Dave Courtney, a former London gangster who has died aged 64, was known as “Yellow Pages” for his criminal connections, says The Daily Telegraph. The index to his memoirs – serialised in a tabloid newspaper under the headline “I STUCK A FORK IN HIS HEAD” – was littered with the names of former associates: Caesar the Geezer, Fred the Head, Jimmy Five Bellies. In 1995, Reggie Kray asked him to oversee security for his brother Ronnie’s funeral. Courtney recruited a small army of bouncers – “With this lot,” he mused, “I could have invaded Poland” – and wore a floor-length, silk-lined Versace coat that made him look, in his own words, “like Darth Vader”.
Born in Bermondsey, southeast London to respectable working-class parents, Courtney started out by supplying security guards for London nightclubs and (somewhat forcefully) collecting debts. He soon built up a lengthy rap sheet, serving a year in Belmarsh for an incident involving “six Chinese waiters, a meat cleaver and a Samurai sword”, and once trying to “steal a spider monkey from Crystal Palace Zoo”. But he loved the spotlight: he turned up for one court case dressed as a jester; after being acquitted for murder in another case, he announced on the court steps that he was, in fact, guilty. He also loved what he saw as the “glamour” of criminal life. In 1999, “dripping in gold bling”, he attended Ronnie Biggs’s 70th birthday party in Rio de Janeiro, with a card from the notorious prisoner Charles Bronson. “For want of a better word, it’s Romantic,” Courtney said, tears in his eyes. “I feel like I’m living a part of history.”