THE REAL-LIFE

Daily Mirror - - WATTS THE GOSS - BY STEVE MYALL and AMANDA KILLELEA

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 DAUGH­TER Gaile Lop­er­fido’s dad was in jail as she grew up

THE LE­GEND Robert Red­ford in the up­com­ing film

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