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12 April 1912
Mile End, London, England
|Died||12 March 1996(aged 83)|
|Other names||Jack Spot|
Jack "Spot" Comer (12 April 1912 – 12 March 1996) was an English gangster during the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s.
Born Jacob Colmore in Mile End, London the youngest of four children, Comer's father was a poor Jewish tailor's machinist who had moved to London with his wife from Łódź, Poland in 1903. To assimilate more into English society, the Comacho family changed their name from Comacho to Colmore, and later to Comer. His mother's maiden name was Lifschinsky.
Jack Comer grew up in a Jewish ghetto street in Fieldgate Mansions, Whitechapel, along the west side of Myrdle Street, across from the Irish in terraced houses along the east side. At age of seven Jack had joined his first gang, which was made up of boys from the Jewish side of Myrdle Street who fought their Catholic rivals from the other end of the street. "Spot" soon started being called "spotty" because he had a big black mole on his left cheek.
"Spot" Comer claimed to have taken part in the Battle of Cable Street. In his version of events, Spot and his mob charged into the fascists with full power injuring as many Blackshirts and police as possible. "Spot" found himself alone and was surrounded by police with truncheons. He was badly beaten and sent to hospital, then prison. However, the Battle of Cable Street was fought virtually entirely between police and Jewish communists, the reason for this was that police had directed the Blackshirts away from the planned route of the march. Mosley instead held his rally in Hyde Park, making Comer's story extremely unlikely. In the post-war era however Comer was involved in funding the 43 Group, a Jewish street gang that clashed with the equally violent supporters of the Union Movement and other more minor far-right groups.
Comer allegedly financed and masterminded the raid on BOAC's secure warehouse at Heathrow Airport, on 28 July 1948. The raid was foiled by the Flying Squad in what became known as 'The Battle of Heathrow".
Decline and later years
Spot's control of the East End rackets waned in 1952 when Comer's former partner, gangster Billy Hill, was released from prison after Jack Spot's failed £1.25 million heist on Heathrow Airport. Off-course bookmaking was also about to become legalized at this time, creating another dent in Spot's income.
In 1954 Comer attacked Sunday People crime journalist Duncan Webb and was fined £50. He was accused of possession of a knuckle-duster and convicted of grievous bodily harm. In 1955 he was arrested following a knife fight with Albert Dimes. That Spot was cleared of the stabbing charge, he put down to ‘the greatest lawyer in history’, his barrister Rose Heilbron.
In 1956, Spot and his then wife Rita were attacked outside their Paddington home - by "Mad" Frankie Fraser and Bobby Warren. Both Fraser and Warren were given seven years in prison. Spot "retired" and progressively withdrew from crime.
Man of a Thousand Cuts is the only official biography of Jack Spot. Written by iconic pulp-fiction novelist Hank Janson (pseudonym of Stephen D. Frances) and published in 1958, the book is a dramatic retelling of Jack Spot’s extraordinary career in organized crime between the 1930s and 1950s. The book was commissioned following the 1955 publication of Boss of Britain’s Underworld, an autobiography of Spot’s chief rival Billy Hill. Through the book, Spot hoped to craft a legacy by capitalizing on the public’s fascination with major gangland personalities.
Man of a Thousand Cuts was first published by Alexander Moring, Ltd.. The book rights are now owned by Telos Publishing. The film option rights are owned by Kingsway Films Ltd.
- Graham Macklin, Very Deeply Dyed in Black, IB Tauris, 2007, p. 53
- TVillains' Paradise: A History of Britain's Post-War Underworld: From the spivs to the Krays (John Murray 2006) ISBN 0-7195-6344-5. (Pegasus 2006) ISBN 1-933648-17-1.
- The Times, News in Brief, 19 November 1954
- The Times, Soho Wounding Charge Two Men For Trial, 30 August 1955
- Brenda Hale, ‘Heilbron, Dame Rose (1914–2005)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Jan 2009; online edn, Jan 2011, accessed 5 Feb 2012
- Morton, James. Gangland Bosses: The Lives of Jack Spot and Billy Hill. London, 2004.
- Clarkson, Wensley. Hit 'Em Hard Jack Spot, King of the Underworld. HarperCollins Publishers ISBN 0-00-712441-4