Ireland has produced countless memorable characters throughout history, but one you may not have heard of is Mike Malloy, otherwise known as Iron Mike or Mike the Durable.
He was an Irish emigrant living in New York in the early 20th century, who was the victim of a consistent series of murder attempts by an insurance fraud gang.
Malloy gained his nicknames because of his incredible resistance to alcohol and repeated attempted poisonings.
He was originally from Co Donegal but moved to New York where he worked as a firefighter.
Unfortunately, Malloy enjoyed a drink a little too much and lost his job due to his unreliable and erratic behaviour.
He then lost his home and spent years living on the streets of New York City. This was during the 1920s and 30s, when prohibition was still in place so to get a drink Malloy would frequent various illegal bars known as speakeasies.
Malloy was perfect victim for a life insurance scam
It was at one of these establishments that met a group of small time crooks; Tony Marino, Joseph “Red” Murphy, Francis Pasqua, Hershey Green, and Daniel Kriesberg.
They selected Malloy as a perfect victim for a life insurance scam, given his drunken tendencies and lack of family or fixed address.
Malloy was persuaded to sign up to three life insurance policies by the group, who stood to receive more than $3,500 (the equivalent of more than $65,000 today) if he were to suffer an accidental death.
All the group had to do was kill Malloy and make it look like an accident.
They decided the best way to do this was to plough him with alcohol and let him drink himself to death. Malloy was given as many free drinks as he could manage at Marino’s bar, and sat there day and night drinking himself into a stupor.
However, this went on for weeks and Malloy would always turn up the next day to take his seat at the bar and start all over again.
Malloy seemed to be immune to alcohol poisoning
The group grew impatient so upped the ante by adding antifreeze to his drinks, but Malloy continued to drink all day and come back tomorrow for more.
More deadly poisons were added to Malloy’s drinks in an attempt to finally break his immune system. Turpentine, horse liniment and even rat poison were all added to Malloy’s drinks, but still he kept coming back.
The group then tried raw oysters and spoiled sardines, even with carpet tacks mixed in to kill Malloy, but incredibly his digestive system seemed to be able to cope with those too.
They realised that if they wanted to kill Malloy, they would have to do it a different way. They had tried poisoning him with everything they could think of and nothing had worked.
So they changed tactics. After Malloy had passed out drunk one night, they carried him out into the freezing New York night and left him in a snow bank for the night. They also poured 19 litres of water over his chest to shut down his body so that he would die during the night. The death would just look like Malloy had collapsed drunk in the night and fell victim to the icy conditions.
However, it wasn’t to be. Malloy returned to Marino’s bar the following day laughing about waking up in the snow freezing, and not knowing how he had got there. He spent the day laughing about it with his bemused ‘friends’ over a few more drinks.
New York taxi driver paid to kill Mike the Durable
A New York taxi driver was paid to hit Malloy with his cab. The driver drove straight into Malloy as he left the bar one evening, travelling at 45 mph and knocking him into the air.
Malloy suffered broken ribs and was in hospital for three weeks before returning to Marino’s bar.
Unfortunately, Malloy spent so much of his waking day in a drunken state, he didn’t make the connection between his series of bad luck and the company he was keeping. His return to Marino’s that night would be his last.
Once they had ploughed him with enough alcohol to knock him out, Marino and his gang took him upstairs and put a gas pipe down his throat until he was dead. This time there was no miraculous recovery.
The death was reported and the group did receive their money from Malloy’s life insurance policies.
Murder Trust got their comeuppance
However, they were caught for their crimes, after arguments about the division of the payouts attracted the attention of other patrons of the New York bars.
The police heard rumours about Iron Mike and the repeated attempts on his life. His body was exhumed and examined and it was discovered he died from carbon monoxide poisoning.
All five of the group were arrested and the media nicknamed them the Murder Trust. They all faced trial for murder and repeated counts of attempted murder.
Green was sent to prison, while Marino, Kriesberg, Murphy and Pasqua were all sent to Sing Sing prison where they were executed by the electric chair.
Malloy’s story was not a happy one, but has seen him go down in history as a remarkable man. His death was a topic of discussion on the popular British panel show QI, with host Stephen Fry explaining Malloy’s story to comedians Lee Mack, Jimmy Carr, Sandi Toksvig and Alan Davies.
Watch the clip from QI below.