We had been talking for about an hour by now and it was my turn to get the pints in. I often find it quite surprising when I learn things about people that I would have found hard to believe if someone else had related them to me. I don’t suppose you ever really know anyone until you sit down and get them to open up about themselves. I was enthralled by the story though and urged Colin to continue.
Arrest and Incarceration
“We were oblivious to time and we were only concerned with stealing what we could. You have to remember that we had been on a drug and alcohol bender for days, which tends to make you bold and careless in equal measure” Colin said.
Of course, the noise from the breaking glass and the damaging of the premises had alerted the people living locally and they had naturally called the police. Colin had no recollection of how long they had been inside the premises before they were warned to come out with empty hands and give themselves up. Colin himself realised that the game was up; there was no other way out of the building and there were several policemen outside the front. Chris though had different ideas, not long out of prison he shouted to the police to come in and get him, telling them it wouldn’t be easy. To emphasise his point he hurled a display stand at the open door.
What happened over the next couple of hours passed by in a bit of a surreal blur, the police had come into the building and arrested them both. Chris had put up a bit of a fight but eventually he and Colin had found themselves handcuffed together, sat on the pavement edge outside the shop. A small crowd had gathered to watch the excitement. Chris asked one of the officers if he could walk as he felt a bit ill and the officer agreed. Chris took this as a signal for them to try, without any hope of success, to “do a runner” and off they went. Quickly caught they were handcuffed together around a lamppost, much to the amusement of the on looking crowd.
“After what must have been about half an hour we were bundled into an ambulance and taken to the town’s infirmary where we had our stomachs pumped” said Colin “a degrading experience to say the least”. “From there we were moved to the cells in the main police station where we had to share a cell. Chris had managed to secrete a 30 bottle of Durophet capsules and we spent our first morning in custody pacing up and down, talking rubbish and continuing our drug binge under the noses of the police”.
During that afternoon Chris and Colin had been taken out of the cells and into the offices of the drug squad. The police were happy, especially to now have both the Hazel brothers in custody and they were keen to find out where the drugs from the Boots break in had ended up. Colin and Chris spent the afternoon making up wild stories about where the stuff was hidden but Colin recalled they also inadvertently provided information that they later found out was used to arrest several people. Amphetamines will make you waffle, he said, but I could tell even now that he was disappointed in himself when he recalled that he had betrayed some of his friends, albeit unwittingly.
“Anyway” said Colin “now we get to the heart of the story, you said you were interested in why there was so much violence and drug use in our prisons and why the authorities seem incapable of dealing with it. Perhaps my experience of the penal system, especially where young offenders are concerned, might shed some light on things”. With this he carried on with his story, showing a remarkable recollection given that the events had taken place over 40 years before.
First thing on the Monday morning Chris and Colin had been taken in front of a magistrate where they were both remanded in custody to await a hearing. Some of the gang were in the public gallery. Perversely, Colin told me, getting caught in the act of burgling a chemist shop was something of a badge of honour in those days and it wasn’t unusual for the court appearances to be well attended by mates wanting to show support.
When they were taken back down to the cells Chris and Colin were separated to wait for the transport to take them to the places of remand. I asked Colin why he had been refused bail. “It was the supply conviction” he said “all of a sudden I’m some convicted drug dealer who isn’t safe on the streets”. That afternoon Colin was transferred by prison van to the Youth wing of Armley Gaol in Leeds. He was handed over to a warden and marched along a wide stone flagged corridor to a high wooden counter, manned by another officer dressed in a white jacket. Everything about this experience was completely new to Colin, he had no idea what to expect but had made his mind up to listen, follow instructions and try to get on. He had no idea how long he would be in Armley, or whether he would be finally sentenced to a spell inside. Little did he know that it would be over a year before he would be a free person again.
To Be Continued…..