'to the country'.
They've shot him ... John Dickson, a member of the firm
who later gave evidence against the Krays and who had
been helping to mind Mitchell, later said: "Just
after we shut the door, as Frank walked out to the van,
there was the sound of three gunshots. Liza went hysterical,
shouting They've shot him.
Oh, God, they've shot him.' Then we heard two more shots."
Later Dickson confronted Ronnie Kray about Mitchell.
He said: "Ronnie lost control. He shouted 'He's
f***ing dead. We had to get rid of him; he would have
got us all nicked. We made a mistake getting the bastard
out in the first place.'
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