Mark Brandon "Chopper" Read (November 17, 1954 – October 9, 2013) was an Australian convicted criminal, gang member and author.
Read was born to a former army and Korean War veteran father and a mother who was a devout Seventh-day Adventist. He was placed in a children's home for the first five years of his life. His father, usually on his mother's recommendation, would beat him often as a child. Read was made a ward of the state by the age of 14 and was placed in several mental institutions as a teenager, where he underwent electroshock therapy.
When he was still young, Read was already an accomplished street fighter and the leader of the Surrey Road gang. He began his criminal career by robbing drug dealers, based in massage parlours in the Prahran area. He later graduated to kidnapping and torturing members of the criminal underworld, often using a blowtorch or bolt cutters to remove the toes of his victims as an incentive for them to produce enough money so that Read would leave them alive.
Read spent only 13 months outside prison between the ages of 20 and 38, having been convicted of crimes including armed robbery, firearm offences, assault, arson, impersonating a police officer and kidnapping. While in Pentridge Prison's H division in the late 1970s, Read launched a prison war. His gang, dubbed "The Overcoat Gang" because they wore long coats all year round to conceal their weapons, were involved in several hundred acts of violence against a larger opposing gang during this period. Around this time, Read had a fellow inmate cut both of his ears off in order to be able to leave H division temporarily.
Read was ambushed and stabbed by members of his own gang in a sneak attack when they felt that his plan to cripple every other inmate in the entire division and win the gang war in one fell swoop was going too far. Another theory is that James "Jimmy" Loughnan, a longtime friend of Read, with Patrick "Blue" Barnes, wished to benefit from a contract put on Read's head by the Painters' and Dockers' Union. Read lost several feet of intestine in the attack. At the time Read was serving a 16 and a half-year sentence after attacking a judge.