A PORTSMOUTH trader has paid tribute to Howard Marks, the famed drug smuggler.
The Welshman was a familiar face to many who visited Southsea Common for the Smokey Bears Picnic cannabis awareness event in Southsea each year.
Martin Palmer, 57, director of Freedom Seeds in Portsmouth, was very close to Mr Marks.
He said: ‘The first time I met Howard was the summer of 1999.
‘I knew who he was because he was a bit of a folk hero, so when he came round we had a really good chat.
‘There were people hanging around after a party the night before, too.
‘I bumped into him a number of times over the years, but the first time was definitely the best.’
In 1997, Mr Marks evaded police arrest on Southsea Common, after revealing to the press that he was ‘bustable 100 per cent of the time’.
During a life of crime, Mr Marks used up to 43 different aliases, and became known as ‘Mr Nice’ after he bought a passport from convicted murderer Donald Nice.
He went on to release his autobiography of the same name, which became a bestseller.
His story was turned into a major film made in 2009, in which he was played by close friend Rhys Ifans.
‘At one point during the evening, Howard showed us an unauthorised trailer for the film,’ said Mr Palmer.
‘It was cut to the Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix music – they would never get the rights to use but it was brilliant and raised a huge cheer.
‘I spoke to him that night about how he would be remembered.
‘I suggested that when this was all over, and the dust had settled, his legacy would be the autobiography Mr Nice and this movie. I’m happy with that.’
Mr Palmer added: ‘They say don’t meet your heroes.
‘But in Howard’s case that certainly wasn’t true.
‘Smuggler, scholar, stoner, cultural icon, legend, to me he was all these but I just knew him as Howard, and I will miss him.’
Mr Marks died of cancer aged 70 on April 10.