Dave Courtney’s lodger and lifelong best friend has revealed the ex-gangster shot himself with a pistol because he wanted to ‘go out rock ‘n’ roll style’ instead of continuing his painful battle with prostate cancer.
Brendan McGirr, 57, who found Courtney dead on Sunday morning, revealed the ex-gangster had watched England losing the rugby World Cup semi-final to South Africa on Saturday night before he went to bed.
Laughing, Courtney’s last known words were him ironically joking about England’s last minute loss, telling his pal ‘that’s typical, I’m going to bed’.
Speaking to MailOnline today, Mr McGirr – who had lived with Courtney for 32 years – said Courtney ‘chose to end his life and be in control… he went out rock ‘n’ roll style’. Another friend standing nearby echoed his thoughts, adding ‘the way Dave went is a celebration’.
Mr McGirr said: ‘Dave watched the rugby with me, we both had a chuckle about England losing in the last minute as usual. I said to him I’m off to bed and he said I’m off to bed too and that was the last thing he said to me. I found his body the next morning and he was at total peace. He made a decision, he controlled his life, he controlled his ending and made the decision.
‘He was in exceptional pain so I totally forgive him, totally understand and I am so proud of him for how brave he must have been.’
Pictures of the ex-gangster’s home show that a number of weapons used to decorate the walls
Former London gangster Dave Courtney in Cannes in 2001 to promote two films in which he starred
Courtney in his house ‘Camelot Castle’ in Plumstead in south London
Brendan McGirr, 57, who found Courtney, 64, dead on Sunday morning, recounted the hardman-turned-celebrity’s last moments
Alongside his suffering with cancer, Courtney had been riddled with pain from arthritis and he could not face a future of degenerating discomfort, his loved ones confirmed today.
The cockney gangster, who was found dead from a gunshot wound with a pillow over his face at his famous Camelot Castle pad yesterday morning left ‘no note or anything like that’ but had made a few phone calls, his lifelong pal said.
The hardman – who was the inspiration for Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels’ Big Chris – 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 the disease while pain from his arthritis riddled his body. His family confirmed he made the decision to ‘stop the ride’.
McGirr is among dozens who have paid tribute to the reformed gangster in the last day, describing him ‘the funniest man I have ever been around’ and lived by the motto ‘live every day like it was your last’.
He added: ‘I’ve seen him do many things that are exceptionally brave. Some people have it – I definitely haven’t, I’m a coward, I told him on the day I met him that I would run-off every time there’s a fight but he still had me as his best mate, so what more can I say?
‘Dave turned his life around from crime to working with charities and understanding younger children with ADHD and helped them. It was probably something he suffered as a kid but no one knew about it then.
‘He realised that the older he got, the pain was not going to subside and he was not going to end up in an old people’s home, he weren’t going to be in a wheelchair and in true rock and roll style, he stopped the ride. He wanted to get off and he stopped his ride.
‘If you look at all the tributes there are so many different genres from popstars to porn stars, footballers to politicians, everyone remembers Dave. The only people that didn’t like him, hadn’t met him or he just outwitted them.’
Mr McGirr’s comments come just hours after Courtney’s family confirmed his suicide and his pain living with cancer as well as arthritis.
The hardman – who was the inspiration for Lock Stock & Two Smoking Barrel’s Big Chris – ended his life in his famous Camelot Castle pad
Dave Courtney and wife JennyBean with daughter Courtney celebrating her music award
Dave Courtney ‘s daughter Lillie Eliza Berr poses with her father in this candid photograph
Scotland Yard is investigating his ‘unexpected’ death and a heavy police presence remains outside his home today
A statement read: ‘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.
‘In his own immortal words, ‘stop the ride, I want to get off’.’
Several associates and friends arrived at the house to pay their respects today.
One group of well-wishers turned up in a Rolls Royce. They asked police whether they could lower his trio of British flags to half-mast but police told them they could not be touched.
Three men and a woman were seen crying and laughing together while telling stories about times inside Camelot Castle.
Three plain clothes CID officers were seen entering the property with gun bags.
One man who said he was a friend of Courtney laid roses at the door of the large white house.
Dave Courtney outside his ‘Camelot Castle’ home in October 2022. A lodger found him dead in his bed with a pillow over his face
The sentence ‘What are you f***ing lookin’ at’ is etched on the roof of Courtney’s home and is visible in a Google Map view
Ex-gangster Dave Courtney from London poses on the Croisette during the Cannes Film Festival, where he is promoting his film ‘Hell to Pay’
Courtney and his partner Jennifer celebrating after he was acquitted on charges of perverting the course of justice
Other well-wishers said that while they did not know the local legend, he was a regular at The Old Mill pub just minutes away.
One said: ‘It’s so sad. It came as a big shock when I heard what had happened.
‘He was a true gent.’
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.’
Sources said the gangster had been wearing a glove and had used a Glock 9mm pistol, a 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’.
Police outside Courtney’s London home this morning after he was found dead on Sunday
Dave Courtney spoke about the afterlife and looking forward to having a ‘lie down and a rest’ on a podcast in August
Courtney and Steve McFadden ‘Full English Breakfast’ film premiere in London 2014
A sign outside of Courtney’s house reads ‘gangster parking only violators will be whacked’
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 along with housemate McGirr – 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 police visited the address to discuss Courtney’s New Year parties and organised bare knuckle fights, they took exception.
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 went on to feature in films such as Six Bend Trapp, Clubbing to Death and The Dead Sleep Easy
The outside of ‘Camelot Castle’ showing British flags, golden lions and a mural decorating it
Courtney makes a cup of tea in his remarkably ordinary kitchen – in an unassuming corner of South East London
Courtney and Jodie Marsh at the Scooby Doo 2: Monster’s unleashed film premier in London, 2004
Courtney – well-known for his white suit – beat the charge, which was withdrawn.
This happened after McGirr pleaded guilty to illegally possessing the items.
Speaking outside court, 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.
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.’
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
Courtney was one of Britain’s best-known gangsters and made a name for himself quickly
He was only nine-years-old when the Krays were jailed but he claims to have arranged the security for Ronnie Kray’s funeral back in 1995
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.’
Courtney was only nine-years-old when gangster brothers the Krays were jailed but claims to have arranged the security for Ronnie’s funeral in 1995.
In a statement on his social media accounts, a spokesman said Courtney shot himself at home.
Courtney – who appeared in films including The Krays – had to go to court in July over weapons
Courtney watched 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 with his friends and spoke of having a ‘cool cool’ day
The reformed gangster said he had a ‘full works three course meal’ as he posted pictures before his death. Less than 24 hours later he shot himself at his south-east London 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 Guy Ritchie’s Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.
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.
A number of blunt bladed items were used as decorations in the 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 gangster brothers the Krays were jailed but claims to have arranged the security for Ronnie’s funeral (pictured) in 1995
He also starred in, directed and produced his own film, Hell To Pay.
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 a depiction of himself as a knight in his south London house.
Today tributes for the much-loved gangster have poured in on social media.
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.
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
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
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, Courtney 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.
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