They might not have said it so openly or loudly while he was alive, but they made no bones about it at his memorial service.
“Chopper” was a “bulls*** artist”.
Mark Brandon Read, once a feared criminal who served more than 23 years behind bars, a man who had his own ears cut off by a fellow inmate and who was certainly responsible for plenty more gruesome behaviour, made a lot of it up.
Reading from a script prepared by Read’s family, the celebrant who conducted Thursday’s service in Melbourne told of the time when Chopper was interviewed in Pentridge Prison by a young journalist.
“Some of what he told that young reporter was true, some borrowed and some of it was absolute bulls***,” he said.
The tale Read told turned into a book that sold more than 300,000 copies and, as the 80-or-so mourners heard, “the book became the basis of a legend”.
It was a legend from which Read made a living once he served his final prison term, a 13-year stretch in Hobart’s Risdon for shooting a bloke in the stomach.
Read, who died last week aged 58, was buried at a private funeral on Monday.
According to his wishes, Thursday’s public service was held to give anyone who wanted to say anything a chance to get it off their chest.
Not many seized the opportunity and those who did spoke of a misunderstood kid who probably suffered from ADHD and who could be a thorough gentleman when he wanted.
Prison social worker Bill Sutcliffe described “Chopper” Read as a “great survivor and a great entrepreneur”.
Another mate, Craig, who declared himself “an old criminal like Chopper”, spoke of a man with a code of honour.
“I’ll give Mark one thing, he never robbed old people and he never touched kids.”
Cameron Miller, whose son Shaun made a close friend of Read before dying last year of a heart disease, said he would always remember “a good man with a big heart”.
Others spoke of “an utter gentleman”, a talented artist and a champion of the underdog.
By his own admission, though, Read, who was never convicted of murder, was a gentleman who killed as many as seven people.
If you can believe it.