A Slippery Slope
Once he got back home Colin had reluctantly been allowed to move into the house owned by his step father but he wasn’t really welcome. His mother had made her choices and she wasn’t about to risk what she now had for the sake of her wayward son. Consequently he spent as much time out of the house as possible. To his mother he had fallen in with a “very bad crowd” before he had moved to Stratford. So far as Colin was concerned he had been amongst friends.
On his return it hadn’t taken Colin long to get back in with the “very bad crowd” of guys he had hung around with before he’d left. He hadn’t really kept in touch and was quite surprised at how much had changed in the 18 months that he’d been away. Speed was overwhelmingly the drug of choice and the favourite way of getting hold of pills was by burgling chemist shops.
Two or three pharmacies were getting raided every week with varying degrees of success. Some of the gang had already done a spell in a detention centre and others were currently away doing time in places like Stoke Heath and Feltham, both Borstal Training facilities. Others, slightly older, were either (or recently had been) in main stream prisons like Armley and Strangeways.
The whole scene in the town revolved around the Top Rank bowling alley, a small bar in a large town centre hotel, The Silver Link pub and The Coffee House, an all night town centre cafe run by a gay man called Don Sewley. Pills, mostly amphetamines, were everywhere.
By the early summer of 1970 Colin was working in a dead end job doing shifts on the fault sorting line of a glass bottle factory. By now he was totally immersed in the speed culture and all he could think about was getting pilled up on a Saturday night (and whenever else he could get hold of some gear) and attending one of the all night soul music clubs that had proliferated across the region.
One Saturday night, two weeks before the day that changed Colins life forever, two of his acquaintances, Richard “Dicky” Richards and Vincent “Vinny” Hazel had almost pulled off the “impossible” job; they had forced entry into the town centre branch of Boots the Chemist. Although Dicky Richards had suffered a very serious cut to his arm during the break in they had eventually made off with thousands of amphetamine tablets and capsules along with assorted opiates and barbiturates.
Dicky and Vinny had been picked up within 4 days of the break in, but not before Vinnies older brother Chris had been passed some ambiguous clues as to where the stash was supposed to be hidden.
Chris and Colin were good friends and they spent the following days, pilled out of their heads, frantically searching waste land and canal banks for the tins and bottles of black bombers, dexies and other drugs from the burglary, all to no avail. They had discovered a few pills (250 Durophet black and whites and 500 Durophet-M red and browns), hidden in the side panel of a Lambretta scooter parked behind the house where the Hazel brothers lived with their mother. This was a tiny proportion of the total haul and once many had been swallowed, some had been sold on and more given away there were very few left.
Exactly two weeks later, to the day, Chris and Colin scored a quarter ounce of extremely potent hash, some of which they smoked on the bus into town. Already high on pills, by the time they arrived at the Silver Link they were smashed. The atmosphere in the pub was toxic, rumours abounded that Chris and Colin had found the Boots stash and were keeping it for their own use; others were saying Colin had grassed Vinny up to get his hands on the pills. Paranoia was everywhere and the mood was becoming ugly and potentially violent. They left the pub confused and in a high state of agitation and went round to the Coffee House. Three couples who were known to Chris and Colin were in and as Colins mum and step dad were on holiday he invited them back to his house to drink and smoke dope.
By midnight the dope was all smoked, the couples were making use of the beds in the house and Chris and Colin, still buzzing from the cocktail of drugs and alcohol they had consumed, made a decision to burglarise the chemist shop in the village.
“Looking back on it now we were pretty stupid, we set off without a plan at all” said Colin “all we knew was we wanted drugs and we were determined to get them. We walked round to the parade of shops without even as much as a screwdriver or a hammer and located the back of the pharmacy. Once we got there we soon realised that the barred window and the reinforced door were going to be difficult barriers to overcome but in our state of mind we didn’t intend on being beaten”.
Colin paused, took a long swallow of his pint and continued his story. “There had obviously been some building works going on and we found a piece of thick steel pipe in a large bin. Chris grabbed it and tried to lever the bars on the window apart. It was about 3 in the morning by now and we were being quite loud but we weren’t thinking about any noise we were making. We were consumed by the thought of the pills we could get hold of”.
Again Colin paused, finished his pint, told me to sup up and shouted for two more of the same.
“After about what must have been half an hour we had made no headway with the bars. Chris took a couple of futile swings at the reinforced door and I had made up my mind, now it was starting to become daylight, to give up and try and get some sleep. We still hadn’t totally given up on finding the Boots gear at that time”.
“We walked round to the front of the shops, Chris had the steel pipe over his shoulder as if he was carrying a rifle and I was walking slightly in front of him. Without warning he swung the steel pipe at the plate glass door of the pharmacy and it shattered into thousands of pieces, he threw the pipe into the road with a clatter and ran into the dark interior of the shop. Across the road lights were coming on in a couple of the houses but we were where we were and I followed Chris inside. This was my first time but Chris was a bit of an old hand and he knew what he was looking for, within a couple of minutes we had both taken 20 or 30 capsules and were loading a box with the contents of the DDA cabinet that Chris had ripped off the wall. “Just about the last thing I clearly remember” he continued “ was that in the rush to get what we could and get away a bottle of Stimplete, a liquid amphetamine/barbiturate compound shattered on the floor and soaked my trousers”.
To Be Continued…..