Notorious Aussie gangster Chopper makes gory final confessions

SYDNEY (AFP) - Notorious Australian crime figure-turned-author Mark "Chopper" Read offered a callous confession to four murders, including two unsolved cases, in his final interview just weeks before dying from cancer.

Read, who shot to international fame after the 2000 film "Chopper" starring Eric Bana was made about his violent life, spent 23 years in jail but was never convicted of murder - despite claiming over the years to have been involved in the killing of 19 people.

In a tell-all interview with Australian current affairs programme 60 Minutes screened on Sunday night, the career criminal claimed to have carried out four murders, saying he was determined to set the record straight.

The confession was recorded just 16 days before his death earlier this month from liver cancer.

"This is the last interview, the last picture show," said Read, who found fame in Australia after swapping his life of crime for novel-writing, including 1993's "How to Shoot Friends and Influence People".

"Four, that's all you're getting, that's it. I haven't killed any more than that so don't try to make out that I have," he said.

In a candid, often glib, recounting of the murders - three shootings and the hanging of a child-killer in his jail cell - Read denied feeling any remorse and said he felt "nothing at all" during the killings.

Among his alleged victims were two unsolved murders - the shooting of influential union member Desmond Costello outside a Melbourne hotel in 1971 and the death of Sydney Collins, national president of the Outlaws motorcycle gang who has been missing since 2002.

Read was just 17 when he claimed to have shot Costello and said he "can't really tell you why, I haven't the faintest idea and ... I couldn't care less", although he claimed that the unionist had been "insulting" him.

Collins was killed after he turned Read in for shooting him in the stomach over a money dispute, which he dismissed in the interview as a "petty offence".

Read went to jail for six years over the incident and was determined to exact revenge.

He got his chance when Collins showed up to one of his stand-up comedy performances in 2002 and approached him for an autograph afterwards, asking that "bygones be bygones".

"This time I was shooting to kill him," Read said, describing the biker president as an "absolute turd".

"I stuck him in a hole and filled the hole in."

His other two alleged victims were a paedophile child-killer whose death was recorded as a suicide in Pentridge Prison in 1974, and a man known as "Sammy the Turk", who Read was acquitted by a jury of killing after then claiming he shot him in self-defence.

"When I killed Sammy the Turk that wasn't self defence, that was outright...murder," he said.

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

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

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