I only devote a page or so to the theory that British light-heavyweight boxer Freddie Mills was the Nude Killer in The Hunt for the 60s’ Ripper. The reasons for my scepticism? Mills never appeared in any police reports as a suspect and there are simply no facts connecting him to the crimes.
But there have always been rumours. In the past week newspaper reports have brought these back with a vengeance. A former Sun reporter, Michael Litchfield, has written a book called The Secret Life of Freddie Mills. He claims Mills admitted his guilt to Detective Chief Superintendent John du Rose.
Du Rose was running the biggest manhunt in British criminal history. But this new book suggests du Rose let a potential self-confessed serial killer go free to get his affairs in order because he and Mills were Freemasons and trusted each other.
Apparently, the two men agreed that Mills would hand himself in and du Rose would somehow assist in his plea to have charges dropped from murder to manslaughter. That’s manslaughter six or seven times…
Mills found shot to death
Instead of surrendering himself for arrest, Mills is said to have instead hired the Kray twins to kill him. He even gave them the rifle with which the killing was to be done.
The idea that the man known during his fight career as ‘Fearless Freddie’ took a contract out on himself just sounds too far-fetched. Why is hiring a hitman to kill you less frightening than doing it yourself.
Mills, born in 1919 in Bournemouth, learned his trade fighting in fairground booths. He had his first pro bout aged 16. He eventually became World Light Heavyweight champ when he beat American Gus Lesnevich at the second attempt in front of 46,000 spectators at White City.
Mills became a popular celebrity after his retirement in 1950, appearing on TV and in films. He was shot to death on 24 July 1965, in his car in a cul-de-sac behind a Charing Cross Road club he co-owned. This was five months after the final ‘Jack the Stripper’ killing,
Salacious stories appeared – gangsters killed him in a feud over his club, he’d been arrested for indecency, he was the Nude Killer.
Police officers were even among those spreading the stories. I quote in my book reporter Brian Collett, who covered the story at the time, that he was told Mills was the killer by a PC.
The Daily Mail‘s report on the Litchfield book says detectives were beginning to look behind Mills’ popular public persona. It also claims he was spotted several times in red-light districts and came under suspicion during the investigation of the final victim, Bridie O’Hara, in February 1965.
Is the Freddie Mills story true?
It’s a great story. The Krays, Freemason deals, the celeb with a secret life as a serial killer. But is it true?
I spent a lot of time at the London Metropolitan Museum and the British Museum looking through reports and documents from the 1960s during my research. John du Rose and his deputy Bill Baldock never once mention Freddie Mills as a suspect.
Litchfield is said to have been told that Mills paid the Krays to have him killed by a police source, Bob Berry. He in turn heard it from gangster Frankie Fraser. No one likes to gossip like coppers and their underworld contacts.
Having spent a lot of time researching the investigation, I would love to know who the killer was. I’m sure many will enjoy this new book, but these claims don’t seem at all convincing to me.
No foul play in the Freddie Mills’ case
Du Rose is said to have tape-recorded Mills’ confession, but this has been conveniently lost or destroyed.
The source of these claims is a criminal and there is no evidence that Mills was ever a suspect. How could he feel ‘the noose tightening’ from a police hunt and confess when he was never in the frame?
The facts are Freddie Mills borrowed the rifle with which he was shot from a friend. It was found with his body in his car. He was having money troubles and may have been depressed.
A post-mortem by Professor Keith Simpson concluded there was no foul play.
Unless there are secret police files that say otherwise, Mills was not the killer. For now, I’ll stick with my conclusion in The Hunt for the 60s’ Ripper.