Gangster Dave Courtney was battling cancer before he was found dead from a gunshot wound with a pillow over his face.
The 64-year-old hardman – who was the inspiration for Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels’ memorable Little Chris enforcer – was found in his famous Camelot Castle pad yesterday.
Courtney had been in high spirits after watching a football match with friends and drinking into the earlier hours of Sunday morning.
But he had been secretly battling cancer and was in pain from the disease and arthritis attacking his body,
His family said in a statement this morning: ‘On October 22 Dave made the decision to ‘stop the ride’.
‘He had lived an incredible, colourful rock n roll life which he touched the hearts of so many.
‘The physical pain of living the lifestyle he chose, especially due to the pain of both cancer and arthritis in his later years, became too much.
‘So, rather than be a burden to his family and friends, he chose to ‘stop the ride’ and take his way out.
The hardman, 64, who was the inspiration for Lock Stock & Two Smoking Barrel’s memorable Little Chris enforcer ended his life in his famous Camelot Castle pad
Dave Courtney with daughter Courtney and wife Jennybean celebrating her music award
Dave Courtney pictured outside his ‘Camelot Castle’ home in October 2022. A lodger found him dead in his bed with a pillow over his face
Scotland Yard is investigating his ‘unexpected’ death and a heavy police presence remains outside his home today
‘In his own immortal words, ‘stop the ride, I want to get off’.’
His friend and lodger Brendan McGirr, 57, had been worried when he did not emerge from his bedroom in his south-east London home.
He went into Courtney’s room to find him in bed, shot through the head, and with the pillow covering his face.
In a podcast interview in August the former enforcer said while he was not looking forward to dying, he would embrace it.
Speaking to Graft Kings, he said: ‘I do believe in something, whatever it is, whatever it is, whatever his name is, whether he has got a halo
‘I’m not anti it, I’m not a non believer. I am the f****** afterlife
I’m not saying I am running away, or looking forward to it.
‘I am actually going to embrace having a little lie down and a rest.
‘It wouldn’t frighten me, I think I’d be smiling before my head hit the floor.’
Dave Courtney ‘s daughter Lillie Eliza Berr poses up with her father in this candid photograph
Police outside Courtney’s London home this morning after he was found dead on Sunday
Dave Courtney on afterlife and looking forward to having a ‘lie down and a rest’ on the podcast
Sources said the gangster had been wearing a glove and had used a Glock 9mm pistol, a type of gun favoured by the criminal underworld.
A statement had appeared on Courtney’s Twitter page on Sunday announcing he ‘tragically took his own life’ at his Plumstead home ‘with a firearm’.
Scotland Yard is investigating his ‘unexpected’ death and a heavy police presence remains outside his home today. No arrests have been made.
It comes just three months after Courtney was hauled to court after police found weapons in his home.
He was charged with housemate McGirr, 57, who runs an industry prop company, after knuckledusters, daggers and throwing stars were spotted.
Pictures inside the property which featured in magazines had shown weapons on the wall.
But on December 29, 2022, when local police visited the address to discuss Courtney’s New Year organised bare knuckle fights, they took exception.
Courtney went on to feature in films such as Six Bend Trapp, Clubbing to Death and The Dead Sleep Easy
Pictured, the outside of ‘Camelot Castle’ showing the British flags, golden lions and a mural decorating it
Dave Courtney makes a cup of tea in his home, in his remarkably ordinary kitchen – In one unassuming corner of South East London
They returned half-an-hour later with a sergeant and identified various weapons scattered around the property.
Courtney and McGirr, who say they had no idea they were illegal and had them for years, were hauled before Bromley Magistrates’ Court in July accused of possession of offensive weapons.
Courtney – well-known for his white suit – beat the charge, which was withdrawn.
That happened after film props company boss McGill pleaded guilty to illegally possessing the items.
Speaking outside court after the charge was dropped against him, Courtney looked relieved.
He told filmmaker Liam Galvin: ‘Not guilty, but I wasn’t actually guilty anyway.
‘I’m proud of my friend for holding his hands up.
‘Don’t get a knuckleduster in your drawer, they are against the law now, they’ll get you nicked.’
It made his death this weekend all the more difficult to understand.
The Metropolitan Police said it was called to a property on Chestnut Rise, in Plumstead, south-east London, and is investigating the ‘unexpected’ death. No arrests have been made
Courtney’s friend and lodger Brendan McGirr, 57, pictured here in July, had been worried when he did not emerge from his bedroom in his south-east London home
Pictures of the ex-gangster’s home show a number of weapons used to decorate the walls
Courtney was one of Britain’s best-known gangsters and made a name for himself quickly
Courtney was only nine-years-old when the London-based double act were jailed but he claims to have arranged the security for Ronnie Kray’s funeral back in 1995
Courtney had enjoyed the ‘full works’ having a three course meal at The Valley watching Charlton, who beat Reading 4-0 in a League One match.
A Facebook post on his profile showed him dressed in a white shirt, blue waistcoat and red tie as he posed and smiled with friends.
He wrote: ‘An wat a cool cool day it’s all turning out to be.’
Neighbour Sheila Wellcome said he was suffering with arthritis and could barely roll a cigarette.
Courtney was one of Britain’s best-known gangsters and made a name for himself through his affiliation with famous London East End hardmen such as the Krays, Roy Shaw and Lenny McLean.
Ms Wellcome, 68, told The Sun he appeared in good spirits when she handed him a cigarette last night and he was laughing and joking before he said he was tired and went to bed.
‘I just can’t believe I’m never going to see him again. It’s so sad,’ she said.
She said police would occasionally come to his home to check his 12 decommissioned firearms which he treated as ornaments.
The grandmother added: ‘He seemed happy. He’d just got his driving licence back and was getting a new Peugeot which he was really excited about.’
Dave – who appeared in films including The Krays – had to go to court in July over weapons
Courtney watches his beloved Charlton Athletic beat Reading 4-0 at The Valley in what would be his last social media post
Courtney posted pictures of himself smiling with his friends and spoke of having a ‘cool cool’ day
He said he had a ‘full works three course meal’. In less than 24 hours later he shot himself at his south-east London home
Courtney was only nine-years-old when the London-based double act were jailed but he claims to have arranged the security for Ronnie Kray’s funeral back in 1995.
In a statement on his official social media accounts, a spokesman said Courtney shot himself at home.
The Metropolitan Police said officers attended a property on Chestnut Rise, in Plumstead, south-east London. The man was pronounced dead at the scene and his death is being treated as unexpected and is under investigation. No arrests have been made and his family have been informed, the force said.
Born in Bermondsey, south London, Courtney became infamous as a knuckle-duster wielding debt collector, previously claiming to have been shot, stabbed and had his nose almost bitten off – before they sewed it back on.
He claimed to have been found not guilty in 19 separate trials but in January 2009 he was given an 18-month conditional discharge at Bristol Crown Court, on a charge of possessing live ammunition.
The prolific gangster is said to have been the inspiration for Vinnie Jones’ character Big Chris in Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.
A number of blunt bladed items are used as decorations in the popular Londoner’s home
Courtney, who has died aged 64 after shooting himself at his London home, was one of Britain’s best-known gangsters
Courtney was only nine-years-old when the London-based double act The Krays were jailed but he claims to have arranged the security for Ronnie Kray’s funeral (pictured) back in 1995
In 2004 he was cleared of attacking his wife Jennifer Pinto over an alleged lesbian affair. Four years earlier, he walked free from the Old Bailey after he was cleared of being part of a plot to plant cocaine on an innocent woman.
During the trial he was named as a registered police informant using the alias ‘Tommy Mack’. But Courtney insisted he simply took advantage of the system to disguise a relationship with a corrupt detective.
‘I have never been a grass,’ he said. He is also known to have spent time in Belmarsh prison.
In recent times he became somewhat of a celebrity figure, making a living from appearances in numerous television documentaries and a number of low-budget British gangster films. He also starred in, directed and produced his own film, Hell To Pay.
He went on to feature in films such as Six Bend Trapp, Clubbing to Death and The Dead Sleep Easy.
Courtney published six books – including titles such as Dodgy Dave’s Little Black Book – and recorded a version of ‘I Fought The Law’ with Scottish pop-punks Mute.
He referred to himself as Dave Courtney OBE – ‘One Big Ego’ – and has a painted depiction of himself as a knight in his south London house.
Today tributes for the much-loved gangster have poured in on social media.
Courtney with his wife Jennifer, aka JennyBean, at the Elvis Forever concert in Hyde Park, London in 2010
Courtney shows off a knuckle-duster in 2001 at the Manhattan Cafe in Woolwich, south east London, the venue for a reception after the marriage of Saira Rehman to Britain’s most dangerous inmate Charles Bronson, at Milton Keynes Prison
Courtney attends the funeral of criminal Bruce Richard Reynolds – the mastermind behind the 1963 Great Train Robbery – in March 2013
Courtney starring in ITV’s Celebrity Villain. Tributes for the much-loved gangster have poured in on social media
Born in Bermondsey, south London, Courtney became infamous as a knuckle-duster wielding debt collector
Courtney made a name for himself through his affiliation with famous London East End hardmen
Writer and author Rocky Troiani said on social media: ‘This is a post I never thought I would be writing. The loss of Dave Courtney is beyond words so heartbreaking to write.
‘Dave had been a close friend for many years as well as a great support for my charity work as photo shows here and even for a little sick girl just couple years ago dressed a father Christmas.
‘Dave had a heart of pure gold and would help anyone that genuinely needed it. I will miss my Christmas eve call this year. Such a sad loss and one that has broken many hearts too. God bless you sir you will be so sadly missed.’
Former boxer Ben Doughty was taken in by Courtney in 2016 when he ‘pretty much lost everything’. He posted an emotional tribute to his friend alongside a black and white photo of the pair standing together.
Mr Doughty wrote: ‘If I hadn’t known Dave personally, I might have taken a dim view of the whole ‘celebrity gangster’ thing but he was a great guy with a good heart who never took himself too seriously.’
He added: ‘Dave took me in at his famous ‘Castle Camelot’ with no questions asked. When I arrived on a Saturday morning, he gave me a hug and a kiss on the cheek before saying, ‘If you’re Joey’s [Pyle, Courtney’s friend] then you’re MINE. And I don’t want to see anyone go hungry in my house, help yourself to anything in the fridge’.’
Heartbroken close friend Shinobi Ryder said life would not be the same without him and spoke of how he was planning to come visit Courtney.
‘A part of me is missing today,’ the web graphic designer and music artists wrote. ‘Dave is gone and my soul feels a bit empty. He was a big part of my life and family. I can’t breathe.’
Not-for-profit organisation Autistic Inclusive Meets, where Courtney had been a patron since 2020, said they were heartbroken by his death.
‘His commitment to protecting autistic and ADHD teens from peer pressure, gangs, and the lack of support was unwavering,’ they wrote on their Facebook page. ‘We’re proud to have had him as our patron, and his absence is devastating.
‘Our condolences go out to Dave’s loved ones. He was adored by our attendees, and his legacy is a huge part of AIM. We’ll miss him deeply.’
Courtney at the Cafe De Paris launch party for the opening of the Licence to Thrill ride
Celebrity gangster-turned-actor Dave Courtney, who referred to himself as ‘the most feared man in Britain’, published six books – including titles such as Dodgy Dave’s Little Black Book
Courtney, 63, was said to have been the inspiration for Vinnie Jones’ character Big Chris (pictured) in Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels
Bareknuckle boxer Scott Dixon was in Malta with Courtney just over a month ago. He said Courtney was due to be a special guest at his Bare Knuckle Boxing bout this week where he is fighting for the Charles Bronson belt.
He said 10 bells will be rung ahead of his fight in Courtney’s memory.
Another wrote: ‘Some called him a gangster, some called him a villain I’m sure he was called an awful lot of things. As for me, for 15 years I called him my friend.
‘Truly and deeply saddened to hear he has left this world. RIP my good friend Dave Courtney. I will miss you.’
Making his final footsteps online, Dave shared a photos of himself, surrounded by friends, who beamed into the camera as they enjoyed a day out at Charlton Athletic FC.
Looking jolly in the pictures, the former gangster wrote: ‘At Charlton today. Full works today three course meal and our man James company is Sponsor for the game. Billingham communications … an what a cool cool day it’s all turning out to be.’
In an earlier video, he was seen telling fans how to ‘introduce a little class into their homes’ with candles.
‘It will make your whole road smell nice,’ he said. ‘So much so do I believe their good if you’re unhappy with it bring it back to my house.’
He goes on to blow a kiss into the camera, signing off with a gleeful chuckle.
The video appeared to be made outside of his home ‘Camelot Castle’ in south-east London.
His home became a local landmark over the years, decked out with union flags and flags of St George.
It also has a huge side wall mural of the ex-gangster depicted as a knight sitting on a knuckle duster-themed throne surrounded by his men.