A former East End gangster that knew Dave Courtney, the hard-man-turned-actor that took his own life on Sunday morning, has revealed the hilarious antics the “larger than life” criminal got up to in the infamous Belmarsh Prison.
Stephen Gillen, himself a gangland tough nut, told Express.co.uk he knew Courtney for “quite some years” and spoke to him as recently as a month ago.
Gillen, now a successful author, businessman and motivational speaker, spoke fondly of the former mobster: “David was a good guy, I always liked him. There were some who would have a different view.
“I really know what it’s like to be out there with a lot of exposure in that kind of way. There’s always some people who would like to throw stones who don’t understand the real truth about things.
“I was in Belmarsh with David years ago. When we was on the book, we was Category A’s there.”
Whilst in the high-security facility, Courtney was known for joking around and bringing smiles to the faces of the other inmates.
Gillen told this website of the big-time criminal: “He was always a really, really funny guy. He had a wicked sense of humour and he was always a gentleman.”
He added: “He was just someone who would come out with the weirdest, strangest stuff, he loved to shock.
“One time in Belmarsh he put himself on top of the hot plate there, you know with the circle the food and all that. And he wrapped himself up in this kind of thing and he said ‘right guv, one to go’ and things like that, he was as funny as anything. He was a practical joker.”
Courtney and Gillen were well acquainted with legendary crook, branded Britain’s most notorious criminal, Charles Bronson.
Gillen explained that Courtney was an advocate for the release of Bronson, who has been in prison for nearly 50 years.
He said: “David knew Charlie, like me, back in the day. We knew all the same kind of friends. Charlie Bronson was certainly one of them.
“He knew Charlie well, he always spoke well of Charlie and his plight and everything else and how he should be released and stuff like that.”
Express.co.uk found Gillen in a reflective mood after the death of his friend, who shot himself over the weekend.
He said: “His death has come as a real real shock you know. I know he had some problems with his cancer and his arthritis. It’s a real real loss and he’ll be sadly missed.
“Last time I spoke to him was about a month ago… he sounded well and he sounded good and he was up for it.”
Gillen has transformed himself from gangster to public speaker, business tycoon and author, and his book, The Monkey Puzzle Tree, charts his remarkable escape from the underworld of criminal gangs.
The Roar Media Creative founder Gillen, who played a starring role in the Sky documentary ‘The Essex Murders’, said he is now in discussion with film producers about making a “trilogy” of movies about the ups and downs of his life.
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