George Freeman (bookmaker)

George David Freeman[2] (22 January 1935 – 20 March 1990) was a Sydney bookmaker, racing identity and illegal casino operator.[3][4] He was linked to the Sydney drug trade during the 1970s and 1980s, was named in several Royal Commissions into organised crime and had links with American crime figures. Freeman served several prison terms for theft between 1951 and 1968 but was never brought to trial for any of his later alleged crimes, receiving only monetary fines for SP bookmaking in the mid-1980s. Freeman survived a murder attempt in 1979, was married twice, published an autobiography and died in 1990 of heart failure related to asthma and pethidine addiction.

George Freeman
George David Freeman.jpg
George Freeman
George David Freeman

(1935-01-22)22 January 1935
Died20 March 1990(1990-03-20) (aged 55)
OccupationBookmaker, racing identity, casino operator[1]
Spouse(s)Marcia Bedford, formerly McDonald (1963-1977); Georgina McLaughlin (1981 - his death)
Children6, 5 sons & 1 daughter
Parent(s)William David Freeman
Rita Eileen Freeman nee Cooke.
Conviction(s)$5000 fine
Criminal chargeSP bookmaking
The grave of George Freeman

Early lifeEdit

The youngest of three children, Freeman was born in the Sydney suburb of Annandale on 22 January 1935 to William David Freeman and Rita Eileen Freeman (née Cooke). and attended Glebe Technical Junior School. His parents were married at Five Dock, New South Wales in 1931 and were divorced in 1946 after cheating with her own son[5] After his father abandoned the family and his stepfather died, Freeman turned to crime and was arrested in 1947 for theft. He served two years' probation and left school at 14 to work as a stable hand and earned money hustling. Freeman stated in his 1988 autobiography that his boyhood hero was the notorious Australian criminal Darcy Dugan.[6]

In 1951 he began a sentence for various theft offences, serving two years originally at the Mount Penang Training School near Gosford and later at Tamworth Boys' Home. He also served time in Parramatta Gaol for stealing. On 5 February 1963 he married Marcia Bedford, formerly McDonald in Sydney.[7]

After time in Fremantle Prison in 1968, he travelled to the United States on a false passport and met crime figure Joe Testa.

Main careerEdit

During the 1970s and 1980s, George Freeman was involved in the horse racing industry, primarily as a bookmaker. He was first named in a Royal Commission in 1973 in the Moffit Inquiry into organised crime in Sydney's clubs, though Freeman denied involvement. He was later alleged to be part of a plot to bribe State politicians who were planning to set up a casino regulatory board in a bid to curb illegal gambling.

Freeman divorced his wife Marcia in 1977. The following year he was named in State Parliament as an "organised crime" figure and referred to as a "crime boss" in the Woodward Royal Commission. A police report in 1979 alleged he was involved in illegal bookmaking. On April 25 that year he was shot in the neck by an unknown attacker.[7]

Freeman married 24-year-old orthoptist Georgina McLaughlin on 6 August 1981. He was named in two further Royal Commissions during the 1980s, the Stewart Royal Commission and Street Royal Commission (also known as the Wran Royal Commission) into corruption within the New South Wales Rugby League. During the Street (Wran) Royal Commission, Freeman admitted he travelled to the USA on a forged passport to visit known Chicago mobster, Joseph Dan Testa,[8] who was also associated with Australian gangster, and friend of Freeman's, Lennie McPherson.[9] Moreover, in April 1979, Independent MP for NSW electorate of South Coast, Mr John Hatton, referred to Freeman in Parliament as "the Australian contact man for one Danny Stein, nominated as an associate of notorious American organised crime figures, including Meyer Lansky..."[10]

Despite accusations of murder, assault, race-fixing, bribery, illegal gambling and involvement in the drug trade, Freeman's only criminal convictions after 1967 were for SP bookmaking in 1983 and 1986, resulting in fines of $500 and $5000.[7][11] His autobiography George Freeman: An Autobiography, was published in 1988.[12]


After several years of poor health, suffering from asthma, kidney disease and pethidine addiction, George Freeman died of heart failure due to an asthma attack in Sutherland Hospital, Caringbah on 20 March 1990. He was buried at Waverley Cemetery in Bronte, Eastern Sydney.[2][4][7]

In popular cultureEdit

He was portrayed by Peter O'Brien in the 2009 Australian television series Underbelly: A Tale of Two Cities and its sequel Underbelly: The Golden Mile.[13] The series portrayed Freeman as a playboy crime lord and implied that he was indirectly involved in the Mr Asia drug syndicate, and responsible for the unsolved murder of hitman Christopher Flannery.


  1. ^ Walsh, G. P. "Freeman, George David (1935–1990)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. National Centre of Biography, Australian National University. Archived from the original on 9 May 2015. Retrieved 6 May 2012.
  2. ^ a b Sardaka. David Freeman tomb, Waverley Cemetery, Sydney.jpg "File:George David Freeman tomb, Waverley Cemetery, Sydney.jpg" Check |url= value (help). Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved 20 May 2009.
  3. ^ Gangs battle for Chinatown casino empire
  4. ^ a b Markson, Sharri; Sexton, Jennifer (24 May 2009). "Our Dad, the Underbelly hero". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 20 June 2009.
  5. ^ Sydney Morning Herald. 22 June 1946. Page 13, Law Notices.Divorces Court- Decree nisi granted to: Rita Eileen Freeman (petitioner), v William David Freeman..
  6. ^ George Freeman: An Autobiography. Published by The Book Printer. Australia, 1988. (ISBN 0 7316 2589 7).
  7. ^ a b c d Walsh, G. P. (5 December 2008). "Freeman, George David". Australian Dictionary of Biography. ANU. Retrieved 20 June 2009.
  8. ^ Brown, M & Mercer, N (1 July 1983). "Freeman denies he asked Farquhar for any favour". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved from,11168&dq=joseph+dan+testa&hl=en. Downloaded 26 January 2012.
  9. ^ David Hickie (1985). The Prince and the Premier: The story of Perce Galea, Bob Askin and the others who gave organised crime its start in Australia (p. 238). NSW, Australia: Angus & Robertson Publishers.
  10. ^ The Sydney Morning Herald (16 September 1979). "Evidence Mafia already has a toehold in Australia".
  11. ^ "Freeman says arrest was 'political'". The Sydney Morning Herald. 31 October 1984. Retrieved 22 June 2009.[dead link]
  12. ^ George Freeman: An Autobiography. Published by The Book Printer. Australia. 1988. (ISBN 0 7316 2589 7.)
  13. ^ McWhirter, Erin (5 December 2008). "First pictures of Underbelly prequel A Tale Of Two Cities". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 20 June 2009.