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AS Big Mo Slater she is the battleaxe from Hell whose tongue-lashings have even the hardest of Walford's hard cases running for cover.

But the real-life story of EatEnders actress Laila Morse would be a scriptwriter's dream.

Today we tell for the first time how Laila, whose brother is Hollywood star Gary Oldman, became the wife of a notorious London gangster who funded their lavish lifestyle with a life of crime.

Maureen "Mogsie" Oldman was just 17 when she married Gerald Bromfield, then 21.

The relationship had been a passionate one from the start, and just weeks after their meeting Maureen was pregnant with their daughter Tracy.

"I met Mogsie in a cafe in New Cross and from the moment we started going out we couldn't keep our hands off each other," says Gerald.

"She was a lovely looking girl and we were both highly-sexed. About a month later she was pregnant.

"In those days it was the done thing to marry the girl, but I loved Mogsie and wanted to marry her anyway."

After their wedding, at Deptford register office in South London in June 1963, the couple moved in with Maureen's parents and younger brother Gary, then a quiet, withdrawn little boy.

Gerald says: "Gary was a sensitive little kid who would sit in front of the TV and play with dolls.

"But even then you could see he was talented and he used to have these puppets he would do little routines with."

Gerald had started work with Maureen's father Lenny in his pipe-fitting business, but he and Mo had their eyes on bigger and better things. The lifestyle they wanted was never going to be achieved as a pipe-fitter's mate in London's New Cross. So Gerald, who already had a criminal record, switched to full-time crime.

He became a member of the notorious "Deptford Mob", and was constantly on the run from police - he was even shot in the leg in a gangland turf war.

Gerald, who after lengthy spells in some of Britain's toughest jails turned his back on crime more than 10 years ago, says: "Mogsie wanted nice things and I wanted to get them for her.

"I did not have a job, crime was my full-time profession. The gang I was in would raid shops when they were closed at night and clear them out."

Gerald's crimes paid for them to move up the property ladder until they had a big house next to a park in Bermondsey, South London.

"Because of my criminal lifestyle Mogsie had everything she wanted..." says Gerald, "...a lovely house, nice clothes, things for the children.

"She wanted nice things and money. Our baby was the best dressed in the area. Mogsie always liked nice clothes and I made sure she got them.

"Later I became a professional pick-pocket and was making good money. Crime was what I was good at."

But Maureen, whose EastEnders character Mo has fallen foul of the law for dealing in stolen goods, was left terrified after a dispute between Gerald and a rival gang ended with him being shot in the leg outside a pub.

"Mogsie was luckily not with me in the pub," says Gerald. "She was terrified, but that was part of the life I was involved in.

"I was taken to hospital in Greenwich and she brought my clothes up to me, and I got out before the police could interview me."

Later, when the couple were living in Bermondsey, Gerald was jailed for three months for theft.

"The other members of the gang I was with went round to see Mogsie every week with my wages," says Gerald. I was in Pentonville prison and Mogsie would visit me - and she was there for me when I came out."

Gerald went back to being a pickpocket for two years after his release. But in 1969 he was arrested again and jailed for five years.

In fact, he was to serve only 14 months of his sentence, but it was to be the death knell of their relationship.

"I was sent to Albany prison on the Isle Of Wight just a couple of weeks after our son Gerry was born," says Gerald.

"She visited me and sent letters and I didn't know anything was going on.

"But my family knew she was seeing another man and they kept it from me because they didn't want me to be worried.

"Eventually, I got paroled to the hostel wing at Pentonville. I used to stay in prison overnight and get sent out to work in the day, but I was allowed home at the weekend.

"The first weekend we took the children to Margate and had a lovely time.

"Everything seemed to be going well. But one morning I came out of prison and one of my mates from the Deptford Mob was waiting for me and said, 'Do yourself a favour, go home'.

IWENT back to the house, but I couldn't get in through the front door. I went round the back to the park and climbed over the fence.

"I knew what was going on inside and I started to kick in the back door. Mogsie was with her lover and they saw me through the window.

"He picked his clothes up and ran out the front door. She ran after him without a stitch on.

"It was about 9.30 in the morning and he fled naked across the park. I was trying to get her back in the house and she was naked and clinging to a lamp-post.

"I was so angry I punched her in the eye. It was the one and only time I hit her and I am not proud of it.

"She was taken to hospital and she told the police that I had attacked her. I lost my parole and was put back into Albany prison.

"It turned out that her lover was the taxi driver who used to drive her to see me in jail.

"Later Mogsie came to see me in Albany and said she would get me released if I agreed to leave her alone with her boyfriend when I got out.

"She told the authorities we had reconciled and I was given parole."

But the deal meant that Gerald did not see his children, and the next time he saw his daughter was more than eight years later, when she was 15. Meanwhile, son Gerry had fallen into a life of drugs and crime and went on to become a heroin addict.

Gerald no longer sees his son, but has rebuilt his relationship with daughter Tracy.

Maureen, now 55, married businessman James Bass in 1994 - and brother Gary, by then a successful Hollywood star, flew in from America to be a witness.

She changed her name to Laila Morse five years ago when Gary, star of Dracula, Air Force One and JFK, persuaded her to take her first acting role in his hard-hitting movie Nil By Mouth.

Gerald says: "Mogsie used to drive him around when he came to London.

"And when an actress who was supposed to be in Nil By Mouth said she couldn't do it, Gary turned to Mogsie and told her she should play the part - even though she had never acted before."

Then this summer she became Albert Square's latest battleaxe, as head of the Slater clan. Gerald, now 59, carried on with his life of crime after his divorce from Maureen, but gave it up after meeting a new woman.

He went on to work as a porter to the super-rich at an exclusive apartment block in London's Park Lane.

He retired after having a stroke, and now lives in Chatham, Kent.

He says: "I couldn't believe it when I heard Mogsie had got a part in EastEnders.

"Before that she was working in a betting office in Catford. But when you see her on-screen she is not really acting - that is her.

"They even use her own name, Mo. She sounds exactly the same and her attitude is the same as she has shown towards me when we have met down the years."

He adds: "I saw her recently and wished her the best in EastEnders, but she gave me one of her mouthfuls...just like Mo Slater would."


EASTENDER: Mo now (and with daughter Tracy, far left, and during a sleepy moment at home, bottom left) was a stunning looker when she married Gerald (centre). Now as battling Mo Slater she gives as good as she gets to Pat Butcher (top). Above: Her EastEnders TV grand-daughters
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Nov 19, 2000
Next Article:the diary : Sporty Spice set to jump ship.

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