MARY-ANN Read’s former husband, standover man Mark ”Chopper” Read, once wrote her a sweet poem titled My love, my life, my darling wife.
”He used to write lots of love poems; he always put words together tremendously well,” she recalled.
The bittersweet stories of her experience and that of seven other women who stood behind their criminal husbands or partners are told in a book Partners & Crime, released yesterday.
But the book is not about the soft side of these Underbelly hard men. The women tell of the heartache that comes with loving the ”wrong man”, spending years mixed up in the justice system, and what it was like remaining loyal to men whom their own families and the public loathed.
So often stereotyped as gangsters’ molls or complicit thrillseekers living the high life, their stories are diverse and complex.
In 2009, the book’s author, investigative journalist Rochelle Jackson, was approached by Sylvia Bruno, ex-wife of slain underworld gangster Nikolai ”The Bulgarian” Radev.
Mrs Bruno was a 16-year-old hairdresser from a strict Italian family when she was introduced to Radev. He married her only to get an Australian passport.
Jackson gained the trust of women such as Georgina Freeman, wife of illegal casino king George Freeman and Tania Herman, who is serving time for the attempted murder of Maria Korp, the wife of her lover, Joe Korp. But Ann-Marie Presland, former partner of the late organised crime figure Bob Trimbole, said she was uneasy about the media’s interest in her intimate life with ”Aussie Bob”.
”The worst thing was when Underbelly started because even though Bob had been dead for years, it still feels like yesterday,” Mrs Presland said.
Mary-Ann Read attended the launch with their 12-year-old son, Charlie.
”Charlie doesn’t see his father much, which is heartbreaking for him, but Charlie seems to love him unconditionally anyway,” she said.
”I just fell in love with the wrong man, simple as that.”