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Mystery remains over Dave Courtney’s death: Friend heard the celebrity gangster on the phone in the middle of the night just hours before he shot himself, inquest told – as police reveal they still haven’t found the pistol’s bullet casing
An inquest which opened this morning into the death of Dave Courtney has left several unanswered questions – including what happened to the casing of the bullet the celebrity gangster is said to have shot himself with.
Today’s hearing also left a mystery around a phone call Courtney made at 330am shortly before taking his own life – as it remains unclear who he had called.
The inquest, which was opened and then adjourned ahead of a full hearing at a date to be set, heard that Courtney, 64, shot himself three months after recording a video explaining his plan to kill himself.
The flamboyant mobster was battling prostate cancer and his arthritis left him in ‘severe pain’.
He shot himself in the head with a 9mm pistol in his Camelot Castle home in Plumstead, in the early hours of October 22.
An inquest which opened this morning into the death of Dave Courtney has left several unanswered questions
Police outside Dave Courtney’s Camelot Castle home on October 23
His family thanked members of the public for the support they have shown them over the past few days
Opening the inquest today Coroner Dr Julian Morris said: ‘Police were called on Sunday 22 October at approximately 11.26 am to 18 Chestnut Rise, SE18 which was Mr Courtney’s home.
‘The police were called by a friend who had found Mr Courtney with a gunshot wound.’
Courtney seemed ‘happy and chirpy’ on 21 October after watching his beloved Charlton beat Reading 4-0 at the Valley with two friends.
They went to the pub before watching England lose to South Africa in the Rugby Union World Cup at Camelot Castle.
Dave Courtney has died aged 64 after shooting himself at his London home. He was one of Britain’s best-known gangsters
Detective Superintendent James Robinson, attached to Lewisham Police Station, told Inner London South Coroner’s Court: ‘One of Dave’s friends woke up at 3.30am to go to the bathroom.
‘He could hear Mr Courtney on the phone [but] thought nothing of it.’
Det Supt Robinson said at around 10.30am the next day, one of the friends, Brendan McGirr, 57, went into Courtney’s room to ask if he wanted a cup of tea.
He found him lying dead on his bed.
Det Supt Robinson told the court: ‘They called various family members because they decided before the police arrived, they wanted close family to have the last minutes with Mr Courtney, after they arrived the police were then called.
‘Detectives attended the scene, and the initial thoughts were not suspicious but unexplained and to be investigated, the primary concern was although they recovered a firearm, they have not recovered the casing.’
Detectives searched Camelot Castle extensively over the next three days.
Det Supt Robinson said the three-bed semi had ‘extensive outdoor areas including nightclubs and bars.’
As a filmmaker Courtney had collected up to 70 firearms, which had been decommissioned or fired blanks only, the court heard.
Eight videos, filmed in the early hours of 22 October, were found on Courtney’s mobile phone.
They showed Courtney saying goodbye to relatives including his son, daughter, and ex-wife,
making clear his intentions.
Former London gangster-turned-author Dave Courtney has been cremated following his death aged 64
Last July the reformed gangster made a video lasting up to five minutes in which he explained to the public at large his intention to take his own life.
DS Robinson told the court: ‘It is my understanding that was a failed suicide attempt from July.
‘In that he details a cancer diagnosis and details he was in severe pain with arthritis.’
Courtney used a 9mm self-loading pistol to shoot himself and a preliminary post-mortem examination has given cause of death as a gunshot wound to the head, the court heard.
Toxicology reports are still being prepared so a date for the full inquest could not be set.
The Bermondsey-born knuckle-duster wielding debt collector claiomed to have been shot, stabbed and had his nose almost bitten off.
He is said to have been the inspiration for Vinnie Jones’ character Big Chris in Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.
Courtney pictured outside his Camelot Castle home in October 2022. The white mansion is decked out with guns, swords, and suits of armour
Courtney attends the funeral of criminal Bruce Richard Reynolds – the mastermind behind the 1963 Great Train Robbery – in March 2013
In 2000 he was cleared by an Old Bailey jury of involvement in a plot to plant cocaine on an innocent woman.
During the trial he was named as a registered police informant using the alias ‘Tommy Mack’.
But he insisted he simply took advantage of the system to disguise a relationship with a corrupt detective.
In 2004 he was cleared of attacking his wife Jennifer Pinto over an alleged lesbian affair.
He referred to himself as Dave Courtney OBE – ‘One Big Ego’ – and had a painted depiction of himself as a knight in Camelot Castle.
Despite apparent evidence to the contrary, some former associates of Courtney were sceptical that he would have taken his own life.
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