George Freeman was an organized crime figure and illegal casino operator from Australia. He was linked to the Sydney drug trade during the 1970s and '80s and was named in several Royal Commissions for having relationships with American mobsters.
Despite being accused of murder, assault, illegal gambling, and many other crimes during that time period, Freeman was only officially charged with illegal bookmaking and only had to pay relatively small fines for his actions.
George Freeman was born January 22nd, 1935 in Annandale, Australia to his parents: William and Rita Freeman right in the middle of the great depression. His father abandoned Freeman, his mother, and his two siblings, when Freeman was just a young boy. The family was forced to move to the slums and had to go to bed hungry most nights. His mother got remarried to a runaway criminal, but the relationship only lasted a couple years before he passed away.
Freeman clearly never had a strong male role model in his life, which probably lead to his desire for crime and theft. By age twelve he had been expelled from two different schools and was on two years' probation for various accounts of theft. After his probation was over, he dropped out of school to work at a nearby farm, caring for the horses. Unfortunately it was around this time when Freeman started hustling people at pool and returned to his old habits of stealing.
In 1951 he had to serve two years between the Mount Penang Training School and the Tamworth Boys' Home on more account of theft. Freeman hated the boy's home so much that he swallowed soap so that it would appear like he had appendicitis. Freeman received an unnecessary appendectomy just to spend some time away from Tamworth.
Eventually in 1963, Freeman decided to settle down and marry his longtime girlfriend, Marcia Bedford. He also thought it would be a good time to get settled into a career and due to his experience as a stable hand, he chose to become a bookkeeper for horseracing.
Under this position, he was supposedly a key figure in a 1971 conspiracy that broke the Canberra TAB with a $500,000 win. He was also supposedly a part of a plot to bribe state politicians who were planning to set up a casino regulatory board, which would hinder illegal gambling considerably.
In 1978, he was named in State Parliament as an organized crime figure, infamous for getting away with a long string of crimes. Later that year, he purchased a mansion at Yowie Bay, Port Hacking, with elaborate security measures for he had many enemies.
Later that same year he was shot by an unknown gunman because he had relations with Jack Muller's stepdaughter. Freeman survived, but six weeks later, Muller was found dead and Freeman is a prime suspect, although he was never charged for the murder. Freeman also is suspected of killing a former employee of his, after he became too violent. After hearing these conspiracies, his wife filed for divorce, as she didn't agree with her husband's worsening lifestyle.
He was named in two further Royal Commissions during the 1980s: the Stewart Royal Commission and Street Royal Commission. Freeman admitted he travelled to the United States on a forged passport to visit known other mobsters in the Chicago area.
One of his most famous scandals in horse racing occurred at Canterbury in 1981. Freeman owned the horse, "Mr. Digby," who won the final race by seven lengths, despite finishing nearly last in all of the previous races. Many people speculate that Freeman had fixed the race in order to make more money, and that's most certainly what happened.
Nearing the End
Freeman's only criminal convictions after 1967 were for SP bookmaking in 1983 and 1986, resulting in fines of $500 and $5000, which he writes about in his autobiography George Freeman: An Autobiography, that was published in 1988. Only two short years later on March 20th, 1990, George Freeman died of heart failure due to an asthma attack.
George Freeman's life was fantasized in the 2009 Australian television series, Underbelly: A Tale of Two Cities and its sequel Underbelly: The Golden Mile. Freeman, played by Peter O'Brien, is portrayed as a playboy crime lord and in the series it's implied that he's responsible for the unsolved murder of Christopher Flannery.
Author: Nicole Miller
Updated: November 2016