Robber Forrest Tucker's daughter says her dad loved thieving more than her

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?’

Gaile Loperfido, whose father was Forrest Tucker

“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.

Redford as Tucker in The OId Man With The Gun

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.

Gaile only ever met him when he was on the run

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 one escape he faked stomach cramps and was taken to hospital, where they removed his appendix. “A small price to pay,” Tucker later said.

In the hospital prison, he unpicked his shackles and walked out unnoticed. Tucker headed to California, where he carried out a string of robberies.

His luck ran out when the FBI surr­ounded him as he retrieved loot from a safety deposit box in San Francisco.

They searched his apartment and found his second wife Shirley Storz, who said she had never heard of Forrest Tucker. She thought she was married to a wealthy songwriter. They had a baby, Rick.

When officers showed her a picture of Tucker, he was indeed her husband.

Tucker was sent to Alcatraz. Even the great escape artist thought The Rock had him beat. So he began appealing against his 33-year sentence, and in November 1956 was granted an appeal hearing and transferred to county jail.

Again, he feigned illness and escaped while in hospital. He was caught soon after, still in his hospital gown. But it was not until 1979 that Tucker would make his greatest escape.

He was in San Quentin maximum security prison in Marin County, California, which jutted out into the ocean.

Tucker always wanted there to be a movie about his life

Tucker and two other inmates stockpiled scraps of wood and pieces of Formica for months before building them into a boat.

They wore sailor hats and sweatshirts which Tucker had painted bright orange with the logo of the Marin Yacht Club, which he had seen on boats that sailed by. The group set off, but the boat sank. They were spotted by a guard in a tower who, thinking they were from the yacht club, asked if they needed help.

But they got to shore, with Tucker heading to Miami in disguise. Gaile had no clue he was then using her home as a base to create a gang of thieving OAPs.

“I was never afraid,” she says. “Maybe I was too young and naive. People say, ‘Oh, you were hiding a criminal’, but I just never thought about it like that.

“We spent a lot of time at the breakfast table and having dinner with everyone. We were just a regular family.” By then, Gaile was a mum of four and Tucker a doting grandad.

“He adored my kids and they loved him so much,” she says.

“I never got a call from San Quentin. I never got a call from the FBI. I never had anybody knock at my door.”

But police in Texas and Oklahoma began reporting a strange series of hold-ups. A group of old men would go to a store or bank with a gun and demand money. Dubbed the Over The Hill Gang, in one year they were suspected of at least 60 robberies. Tucker was finally caught and returned to San Quentin.

He was released aged 73 and settled into life with third wife, Jewel, in Florida. But the lure of crime was too much.

Some five years later, dressed all in white, he drove 50 miles to the Republic Security Bank in Jupiter town, pulled out a gun and calmly made off with $5,000.

The 78-year-old, who had undergone a quadruple bypass, thanked the staff on his way out. Chased by police, Tucker crashed his car into a tree.

The ailing crook was sent to FMC Fort Worth, Texas. This time he would never leave. Gaile has mixed feelings about Tucker as an absent father.

“As a child, I didn’t understand. But much later in my life, I realised this is just what he loved, the thrill of the chase,” she says.

“I think maybe I resented him a little bit for loving his lifestyle better than he loved his children.”

Tucker was in his 80s when he died in jail in 2004 without knowing that his dream had come true.

He had always wanted his life story to be turned into a movie.

  • The Old Man & the Gun is out in cinemas now.

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