As Gaile Loperfido waited at Miami airport to pick up her dad, the old man with a beard, black hat and cane shuffling towards her looked strangely familiar.
It was her fugitive father disguised as a pensioner to fool the police.
Gaile’s dad was Forrest Tucker, the legendary stick-up man whose life story has been made into Hollywood movie The Old Man & the Gun, with Robert Redford playing Tucker – his final film role – and Elisabeth Moss as Gaile.
He was one of America’s most infamous armed robbers and had broken out of prison 18 times, including once during a transfer from Alcatraz.
Gaile had only ever met him when he was on the run. So it came as no surprise to her when he called one day saying he had escaped from jail once more and needed her help.
She says: “He called me and said, ‘Honey, I’m going to be flying into Miami airport. I’ll be in disguise, will you come and pick me up?’
“He was disguised as an old man with a beard, a black hat and a cane. I knew it was him and I brought him home.”
Tucker had masterminded multiple daring bank robberies and was the greatest escape artist of his generation.
He confounded the authorities and captured the imagination of the public. It was only when he could not resist one final heist at the age of 78 that he was locked up for good.
Gaile, now 71, tells the Mirror: “I realised he loved my brother Rick and I, but he loved robbing banks and escaping more. That was his life; that came first.”
Tucker was born in Miami, and had a tough childhood in which his mum left him to be raised by his gran.
In spring 1936, aged 15, he made his first escape, after being arrested for stealing a car “for the thrill”. He was found days later in an orange grove.
Tucker’s life became a cycle of crime, prison and escape. Gaile says: “Robbing banks and jewellery stores was his way of getting arrested and being able to figure out how to escape. That was the thrill for him.”
Girls flocked around Tucker, attracted by his blue eyes and charm.
He married Gaile’s mum June after being introduced by her brother, who he had been in jail with. “They weren’t together very long because he got in trouble again and was on the run again,” says Gaile.
“I was a toddler when my grandmother told me about my father and that he was in prison. I grew up with that and it didn’t seem strange until I got older and realised what prison meant.
“Usually, when I met him, he was on the run. He was very kind and loving, but as far as gift-giving and taking me places goes that never happened.”
Eventually, Gaile’s mum had enough and divorced him while he was in jail.
Yet Tucker was desperate to show the world that he was somebody. He dressed in striped suits and two-tone shoes, and did not worry about getting caught. For
THE LEGEND Robert Redford in the upcoming film