“I’m 100% British. I think, I act and talk like an Englishman, not like someone from the West Indies.” Some of you who are old enough just might remember an exceptionally talented bodybuilder by the name of Bertil “Brutal” Fox. Born on the eastern Caribbean island of St. Kitts on January 5, 1951, Fox was only a year old when he and his family moved to England where he quickly exchanged his Caribbean roots for a British upbringing in the town of Northampton. By the time he was a teen, his cousin encouraged him to try bodybuilding and, by the age of 18, he was finally confident enough to compete and won his first title at the 1969 Junior Mr. Britain.
Hooked by the adrenaline of competition, the attention from his growing fan base and his body’s incredible transformation, Fox spent the next few years competing in every contest available outside the world-renowned International Federation of Body Building and Fitness (IFBB) circuit. During this period, he won a series of titles including the 1976 AAU Mr. World, the 1976 Mr. Britain and Mr. Europe, the 1977 amateur NABBA Mr. Universe as well as the professional NABBA Mr. Universe in 1978 and 1979.
As great as Fox’s early bodybuilding success was, it did very little to pay the bills, which led Fox to take a job in the London Underground as a train driver while he spent the rest of his free time training at the gym. His hard work finally paid off in 1981 when famous bodybuilder Joe Weider, co-founder of the IFBB and creator of the Mr. Olympia contest, discovered Fox and sponsored his move to Los Angeles where he turned professional and competed in his first IFBB contest, the Grand Prix Belgium.
With a fifth-place finish, the media went wild over Fox’s incredible physique and even led Flex magazine’s editor-in-chief, Bill Reynolds, to dub him as “Brutal Bertil.” Standing at 5’8” tall and weighing 245 pounds, Fox was known for his high volume heavy weight training that, despite leaving his thighs and back narrow compared to his competitors, created what many called “colossal-sized” arms, traps, deltoids and pectorals. In fact, his arms were so spectacular that he was praised as the next Mr. Olympia. Unfortunately, after coming into the IFBB almost five years too late, the Mr. Olympia title proved to be a victory Fox would never see.
Placing second in the 1982 Night of Champions and eighth in the 1982 Mr. Olympia competitions, many believed that 1983 would turn out to be Fox’s biggest year yet after he won second place in the Grand Prix Switzerland. However, a fifth-place finish at the 1983 Mr. Olympia left Fox and his fans desperately wanting more as he spent the next decade competing in nearly a dozen more IFBB competitions without ever getting any closer to the coveted Mr. Olympia title. By 1994, he was ready to call it quits after a 13th-place finish at the Iron Pro Invitational and nearly three decades competing on the stage inspired him to return to his native country of St. Kitts.
With no memory of his brief childhood on St. Kitts, Fox was 44 years old when he saw the island for the first time. Inspired to finally settle down, he retired from the bodybuilding stage and opened his own gym, which he aptly named “Fox’s Gym,” in the summer of 1995. Little did he realize, however, was that this brief period of peace would mark the highest point of his life before things quickly took a much darker and tragic path.
On September 30, 1997—just two years after Fox’s return to St. Kitts—a 20-year-old beauty queen named Leyoca Browne and her 36-year-old mother, Violet, were shot to death in their home on the island. It just so happened that Leyoca was Fox’s former fiancée, which ignited a media frenzy on the island, across Fox’s childhood home of Northampton, England, and around the world in the bodybuilding community. According to police, Fox was directly involved in the shooting after the former bodybuilder first denied the incident before later admitting to fighting with Leyoca. Charged with murdering both women, Fox’s life forever changed on May 22, 1998 when he was convicted of double murder and sentenced to death by hanging. Fortunately, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council accepted Fox’s appeal and reduced his sentence to life in prison.
Today, the 66-year-old former bodybuilder who once denied his Caribbean heritage and claimed to be “100% British” is now an inmate on an island that once praised him as their West Indies version of Arnold Schwarzenegger only to see him join the company of celebrity murderers like O.J. Simpson. After nearly three decades of vigorous weight training and over two dozen competitions both in and out of the professional circuit, Fox has seen his once heralded muscles shrivel into nothing as his time in prison has left him only a shadow of the man he once was. Now doing push-ups and lifting water buckets, Fox’s fall from grace is undeniably one of the greatest tragedies in bodybuilding history.