Born in 1958, I began school in 1963 and seemed like many other children of that age, “normal”. Elements of my life were not of my choice, my father was nowhere to be seen, and my mum had eight of us to look after. Times were tough. We lived in a top floor flat in Paddington, North London, but there were many other families similar to ours, so for me, this life was “normal”.
In those days supermarkets were not like they are today, and we used a local corner shop called “Jacks” to buy all our food. By the time I was ten, I began working at Jacks, filling shelves and serving customers. If I worked hard, I could earn about £3 each week, which was simply deducted from the weekly bill my mum ran up.
I grew up rather faster than my schoolmates. I liked junior school and, in 1969, moved up to senior school, which I hated with a passion. They treated me as thick because of my Dyslexia, so aged 13, I stopped attending. But life at Jacks had another dark side; I began to be physically abused by the owner himself.
In the ’70s, the phenomena we now call “Paedophilia” was not recognised like it is today. I had no one to confide in, nobody helped me, and as long as I stayed at the shop, then I expected that it would continue. Aged 14, as revenge for the abuse, I set the shop and his home alight. I then terrorised him both physically and mentally and found myself in prison! Upon release, I became interested in petty crime, and some of the local criminals encouraged me to join them.
Like many teenagers before me, I was interested in motorbikes, and my friend Tony made a living out of stealing them. He kindly offered to teach me how to ride one, and I was hooked, for me it was great. I had stopped attending school by this time, I had a “family” of friends around me, and I felt empowered.
The business that Tony had was based upon the constant need of those who raced motorbikes to acquire new engines. This was because under race conditions the engines had a very limited life. We would be asked by a racer to supply a particular engine, and Tony would then find a motorbike that fitted the need and steal it. The engine would then be removed and sold onto the racer, and the rest of the bike would be stripped down for sale or scrap.
One day Tony asked me to travel as a pillion rider on his Honda motorbike to nearby Wembley, he would steal a bike, and I would need to ride his bike back to the workshop. It was a horrible day, it was raining, but we did the job, and my life of crime had begun!