Freddie Mills was a much loved sportsman and celebrity. His death remains a mystery, unconfirmed as a suicide or a gangland hit? In his first thirteen fights he won twelve and lost one.
Freddie Mills’ Violent Career and Personal Life
Against heavyweight Jack London he stopped him after ten rounds. Blood streamed from cuts over both eyes. Though the real action came when he was outside of the ring.
His boxing career
Freddie Mills was Britain’s biggest boxing idol in the post-war period, as well as a successful nightclub owner. He began fighting in fairground booths and at venues on the south coast of England before making his professional debut in 1936. Mills excelled first as a middleweight and then as a light-heavyweight.
He was also capable of stepping up to heavyweight contests. Mills was a natural athlete and had a fearless reputation that made him one of the most popular fighters of his day. In 1940, he joined the Royal Air Force and became a corporal physical training instructor before rising to sergeant rank.
During his service, he continued to fight professionally. His first big fight was against Jock McAvoy, who held the British and Commonwealth middleweight title. The fight took place at the Royal Albert Hall and was expected to be a barnburner.
Mills won a clear decision, and his subsequent fights were all at light-heavyweight. After that, he stopped Scotland’s Ken Shaw in seven rounds, despite giving away over 30lbs in weight. He then fought at the White Hart Lane in Tottenham, London.
Where he met Len Harvey for the British and Commonwealth light-heavyweight championship. It was a close fight, but Mills won by knocking Harvey clean out of the ring and onto the grass.
Three weeks after that fight, he challenged the US light-heavyweight champion Gus Lesnevich for his crown in a huge show at London’s White City stadium. Unfortunately, Mills suffered a bad headache in the third round and subsequently lost on points. He later claimed that he believed that he had suffered a mild brain hemorrhage.
He had also fought a number of other notable opponents in the intervening years. Including Jack London, who was a future British heavyweight champion. He was also a shrewd promoter who brought in top acts to his Soho club.
He used to invite members of the criminal underworld to attend. This wasn’t unusual given the time, and the rumor has it that Mills was blackmailed or threatened with by the mob.
His career Outside of the Ring
Following his retirement from boxing, he was a regular guest on various light entertainment shows and appeared in a number of British films as well. He was also a well-known sports commentator. His early film appearances included Emergency Call, a 1952 Nettlefold Films production.
It tells the story of a bank clerk who tells a white lie to avoid paying his bus fare, setting off a series of disastrous events. He also had a recurring role as the presenter of the BBC pop music show Six-Five Special from February 1957 until March 1958. During this period, he also made appearances on other light entertainment programs, including Rooftop Rendezvous and The Dickie Henderson Show.
Another notable role came in 1955 when he played Harry the Scar in the comedy film Fun at St. Fanny’s. He also acted in the drama Chain of Events, directed by Gerald Thomas and Peter Rogers. The film was based on the play by Leo McKern and features such Pinewood regulars as Joan Hickson and Cyril Chamberlain in supporting roles.
During his time as a TV and film star, he also invested in property, which saw him purchase a number of houses and flats. He also owned a Chinese restaurant and a cafe in Peckham, which he later converted into a nightclub called the Freddie Mills Nite Spot. The club was a popular venue for gay men and dames in the Soho area of London.
His Dark Secrets
In 2002, journalist Michael Litchfield published a book that claimed that Freddie Mills was the serial killer known as Jack the Stripper. Litchfield based on circumstantial evidence, and Litchfield was never able to prove his allegations. However, this didn’t stop the rumors from taking on a life of their own.
Theories claimed that Mills was involved in the Hammersmith nude murders. They also claimed that he had had a sexual relationship with singer Michael Holliday. Some think he was a victim of a murder or staged suicide by Ronnie and Reggie Kray.
Despite a charmed public image, Freddie Mills had quite a dark side. He was a gangster with debts and a secret life as a bisexual. Many claim he had a depraved past as the serial killer known as the Hammersmith Stripper.
It’s a shocking revelation, one that led to the collapse of his family business and a “suicide” marked as a cover-up by the police. Freddie’s death was a shock to his legion of fans and close friends, who did not accept the official explanation of suicide. There were several holes in the theory.
He borrowed the rifle that shot him two weeks prior to his death. No one knew why the gun was not in working order at the time of his death. His body and the rifle were both removed from the scene without police involvement, without explanation.
In the days after Freddie’s death, the police received anonymous ’tips’ and letters alleging they knew who killed him. The theory at the time was that he made a stand against West End protection racketeers who were forcing business owners to pay protection money or face violence.
It is possible that he did have an enemy who wanted to take over his nightclub. The rumored enemy did not have the “requirements” to take over the club. Alternatively, the nightclub may have been an unwitting pawn in a larger conspiracy, and his death a form of blackmail.
Another theory claimed that the Kray twins and their associates, who were attempting to buy his club, staged the death. A former South London gangster, Jimmy Tippet, interviewed three generations of criminals and boxers for his book on the subject. After his interviews, Tippet believes this theory to be true.
He argues there is a deliberate reason why the gun did not work at the time of Freddie’s death. He suggests that a light thud probably dislodged the firing pin and caused a fatal explosion of clinker in his eye. This explains why it could not go off when fired and also how it could penetrate his heart and brain.
While boxing was his biggest claim to fame, he also enjoyed success as an actor and TV presenter. He hosted the popular music show Six-Five Special and appeared on stage and in several films. He also owned nightclubs and had a variety of other (shady) business interests.
However, on July 25th, 1965, police found him shot dead in his car. He died after a gunshot to the eye with a fairground rifle. His wife Chrissie discovered him after reporting him missing from their home. The police, shockingly, ruled the death a suicide.
This unpopular ruling made a number of theories circulate. These involved debts, gangsters, and police corruption. Many suggested Mills was a serial killer known as the Hammersmith Stripper or Jack the Stripper. The “facts” pointed to different outcomes.
Regardless, Freddie was a successful entertainer who was well-liked by the public while he was alive. He was married with two children and a loyal member of the Freemasons. Mills was also a prominent figure in London’s gangland scene and had close connections to the Kray twins.
Between them, the limelight, and his wife, he had his hands complete. After retiring from the ring, he somehow packed even more on his plate. He took on several jobs in the entertainment industry, including TV, presenting, and running his own legendary nightclub.
Despite his many successes, he found himself heavily in debt, which led to his death. The Krays were one of the most feared criminal gangs in 1960s London. It is possible that they were responsible for his death, but other gangsters in the city likely had an interest as well.
In fact, Soho was teeming with gangsters and corrupt police officers, and any of them could have had a reason to kill Freddie. Some believe he was killed by a gangster who wanted to take over his club. Others think he was mysteriously murdered or even died by his own hand.
It is possible that he suffered from the late stages of chronic traumatic encephalopathy. CTE is a degenerative brain condition, usually caused by repeated blows to the head. Thanks to how rudimentary the technology was back then, we will never know whether he had CTE or any other mental disorders for that matter.