Leonard Ernest Read
31 March 1925
|Died||7 April 2020(aged 95)|
|Occupation||Former policeman and boxing administrator|
(m. 1951; div. 1979)
Read was born in Nottingham, the son of Leonard Read Snr., who worked for a leather company, and his wife Ida (née Morris). His mother died when he was four and he was sent to live with her brother. After their father remarried, Leonard and his two sisters and brother returned to live with their father and stepmother.
Read did well in school, always being one of the top three pupils in junior and senior school. He played the lead role in a school production of David Copperfield. He also learned to box, winning his first medal in 1937. He later joined the Grundy boxing club, where he was nicknamed "Nipper". Read had hoped to attend Nottingham High School and passed the entrance exam, but his father could not afford the uniform and fees for books. He left school at 14 and later in life regretted not being able to stretch himself academically.
Read could not join the Nottingham City Police which had a minimum height requirement of 6 feet (1.8 m). Instead, he joined the Metropolitan Police in 1947, which had a minimum height requirement of 5 feet 8 inches (1.73 m), telling the medical examiner he was still growing. Because of his small stature he was taken out of the uniform branch and made an aide to CID. His acting ability came in useful and he worked in disguise in several roles, on the basis that nobody would believe he was a police officer.
As a detective constable, Read was sent to Harlesden, where he worked under Bert "Suits" Hannam. He was then transferred to Paddington, where he worked with senior first-class sergeant Tommy Butler. Because of Butler's secretive nature, he had to learn from the other first-class sergeant, Frank Gloyne. While at Paddington he was involved on the periphery of the Jack Spot case, where the "King of the Underworld" sought protection from his rival Billy Hill.
Read was promoted to detective sergeant in 1958 and transferred to Chelsea to replace Raymond Purdy, who had been shot by the burglar and blackmailer Guenther Podola. While there he was seconded to the Buckinghamshire Constabulary after the Great Train Robbery. It was his introduction to the investigation of a major crime, but also to the infighting between officers investigating such a case. After this case he was promoted to detective inspector at Leman Street. He was detective chief superintendent of the Met's Murder Squad in 1967, and the efforts of detectives led by him were responsible for the conviction of Ronnie and Reggie Kray.
Read held various positions as a boxing administrator, including chairman of the British Boxing Board of Control from 1976 to 2000, vice president of the World Boxing Council and vice-president of the World Boxing Association from 1989 to 2001. He also published an autobiography with the ghostwriter James Morton, Nipper (1991); the book was republished in 2001 under the name Nipper Read: The Man Who Nicked the Krays.
Read married Marion Millar in 1951; the couple divorced in 1979. In 1980, he married Pat Allen who had worked with him on the Kray enquiry.
In popular culture
- Read was the basis for the character Harry "Snapper" Organs, portrayed by Terry Jones, in the satirical documentary on the Piranha Brothers (themselves modelled on the Richardson Gang) from the first episode, second series of Monty Python's Flying Circus ("Face the Press").
- Read was portrayed by Christopher Eccleston in the film Legend (2015).
- Read was portrayed by Danny Midwinter in the films The Rise of the Krays and The Fall of the Krays.
- "City detective who helped crack case". Nottingham Post. 11 July 2014. Archived from the original on 11 July 2014.
- "Read, Leonard Ernest, (Nipper), (born 31 March 1925), National Security Adviser to the Museums and Galleries Commission, 1978–86". Who's Who & Who Was Who. Retrieved 8 April 2020.
- Morton, James (7 April 2020). "Leonard 'Nipper' Read obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 April 2020.
- Campbell, Duncan (26 November 2014). "'Mad' Frankie Fraser: original hardman who loved to cause panic". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 April 2020.
- "Lest we forget - DS Raymond William Purdy". Metropolitan Police Federation. Metropolitan Police Federation.
- "Connecting the Dots". crimeandinvestigation.co.uk. 9 June 2011. Retrieved 15 January 2021.
- "Nipper: the story of Leonard 'Nipper' Read". WorldCat. Retrieved 8 April 2020.
- "Nipper Read: the man who nicked the Krays". WorldCat. Retrieved 8 April 2020.
- Dodd, Vikram (7 April 2020). "Detective who jailed Kray twins dies 'after contracting coronavirus'". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 April 2020.
- Larsen, Darl (2008). Monty Python's Flying Circus: An Utterly Complete, Thoroughly Unillustrated, Absolutely Unauthorized Guide to Possibly All the References. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 193. ISBN 978-0-8108-6131-2.
- Child, Ben (13 June 2014). "Tom Hardy plays Kray twins in Legend – first image". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 April 2020.