The five prisoners sat together in a cell at Tooting police station. They felt an mixture of excitement and fear as they waited.
29 year old Will and 23 year old Peter were co-defendants who’d committed an aggravated burglary together. Winston was a Jamaican crack dealer. Scouse Joe was a skinny junkie from Liverpool who’d been nicked for pick pocketing a ladies purse from her handbag. And Jamie was a 21 year old homeless person who’d been remanded in custody for shoplifting a sandwich.
The five prisoners were being held in police custody because the London remand centres were full to breaking point, and were seriously overcrowded. It was late in 2004 and over a period of many years, Britain’s prison population had continued increasing.
The prisoners were being held on a small corridor that had three cells on it, and also a toilet and shower room. The cell doors were open all day so that the five prisoners could mix together, and the corridor had a barred gate at its entrance that was kept locked. Every half an hour like clockwork a police officer would come to the barred gate to check on the prisoners.
The policeman who came next was a new recruit called Max. “You alright lads?” Max called through the gate.
The five prisoners tensed apprehensively. 29 year old Will stepped out of the cell he shared with his co-defendant Peter, and looked at Max through the barred gate and said, “Yeah guv, we’re alright.”
Max smiled and asked, “Where’s all the others?”
“They’re in my cell playing cards.”
Max smiled again, “Ok mate. I’ll check you all again later. Enjoy your game.”
Will forced a little grin to try and hide his nervousness, “Ok guv.”
Max then walked through the empty room next the cell corridor, down another short corridor and into the main part of the station, where the desk sergeant Brian was seated with two other officers behind the counter.
As soon as Max had left, the five prisoners sprang into action. They quickly went into the corridor. Peter, Will’s co-defendant stood watch beside the barred gate.
In the middle of the cell corridor was an old sash cord window with bars in front of it. Will took the junior hacksaw that had been smuggled in beneath a kebab in a box that Will’s girlfriend had brought on a visit. And Will frantically began sawing through one of the bars on the window. To mask and drown out the sound of the bar being sawn, Winston turned up his radio and blasted out dance music on Kiss Fm.
The prisoners had planned the escape after another police officer had innocently let slip that the CCTV camera pointing down the corridor they were on, wasn’t working. The part of the police station they were being held in needed renovation and the electrics needed rewiring. Which was why the CCTV camera wasn’t working. The part of the station the remand prisoners were in had actually been shut down for a while, but they’d had to open it for holding prisoners, due to the crisis of the London remand centres being so overcrowded.
After less than a minute one of the bars had been sawn through at the bottom. Will then started sawing through the same bar, but about three feet higher, and a minute later he’d sawn through it and the bar came away in his hand. The prisoners then grinned at each other and Winston said, “Wicked.”
Will pushed the sash cord window up and Winston said, “Try an’ get through.”
Will then pushed his head through and squeezed his shoulders and chest through as well, before pulling back and saying, “I can get through it…You try.”
Winston looked unsure. Will was tall and slim, but Winston was shorter and stocky in build, with a broad chest and shoulders. “I don’t think I’m gonna get through that man,” Winston said.
“Try,” Said Will.
Winston tried to squeeze his shoulders and chest through, but got stuck and pulled himself back and said, “We gonna need to saw through another bar to make the gap wider.”
Will looked nervously at Peter who was tensely keeping watch at the gate. Will realised that they would need to take out another bar for Peter as well, as Peter was short, but chubby. Will then handed the hacksaw to Winston and said, “You do it.”
Winston sawed through both ends of a bar in in just ninety seconds. Now the two bars were removed, they all looked at each other excited.
“Lets go,” Said Will, “You go out first Winston.”
“Cool,” Said Winston, and he squeezed easily through the bars and out of the window onto the police station yard.
“You go next,” Will said to scouse Joe, who smiled and said, “Nice one.”
After Joe was out, Jamie the homeless guy climbed out and it was just Will and his co-defendant Peter left.
“You go next Pete,” Will said grinning.
But Peter suddenly said, “I’m not going.”
“What?” Will asked confused.
“I’m not going.”
“Are you mad?” Will asked, “You could be lookin’ at seven years for aggravated burglary. You’ve got a chance to be free now.”
“I can’t go man,” Peter said wondering if he was going crazy.
“Why?” Will asked pained.
“I can’t got on the run,” Peter said again, “Kerry’s pregnant. Where could we go? I just wanna do my time an’ get it over with.”
Will knew time was running out and he had to get out before Max checked up on them again, “Ok man, whatever, but I’m going.”
“Go then,” Said Peter, then they suddenly stepped towards each other and hugged.
“I love ya man,” Said Will, and he kissed Peter on the neck.
“I love ya too man,” Said Peter, feeling like he was going to cry.
“I gotta go,” Will said, and moments later he climbed out through the bars and onto the yard where the other three inmates were waiting.
There was a parked police car on the yard, right next to the wall, the other side of which was the street. The four escaped prisoners climbed onto the bonnet, then the roof of the car and over the wall, then they all quickly fled.
Back in the corridor, Peter picked up Winston’s radio, which was still blasting out dance music, and he lowered the volume and took it into his cell. He laid down with tears in his eyes and wondered if he was going mad. He also wondered if he was a fool for not taking his chance to escape. His solicitor had previously told him to expect anything from three to seven years for the aggravated burglary he’d committed. For a moment he thought about climbing through the bars and escaping after all. But then he decided to stay and he suddenly felt a sense of peace, and he knew in his heart he’d made the right choice.
When Max came back to check on the prisoners, half an hour after he’d last checked, he stood at the gate and said loudly, “Alright guys.”
Peter heard him but didn’t answer.
“Guy’s,” Max said again, but got no reply.
Max suddenly sensed something was wrong. He opened the gate and walked down the small corridor, stopping at Peter’s open cell. He smiled at Peter and asked, “Where is everyone?”
“They’ve gone guv,” Peter answered quietly.
Max smiled again, feeling slightly confused, and asked, “Are they playing cards in the other cells?”
“I’m sorry guv…They’ve gone.”
Max suddenly felt a sense of panic and he looked in the other cells and was confused to see them empty. And as he stood in the empty corridor he suddenly saw the missing bars and open window.
“Shit,” Max blurted, and he ran back out of the corridor, through the empty room and through the other little corridor, before arriving in the main part of the station, and Max shouted, “Four of the prisoners have escaped.”
“What?” Asked Brian the desk sergeant.
“Four of the prisoners have escaped.”
Brian and the two other policemen with him stood up quickly, and Brian asked, “How?”
“They’ve sawn through the bars in the corridor.”
“Jesus,” Said Brian, “We’re bang in trouble.”
Two weeks after being remanded in custody, Peter appeared back at South Western magistrates court, where he was due to have his case committed to The Old Baily for sentencing.
John, Peter’s solicitor came to visit Peter in the cells beneath the court and spoke to Peter through the hatch in the cell door. “Good news,” He beamed smiling at Peter, “The police are no longer objecting to bail.”
Peter raised his eyebrows stunned and asked, “Why?”
John smiled again and said, “It seems the police have softened towards you for doing the right thing and not escaping when you had a chance to. They trust you now.”
Half hour later Peter stood in the dock and the prosecutor outlined the details of Peter’s case, telling the magistrate that Peter had committed an aggravated burglary with an accomplice at a mansion in Richmond, Surrey, in the early hours of the morning.
“Is there any objection to bail?” Asked the magistrate.
“No your honour,” Answered the prosecutor.
The magistrate looked at Peter sternly and said, “Peter Philips I am committing your case to The Old Baily for sentencing. Until then I am releasing you on unconditional bail.”
Kerry, Peters girlfriend who was six and a half months pregnant, and who was sitting in the public gallery, burst into tears of joy and Peter looked at the magistrate and said, “Thank you your honour…Thank you so much.”
The magistrate smiled slightly and Peter’s solicitor came over to the dock and shook hands with Peter and said, “It will probably take at least a few months before you get a court date at the Baily, so hopefully you’ll get to see your child being born.”
Peter’s eyes suddenly welled up with tears of emotion and he said, “Yeah, I’ll be there.”
That night Peter and Kerry had a Chinese take away meal in their flat, then they sat on the sofa, Peter with a glass of beer and Kerry with a glass of wine.
Kerry said, “I don’t know if I should be drinking while I’m pregnant.”
Peter smiled, “Its ok occasionally, and in moderation. Plus its just a treat to celebrate. I can’t believe the magistrate give me bail man.”
Kerry smiled, “I know. That was a right result. I’m so glad you didn’t escape with Will. It would have just got worse. You’d have been in so much more trouble.”
Peter took a mouthful of beer and said, “My brief says that it will probably take at least a few months before my case comes up for sentencing at the Baily. I’ll definitely be at the birth when our kids born.”
Kerry took a sip of wine and said, “I don’t feel so bad about it all now. When you first got nicked, it was a real shock, I was devastated, but now I’m starting to get my head around it. Your solicitor says you’ll get between three and seven years, so lets say you get a five stretch, if you behave, you could be out in less than two.”
“Yeah, its not that long is it?”
“Nah,” Kerry smiled, “Two years will fly by.”
Will was smoking crack with Jenny in their top floor council flat, four floors up. Their kids were in bed. Will looked out of their living room window at a white van parked down below in the street.
“Do ya think our flat is under surveillance?” Will asked.
“I don’t think so,” Jenny replied, putting another small piece of crack on the glass crack pipe.
“That van looks dodgy,” Will said, “Do you think there’s old Bill in it pointin’ cameras at our flat?”
“I don’t think so babe. You’re just getting’ paranoid now.”
Will turned away from the window and Jenny handed him the pipe and said, “Have another lick babe.”
Will took the pipe and stroked the flame of his lighter over the piece of crack and sucked the smoke into his lungs. He then went over to the window again, Whilst Jenny prepared a pipe for herself.
“That vans puttin’ me on edge man. Its bin parked there for days. I swear there’s cozzers in it watchin’ us.”
“Babe, your just bein’ paranoid,” Jenny said before smoking the pipe. She then said, “Can you stay the night babe?”
Will turned away from the window to look at Jenny and said, “I can’t babe. If the police are watchin’ this place, they could raid us in the mornin’. That’s why I’m stayin’ with my uncle Frank. I gotta be out of here in an hour, by five. Old Bill usually raid people about six in the mornin’.”
Jenny sighed, “Ol babe, I really wish you could stay the whole night an’ sleep in our bed.”
“I know babe. I just can’t take the chance. I don’t wanna get nicked. I’d rather be dead than go back to prison.”
Peter went to South Thames college in Wandsworth, where he was studying filmmaking. He went to his tutor Paul’s office and knocked on the door.
“Come in,” Said Paul.
Peter opened the door and sheepishly entered and Paul immediately raised his eyebrows and said, “Hello stranger.”
“Alright Paul,” Peter replied.
“Where you been? I ain’t seen you for over two weeks. I’ve tried phoning you several times but your phone was switched off.”
“I’ve been in jail,” Peter said quietly.
Paul raised his eyebrows again and half smiled, “What, did you rob a bank or something?”
“No. I robbed some people in their mansion.”
“Shit. What did you do that for man? You on drugs or something?”
“Nah, but it’s a long story.”
“Tell me man. I’m curious.”
Peter took a deep breath and said, “Well basically one of my old pals asked me to do a job with him. And I said yeah. I didn’t really wanna do it, but I dunno why I did. I just couldn’t really say no to him.”
“Did he force you?”
“Nah, nah, nothin’ like that. He just asked me and like I said, for some reason I just couldn’t say no…I’m not blamin’ him though. But I was just too weak to not get involved.”
Paul suddenly sighed and said, “I’m disappointed with you man. I thought you’d dropped out.”
“I am gonna drop out. I just came to say goodbye. I really wanted to complete the course, but I won’t be able to. I’m on bail at the moment, but in three or four months I’ll probably be at The Old Baily for sentencing. My brief reckons I’ll get between three and seven years.
“Don’t drop out,” Paul said firmly, “Keep attending the course till you go to court. Have faith, anything could happen in court. And I don’t mind attending court to give you a character reference.”
Peter smiled slightly, “Thanks man.”
“Like I said…Keep attending the course. The worst thing you can do while you wait to go to court is sit around doing nothing. You need to get your mind off it and get it focussed on something.”
Nearly three months had passed since Will escaped from Tooting police station. It was now half past two in the morning. Will entered the back garden of a very large house in a private road in Kingston, Surrey.
He tried a back door handle and it immediately opened. Will smiled slightly at his stroke of luck. It never ceased to amaze him at how lapse some people were with their security. He’d lost count of the amount of unlocked back doors and windows he’d found in all the years he’d been a criminal.
Will stepped through the door into a very large, open plan kitchen. He opened some drawers looking for a large knife to arm himself with, then he found a large meat cleaver, which he picked up. He was wearing a balaclava like a hat, then he lowered it to mask his face, leaving only his eyes and mouth showing.
Will then crept up the large winding staircase. He quietly opened four of the doors leading to bedrooms and saw no one in them. Then he opened a fifth door that led to the master bedroom and he could see the shape of a couple in bed. He switched on the bedroom light and said loudly, “Wake up.”
Malcolm, the middle aged man in the bed sat up suddenly, feeling disorientated and said in a posh voice, “Oh my god.”
Jennifer the lady in bed stirred and opened her eyes, wondering if she was dreaming, then she looked at Will in the menacing balaclava and clutching the meat cleaver. She gasped in shock.
“Who are you?” Malcolm asked.
“Don’t worry about who I am,” Said Will, “Is anyone else in the house?”
“No, It’s just us,” Malcolm said, rubbing his eyes to wake up more, “Our children are at their grandparents for the night.”
“Where’s yer safe?” Will asked.
“Pardon,” Answered Malcolm.
“Where’s yer safe?” Will asked again.
Malcom said, “We haven’t got a safe.”
“I’m gonna ask you one more time,” Said Will, “An if you don’t tell me where yer safe is I’m gonna bury this meat cleaver in yer neck.”
Jennifer sat up in bed and suddenly burst into tears and Malcolm said, “Steady on old chap. I’m being honest with you. We haven’t got a safe.”
“Where do you keep yer cash an’ jewellery?” Will asked.
“I keep a thousand pounds for emergencies in a tin in the kitchen, and my wife keeps her jewellery in that jewellery box on the dressing table there,” Malcolm said pointing to it.
“Ok,” Said Will, “What’s that watch you’ve got on?”
“It’s a Rolex,” Malcolm answered.
“Take it off,” Will said, “And what’s the watch yer wife’s wearin’?”
“It’s a Rolex as well,” Said Malcolm.
“Take it off,” Will said to Jennifer.
Jennifer started sobbing even louder and Will scowled and said to her, “Take yer rings off as well, an’ yer earings.”
Jennifer stared at Will a moment frozen and Will said firmly, “Now…Rings an’ earings.”
Jennifer sobbed and touched one of the rings she had on, which was a diamond and ruby ring and she said, “This was my mothers ring. She died of cancer three months ago.”
Will stared at Jennifer a moment without speaking, then he asked, “What’s the other two rings yer wearin’?”
My engagement ring and a platinum wedding ring.”
“Take those off then,” Said Will, “But you can keep the one yer mum gave you.”
Jennifer sobbed again then said, “Thank you. Thank you.”
Will gave a little sigh and said partly to himself, “I must be goin’ bloody soft.”
It was about three’o’clock in the morning when Kerry woke up with a feeling of discomfort in her stomach. Moments later she felt her waters break and the bed was soaking wet. She sat up feeling slightly panicked then woke Peter beside her.
“What’s the matter?” Peter asked, groggily and half asleep.
“I’m going into labour.”
Peter suddenly sat up and asked, “You sure?”
“Yeah, my waters have broke.”
Peter grabbed his phone on the bedside cabinet and said, “I’ll call a cab.”
Twenty-five minutes later they arrived at St Georges hospital in Tooting. In reception Peter told one of the staff that Kerry was going into labour. The receptionist then called a staff member and they sat Kerry in a wheelchair and wheeled her to the labour ward, whilst Kerry clutched her stomach with one hand and held Peters hand with the other.
Six hours later whilst Kerry lay on a bed, Peter and Kerry’s son arrived and moments later one of the midwives placed the baby on Kerry’s chest and Peter burst into tears, so overwhelmed with emotion. It felt like the most amazing thing he’d ever seen and the memory would stay with him for the rest of his life.
After another couple of minutes, one of the midwives cut the umbilical cord and they cleaned up the baby, weighed him, and the scales said eight pounds. A midwife then wrapped the baby in a towel and looked at Peter smiling and said, “Would you like to hold him daddy?”
It was the first time anyone had ever called Peter that, and he felt his eyes well up with tears of emotion again, and he said, “Yeah.”
The midwife handed the baby to Peter and Peter immediately kissed the baby’s forehead and said, “I love you son.”
Peter then looked at Kerry, who was beaming, and Peter grinned back and both of them felt like they were in heaven.
TO BE CONTINUED