Australian gangster 'Chopper' dies from cancer

SYDNEY (AFP) - Infamous Australian crime figure turned author Mark "Chopper" Read died on Wednesday after a lengthy battle with cancer, his manager said.

Mr Read, who shot to worldwide fame after the 2000 film "Chopper" starring Eric Bana about his violent life, was being treated at the Royal Melbourne Hospital for liver cancer. He was 58.

"I am deeply saddened to confirm the death of Mark Brandon Read, known widely throughout Australia and the world as 'Chopper'," manager Andrew Parisi said in a statement.

Read in the past has claimed to have been involved in the killing of 19 people but was never convicted of murder. He first revealed his illness in April 2012.

"Looks like the big C has finally bitten. Let's see how we go," he tweeted at the time.

"I've got liver cancer. They say there's no way out of it."

Mr Read, who spent 23 years of his life in jail, was a celebrity in Australia after retiring from a life of crime to write novels, including 1993's "How to Shoot Friends and Influence People".

During his criminal career, he says he was stabbed seven times, shot once, run over by a car, had a claw hammer embedded in his head, and was made to dig his own grave.

His most notorious act was persuading a fellow inmate to hack off both his (Read's) ears so he could gain access to a prison's mental health wing during a war between rival factions.

Mr Parisi said that despite his criminal history, Mr Read had lived quietly in Melbourne for more than 15 years with his wife and two young sons, working as a writer, painter and public speaker and paying his taxes.

"At the time of his death, we ask that people reflect on how Mark was able to overcome his past and, after more than 23 years in prison, find a way to re-enter 'normal' society," Mr Parisi said.

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