George Freeman: Infamous Illegal Bookmaker

George Freeman

George Freeman was a very successful illegal bookmaker in Australia. His willingness to accept any size wager is why he was able to serve such a vast clientele. Although Freeman has had several run-ins with the law, no one was able to convict him of anything serious, which allowed him to live as a "free man" most of his life.

For more information on George Foreman, his childhood, his illegal bookmaking business, and how he became one of the most wanted criminals in Australia, please continue reading this extensive biography. We are sure you'll come across something you never knew before.


Early Years

George Freeman was born on January 22, 1935, in Annandale, Australia, in the middle of the Great Depression. When Freeman was just a few years old, his father abandoned the family, leaving Freeman, his mother, and his two siblings to fend for themselves. Since his mother didn't have a well-paying job, the family was forced to move to the slums and would often go to bed hungry.

His mother eventually remarried a man with an elaborate criminal past who was constantly on the run from the police and would regularly ask Freeman and his sibling to lie to the authorities about his whereabouts. Sometimes he would even force Freeman to play a small role in his crimes, using him as a distraction so that he could rob various stores, banks, and homes.

Before his twelfth birthday, Freeman had been expelled from two different schools and had to serve two years of probation on account of theft. Once his probation period was over, he dropped out of school to work at a nearby farm. His main responsibility was to look after the horses, feeding them, bathing them, and making sure their stalls were cleaned out regularly. He tried hard to stay away from the life of crime he had been forced into from his youth.

Unfortunately, old habits die hard. Since he didn't make a lot of money on the farm, he spent his weekends hustling people at pool in the nearby saloons. While there, he got connected with a rough crowd and started stealing again. This time when he got caught, he was forced to spend two years at the Mount Penang Training School and the Tamworth Boys' Home. The hope was that these schools would teach him how to behave properly and keep him off the streets.

While that was good in theory, Freeman hated the boys' home and made no effort to change his behaviors. He actually faked abdominal pain and swallowed a bar of soap (this caused a high fever) so that it would appear like he had appendicitis. Although he was forced to have his appendix removed as a result of his lies, he didn't care because it allowed him to be away from the boys' home for several weeks.

Becoming an Illegal Bookmaker

Freeman's life of crime continued until he met and married a woman named Marcia Bedford in 1963. He knew that if he wanted to start a family with her, he needed to have steadier income. Given his experience working with horses, he decided to become a bookmaker for the horse racing industry.

It didn't take long for news of Freeman's illegal bookmaking shop to spread, causing people from all over Australia to place bets with him. At the time, he worked out of his garage, so he would have clients coming over to the house on a regular basis. Realizing this wasn't good for his wife and two young sons, he moved his business to an abandoned warehouse a few towns over. He was able to serve thousands of clients who were eager to do business with him because he was one of the few bookmakers that didn't set limits on how much they could wager.

He ran this underground business for nearly a decade without any run-ins with the law. Then, in 1971, it was rumored that he might have been involved in the $500,000 win that caused Canberra, one of Australia's largest horse racing tracks, to go bankrupt. Freeman had allegedly fixed the race that caused Canberra to lose so much money. He was later put on trial by the royal commission for this crime, where he claimed under oath that he was not involved. Since there was not any solid evidence against him, they were forced to let him go.

Freeman also was said to have been involved in the Taiping conspiracy, being accused of bribing politicians in order to gain control of a proposed casino board. Soon after this accusation came about, he was identified by New South Wales parliament as an organized crime figure who was infamous for illegal gambling and seemingly countless accounts of robbery. His photo was posted in every police station around the state, and a warrant was out for his arrest. Marcia couldn't stand to be married to a wanted criminal, so they divorced in 1977.

Freeman started traveling to the United States with a forged passport on a regular basis after that. Although this has never been proven, he supposedly had ties to several members of the mafia in Chicago, including Joe Testa. Rumor has it that they were interested in infiltrating Australia and were hoping Freeman could help make that happen. In the end, Freeman allegedly refused to help them, claiming Australia was his turf.

Once Freeman returned to Australia for good, he started cooking up his next horse racing scandal, which would involve a horse named "Mr. Digby." This horse had several poor performances in a row, making it unlikely to win a race in Canterbury in 1981. Despite the odds not being in his favor, he placed a substantial amount of money on Mr. Digby. Not only did Mr. Digby win, but he won by several lengths. Since Freeman owned the horse, people suspect he was having the horse perform poorly on purpose so that he could make a huge profit once the horse performed at its full potential.

Later that same year, he married 24-year-old Georgina Catherine McLoughlin at St Stephen's Uniting Church in Sydney. They had four children together. He used his profits from his illegal bookmaking business to purchase a waterfront mansion in Yowie Bay, Port Hacking. It was protected by high walls, vicious guards, and expensive security cameras. No one would be able to get into his mansion without Freeman's knowledge or permission. He had made quite a few enemies throughout his lifetime, and he wanted to ensure that his family would be safe.

Possibly a Murderer

Freeman had a reason to be cautious. He had been shot in the face two years earlier for supposedly having relations with Jack Muller's stepdaughter. Although he survived, he was furious. Muller was found dead six weeks later, with Freeman being the prime suspect. The police were never able to prove his involvement, however.

Another infamous Australian criminal, Christopher Flannery, started working for Freeman. Flannery would visit Freeman's customers in an attempt to collect the debts that were owed to him. Flannery would often get very violent with these customers, which Freeman believed was bad for business. He is suspected to have killed Flannery in 1985 because his violence was getting out of control.

Final Years

When Freeman had officially retired from being an illegal bookmaker, he had a lot of time on his hands. He decided to write George Freeman: An Autobiography, which he published in 1988. In this book, he reveals the immense amount of illegal gambling and crime that takes place on the streets of Sydney, Australia. He didn't give specifics on the crimes he committed, but he did brag about how much he was able to get away with.

Here is an excerpt from his book: "Crime was at an all time high during the winters in Sydney. It was probably because people would get bored and the best way to make money was to either sell illegal drugs or start an illegal bookmaking business. We all know which route I took."

Freeman didn't write his autobiography a minute too soon, as his health was on a steady decline. He had been suffering from asthma and pethidine addiction for several years, and both conditions seemed to be getting worse. He suffered from a severe asthma attack on March 20, 1990, which lead to heart failure. He passed away Sutherland Hospital, Caringbah, later that same evening. He was survived by his wife, two sons from his first marriage, and three sons and one daughter from his second.

His life of crime was portrayed by Peter O'Brien in two different episodes of the Australian television series Underbelly in 2009. The series made Freeman out to be a playboy crime lord who was responsible for the unsolved murder of Christopher Flannery.

Wrap-Up

While some people may view George Freeman as nothing more than an organized crime figure, we see him as something more. We see him as a passionate gambler whose love of horse racing caused him to become a successful illegal bookmaker in Australia. He is also the man who prevented more violent crime groups, like the mafia of Chicago, from entering Australian territory. For that, we are thankful

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