Monday, 23 September 2013

TV News Cameraman Meets Armed Robber.

OK... OK... So the title of today's blog post is somewhat misleading. I did in fact have a cup of tea with an EX armed robber, who has spent 33 or so years of his life's 53 years behind bars, banged up, doing porridge, and serving time at Her Majesties pleasure in a variety of salubrious penal establishments.

After formal greetings, he asked if i preferred Darjeeling or a honey and lemon with a hot lead 'infusion.'

 I was filming and interviewing him for a news piece for Channel 4 News about the proposed banning of smoking in all prison establishments. If anyone knew the in's and out's of jail life, it was my new friend. As i have said before, you get to meet all sorts in this job, not just the normal types, but former gun wielding blaggers of the East End variety as well. 

He was a nice bloke.

I will say that again... He was a nice bloke. The sort that i would happily have a pint in the pub with, if i hadn't known his past history. Well spoken and erudite, well built but gentle in his demeanor, with a wry sense of humour. If he hadn't told me of his past, i wouldn't have guessed it. I can imagine a cordial conversation at the bar, guessing his career path as if partaking in a boozy episode of 'What's my line...'

"Accountant..?"  "No."

"Perfume assistant at Marks and Spencer..?" Hard stare, no answer. 

"Nightclub bouncer..?" "No, but close... I do use a 'tool' whilst at work."

"Builder..?" "No."

"OK... Any chance of a small clue as to what you do for a living..?"

He stands up and pulls out a sawn-off shotgun from within his overcoat, jams it firmly inside my right nostril, and hands me a large burlap bag...


I sensed a frisson of an East London accent...

"Oh...Oh... You're in banking... Hedge fund manager..?"

The above of course, didn't happen. Thankfully not to me anyway. But looking at him i could well imagine him actually doing it, and the fact that he actually did just that on numerous occasions in real life, led me to believe that i wouldn't want to meet him in an angry frame of mind down a dark, damp alleyway on the business end of his unmarked shooter.

At one point, having placed a radio mike on his shirt, i joked with him about 'wearing a wire.' He looked at me, and I decided not to make a joke again. Following the interview i talked to him about his former life, which only came to an end two years ago, following his latest stint in pokey for relieving someone of their cash and 'investing' it wisely in wine, women and fast motors. The buzz, the power trip, the high octane adrenaline fueled life of stealing a shit load of someone's money, spending it and doing it all over again, followed by the creeping fear that the boys in blue are preparing to kick your door in at 4am to feel your collar.

I asked him if he would ever do it again...

"I don't think so.." He said. "There comes a time in a man's life when you've got to stop buggering about. Know what i mean..?"

I certainly do, my well built, hopefully ex armed blagger friend... I certainly do. Because i would hate for you to shout "Hi mate..!" as i am standing on the court steps, whilst the robbery squad parade you handcuffed, in prison fatigues to the waiting press before being sent down for another 20 stretch. That would be just embarrassing, for both of us.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter, and is in no way whatsoever, a 'grass,' 'nonce,' or 'snitch.'