Sunday, 10th February, 2002
TV Programme 'The Legend Of Ronnie Biggs' Is The Nearest You Will Get To The Truth
In past Viewpoints I have severely criticised Channel 5 for relying upon people in their documentaries on gangland, and gangland people, that have little, or no knowledge, of the culture and yet are paraded as the real thing, when in reality they are the opposite.
When Channel 5 made the three-part series on the Krays I took them to task, and headed a Viewpoint on the series: TRASH TV AND TRASH PEOPLE.
However, upon consideration I decided I wanted no part in giving additional publicity on the Internet to the trash people that appeared in the programme, and I scrapped the Viewpoint.
The programme had to hurt people like Roberta Kray, and other Kray family members, and I was not prepared to risk extending their hurt albeit in innocence.
I make no apology for condemning the 'frauds' that have appeared in past Channel 5 documentaries on gangland, and treating as rubbish their alleged ' inside knowledge' on gangland.
Fantasy is never knowledge it is only make-believe by people who have a perception on gangland that bears no relation to the truth.
I hope the TV channel learned from my constructive criticism.
TWO TITBITS CHANNEL 5 MISSED
In the two part series 'The Legend Of Ronnie Biggs' Channel 5 excelled themselves. This is the nearest that viewers will get to the real Ronnie Biggs story.
It was excellent television because a real attempt was made to tell the truth by securing interviews with the people that know the truth.
This should now be the standard. However, there were two titbits that Channel 5 missed.
The first was that when Ronnie escaped among the escapee's was Andy Anderson, from Scotland. On the afternoon of the escape I was sitting in an office of our fruit machine and jukebox distribution company listening to the details of the escape on the radio and TV when there was a knock at the door.
The door was opened, and standing there was Andy Anderson. He said he had been told at one time in Brixton by Patsy Fleming who was working for us that if he was in London and needed any help to call at the office.
Well, to say he needed help is a major understatement. There were more policemen on the streets of London than hornets in a giant hornet nest.
Andy was quickly welcomed into the office; money was raised, clothes were bought, a call was made to Scotland to those gentlemen of gentlemen, the late Arthur Thompson and Mendel Morris; a Rolls Royce car with a chauffeur was borrowed, and Andy and I were on our way to Scotland.
Everyone involved behaved magnificently. Andy, and the Scottish people, was very grateful.
THE REPROBATE KIDNAPPER JOHN BANKS HAD 'BOTTLE' TROUBLE
The second titbit relates to that reprobate John Banks who used threats to harm Ronnie Biggs' then child son, Michael, to force Ronnie Biggs to agree to be kidnapped in defiance of the law of Brazil.
It was alleged that Sir Hugh Fraser a millionaire staunch Establishment member put up the money for the conspiracy to kidnap Ronnie. Fortunately, the plot was uncovered, and the conspirators were exposed, but only after the Barbados authorities refused to cooperate with the British authorities and the scumbag kidnappers.
Had the Metropolitan police done their duty they would have put Sir Hugh Fraser and his fellow reprobates in the dock at the Old Bailey on a charge of conspiracy to kidnap because the plot was hatched in London.
However, the threat alarmed the Establishment and they closed ranks. It was their pressure that 'fixed' the situation, and no one was 'nicked'.
Alleged SAS type John Banks revelled in the publicity. His boasting of his physical prowess caught the attention of two boxing promoters who are friends of mine.
THE NATIONAL BOXING COUNCIL
The two promoters were affiliated to the National Boxing Council a boxing regulatory body that was set-up in opposition to the British Boxing Board of Control because the shenanigans that were taking place in British professional boxing at that time were getting out-of-hand and were threatening to ruin the sport.
When former policeman 'Nipper' Read became a force on the Board, and the closed shop monopoly was broken and eventually democracy was restored in British boxing the aims of the NBC was achieved.
True to their promise the founders of the NBC quietly allowed the organisation to be put into cold storage.
With hindsight British boxing people that know the story of the NBC now credit this organisation for the strength of British boxing today, and over the past twenty years, and I believe they genuinely deserve this credit.
When my promoter friends approached the NBC to ask them to grant a boxer's licence to John Banks they agreed subject to scrutiny of any boxing record he might have, and a trial bout in a gymnasium.
One of the promoters then approached John Banks, and offered him a record purse for that type of contest to fight Lennie McLean in a boxing ring under boxing rules.
Money-grabbing Banks agreed immediately. The promoter then approached Lennie McLean. When Lennie was told the name of the opponent that he was being asked to fight, he didn't ask how much money was involved but immediately said, 'Yes, he'll do for me."
Amongst the good people in this country there was seething anger against Banks, and his fellow scumbags.
In the meantime Banks had made some enquiries and learned that Lennie McLean was 'The Guv'nor'.
It was now his turn not to be concerned with how much money was involved. He just wanted out.
The boasting, the SAS style training and martial arts expertise he had boasted about was suddenly forgotten. The excuses to pull-out of the fight with Lennie McLean were thrown around like Autumn leaves in the wind. No, in a gale would be more accurate.
The Banks 'bottle' had burst. At first he became ill, then he had other business commitments, suddenly he was needed for a war in the Third World, more time was needed to get fit, etc., etc., etc.
Needless to say he never took up the challenge to fight Lennie, and on reflection it may have been good thing. Lennie could be a real mean machine when roused, and badly, badly wanted Banks.
However, without these two items the programme 'The Legend of Ronnie Biggs' was still first class. Well done, Channel 5 and the programme makers.
A REQUEST MADE IN THE NAME OF HUMANITY
I would consider it a personal favour if every reader of my Viewpoints would send an e-mail to Mr. David Blunkett the Home Secretary, and request of him to put Ronnie Biggs in a proper hospital. Ronnie is a very sick man, and urgently needs full medical care.
It is now the humane practice of the prison authorities to release people with terminal illness that may indicate that they have a short life span.
Ronnie is, sadly, in this category.
He is also the classic example of a reformed man. Since The Great Train Robbery in 1963 he has been a model citizen in Brazil.
His valuable input into the tourist industry of Brazil has been important. Brazil has also be seen by the rest of the world to be a country that is seen to practice fair play, and is prepared to stand-up and protect its citizens.
In contrast from the day that The Great Train Robbers were sentenced to a monstrous 30 years imprisonment for the robbery of money, and the vengeful manner in which Ronnie Biggs has been hunted has exposed England as a country that when it suits it, is arrogantly prepared to break the law in a foreign country, condones kidnapping, and could be considered to be morally bankrupt.
Brazil by example has shown the way that it is the people that are really important in any country. The United Kingdom has to follow this lead if only because it is absolutely correct.
Without the good influence of Ronnie what might have been the fate of his proud son Michael?
I have said earlier in a Viewpoint, Michael is a son that any parent would be justly proud. He conducts himself with impeccable dignity that demands to be respected.
He is an example for young people everywhere to venerate.
It is terribly wrong that a revengeful clique in authority in England that is determined to gain their revenge on Ronnie Biggs should appallingly besmirch the good name of this country and its people.
It is the height of hypocrisy for the English authorities to claim that alternative methods have to be found to free space in prisons when, at the same time, they keep a frail human being that is a proven totally reformed character in the top security Belmarsh prison.
Not only is this a dreadful waste of money that could be better spent, but also it seriously humiliates England.
It is a disgrace that shames every decent person in the country.
Mr. David Blunkett, the Home Secretary. Has shown by his stated intentions, many of which are worthy changes, that he is determined to be a hard politician when it is deemed to be necessary.
I now respectfully implore him to blend this positive attitude with compassion, and allow the first compassionate priority to be an order that Ronnie Biggs be released on humanitarian grounds to allow him to receive the essential medical attention that this ailing man desperately needs in a properly equipped hospital.
The outrageous treatment of Ronnie Biggs is compounded by the treatment of young Michael Biggs.
The evil mandarins at the Home Office refuse to grant Michael the freedom of entry at any time to visit his father.
Therefore Michael is afraid to leave this country because it could mean that should his beloved father die while he is out of the country he could be refused entry into this country to be at the funeral of his father.
How dare it be allowed in the name of the English people that Michael should be seen on national television with tears streaming down his face, asking what more do they want him to do than beg for his father to be treated humanely?
This proud son of Ronnie Biggs is forced to remain in this country at his own expense.
The vile treatment meted out to Michael means that he is unable to leave this country to see his own wife and their child. So while the whole world watches two other innocent people are forced to become victims of the evil people responsible for this unacceptable and despicable state of affairs.
Is this the state that this country of ours has degenerated into? It will be if we allow it.
The voice of the people is very powerful. Politicians and civil servants are literally our servants. We must not allow that small clique of degenerates responsible for the totally unacceptable vendetta against the Biggs family to disgrace us all.
The torture imposed on the family Biggs has to be brought to an abrupt end.
I began this request by stating that I would consider it a personal favour if you would send an e-mail, to David Blunkett at the Home office, I now ask you extend that request, and personal favour, to e-mail, telephone or write your local MP, your favourite newspaper(s) and TV channel(s), and attach this plea for humane treatment of Ronnie and Michael Biggs.
It is the least we are able to do if self-respect has to have any real meaning.
please email the Home Office here: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Tragic Story Of Former Star Amateur Boxer Rickey Womack - 'A Prisoner In His Own Life'
Every so often ignorant people will liken an attempt to have humane conditions in certain prisons as being similar to a holiday camp, and where prisoners are spoilt.
Menu's are detailed in newspapers, and give the totally false impression that prisoners are served near-gourmet food. The descriptions may be in gourmet language but the actual food that is served in prisons is about as near to a Good Food diploma as the North Pole is to the sun.
Time spent in prison of any length invariably comes at a price for most prisoners. With most inmates it leaves a mental scar, and in establishments where the 'screws' are allowed to be sadists there will also be physical scars.
Of course each and every one of us is a different personality, and the unnatural regime of prison affects people very differently.
Because of bloody mindedness and ignorance of the authorities at that time my introduction to approved school and borstal came as a challenge to me and only served as 'career' enhancements, and when I eventually went to prison I was hardened to the regime.
As a consequence prison held no fear for me. To me it was the price I had to pay for the way of life that I chose, which was to live outside the law because to live within the law was, for me, not an option.
The time to which I am referring the 1930's/40's, which were my formative years, when for the seriously underprivileged to live within the confines of the elitist life within the law meant an existence that was only slightly better than the alternative of death.
We believed this to be true because we had to rely upon that which we were told, in no uncertain terms, that the alternative was worse, that is unless you believed in the promise of Heaven.
Great scribes like Charles Dickens have tried to describe the agony that decent people were forced to suffer in the terrible times of which Dickens wrote so splendidly. The Dickens works are highly charged drama and enormously harrowing, but you really had to suffer the experience that desperately poor but caring parents were forced to endure to truly understand the mental and physical abuse.
It was heartbreaking.
A CRYING MOTHER
I have told you in an earlier Viewpoint how I would stand in silence and, unbeknown to my mother, I would watch her sit alone at the kitchen table and cry her eyes out because she had no food to feed her children, and nowhere to turn. Her children were her most precious gift, and yet she had no means to feed them.
This desolating situation was rife in every poor community.
It wasn't that my mother was an incapable woman in the kitchen who needed all the finest ingredients to make food; in fact she was the opposite to that type of person. From the very basic victuals she would make a meal that would have all the family smiling, and eating heartily because of its good taste.
My parents were not alone. In fact we were better than some others because my father was in regular work, albeit low paid, and my mother would work for meagre money at every given opportunity.
PEOPLE ARE ALL DIFFERENT
One unforgettable example that I unfortunately experienced, and will never forget, on the way that the dreadful assault on the mind and body of being in prison affects some people, happened during the war when I was in Wormwood Scrubs, and the highly talented composer Ivor Novello came into this prison to serve a sentence for black market petrol rationing offences.
The degradation heaped upon this finely tuned artistic Welshman, a child prodigy, whose real name was Ivor Davies, and whose patriotic song written when he was just 17 years of age, 'Keep The Home Fires Burning' was sung in the trenches and elsewhere, of both World War 1 and 2, all over Europe by British troops, was sickening. It was pitiful to see.
Another musical masterpiece written by Ivor Novello was the alluring 'We'll Gather Lilacs In The Spring Again'. When you listen to this work of art you begin to truly understand the meaning in an aesthetic sense of the word beautiful.
The 'screws' were evenly divided in their attitude towards Ivor Novello. Some were patronising to the point of embarrassment, while others vented their ignorant spite at every opportunity on this intellectually superior, and highly talented person. Not I hasten to add when I was present.
I would tell him he had to stand-up to the bullying 'screws', but he could not do it. At first I could not understand his inability to invoke this necessary self-preservation defence mechanism until it rudely dawned on me that no matter how much I might try I could not write wonderful music and poetic lyrics.
I have great respect for talented people, and I made it known to the other prisoners there were to be no liberties taken with Mr. Ivor Novello.
A 'CRIMINAL' BECAUSE OF A GREAT CRIME
I never met Ivor Novello thereafter, but I am convinced that his incarceration in such brutal conditions left a dreadful lasting emotional scar on this awe-inspiring composer.
The fact that all his best work was written prior to his imprisonment, and that he died seven or eight years after leaving prison at the age of 58 years may bear testament to this view.
He became a 'criminal' because of the great crime of the Second World War. He should never have been sent prison, and the fact that he was only imprisoned to deter others exemplifies the danger of the injustice of this method of sending a warning to others.
A deterrent prison sentence may, on occasions, be necessary but it has to be carefully applied. Had a deterrent prison sentence been given to the first muggers then this scum crime may be a rarity instead of being the epidemic it is today.
The 30-year jail sentence imposed on The Great Train Robbers was the work of vicious, mindless fools, and that most certainly includes the Judge that was used by others to pass the sentence.
WHEN PRISON MAY MEAN DEATH BEFORE TIME
This brings me to a modern instance of how prison may mean death before their time for some people.
Rickey Womack was a star American amateur boxer. He split a legendary eight-fight series with a young Evander Holyfield who went on to become a world champion, and earn a fortune estimated in the tens of millions.
Boxing was the lighthouse for young Rickey Womack who did not have a good time as a child.
His father was physically abusive to his mother, and was once accused of murdering his two-year-old son, a brother of Rickey. The senior Womack was eventually murdered during an armed robbery.
Young Rickey was later put into foster care when USA Protective Services took away eight of his motherıs children.
THE LETHAL COCKTAIL OF MIXED EMOTIONS
His talent in a boxing ring gave every indication that this sport would be Rickey's salvation. The Womack boxing flag was flying high, and his career compass seemed to be set to direct him towards a vocation as star-studded boxer.
Sadly it was not to be.
Bad outside influences became enmeshed with Rickey's own dreadful family experiences, and they became a lethal cocktail of mixed emotions. Rickey drifted away from the strict discipline demanded by boxing, and became vulnerable.
The promise of a short-cut route to riches led him to the rags of a 16-year jail sentence for robbery and attempted murder at the age of 22 years.
Rickey served his sentence no doubt fortified by the hope that he could continue his boxing career where it had left off. Although he was at the mature age for a boxer of 40 years, he may well have felt mentally and physically in good condition, and believed himself to be capable of fulfilling the yearning to become a success in boxing.
OL' FATHER TIME IS OFTEN UNBEATABLE
Successful boxers make a great deal of money, and throughout the 16 years of incarceration I believe it was the boxing lighthouse that gave Rickey Womack hope.
However Ol' Father Time is a very difficult opponent, and is often unbeatable.
In November 2000 Rickey left prison. He had four successful comeback fights, which only modestly advanced his comeback; nevertheless the backslappers with their enthusiastic over-reacting compliments may have mistakenly fuelled his great boxing dream.
Others, with a more detached opinion, were not so fanciful.
The experts knew that the dream at 40 years of age of Rickey Womack to become a champion boxer was only a hallucination, an illusion.
While the boxing dream may have shaped his outward appearance, there is now reason to believe that when the backslappers had left, and he was left to his own thoughts the main person who was not fooled was Rickey.
On the 19th of January the once star boxing attraction Rickey took the final count, apparently by his own hand. Now the inquest is on to try and put together the jigsaw pieces of the life of Rickey. It is a heartrending story that ended the way it was often lived - violently.
'A PRISONER IN HIS OWN LIFE'
"A prisoner in his own life," is how those closest to him describe Rickey Womack after his death.
"Rickey just couldn't make the adjustment back to society. We tried to extend ourselves as friends, but he couldnıt even accept it. Those sixteen years made it hard for him to come back home." said his boxing trainer Rick Griffith.
It is said that on the preceding night of Friday before his death that Rickey had an altercation with his wife Angela, a lawyer, which lasted throughout the night, and into the next dawn.
At some point early Saturday morning, Rickey Womack sat down on a couch in his basement apartment, took out a gun he had borrowed from his nephew, and after threatening his wife with it, put it to his head and shot himself in front of her.
Those that knew well this very private man say his death was not a totally unforeseen event. There were signs that he was seriously mentally troubled.
After his last fight, a unanimous points decision over Willie Chapman in front of 10,000 people at the Palace of Auburn Hills, Rickey had been inconsolable over his poor performance that had the audience booing.
On the way from the fight arena sitting in a car with his manager, Dr. Stuart Kirschenbaum, Rickey alarmed Dr. Kirshenbaum.
"We were driving home and he said to me Doc, I won't bother you anymore I'm just going to end this thing. It was obvious he was talking about suicide. I said Rickey don't do anything you'll regret.
"He said Doc, don't worry, I would never do anything to go back to prison. I would kill myself before I would go back there."
'HE COULDN'T GET TO THE SUNSHINE' - BUT NOW OTHERS MIGHT BECAUSE OF HIM
Dr. Kirschenbaum said that his fighterıs behaviour had been growing increasingly more alarming to his friends, and especially toward his wife.
"Rickey was so incredibly jealous. He used to lock her in the house if he had to go somewhere and she wasnıt allowed to leave. Rickey had a hard time understanding what a marriage was about. He looked at her as a possession and kept her away from his career. He had a lot of trouble sharing with her his problems.
"He treated her as if he was the warden and she was the prisoner, which is not uncommon with other men that come out of institutions."
Dr. Kirschenbaum says that despite his calls to Womack's parole officer, and psychologists, the suicide became inevitable because of the nature of the man.
"There wasn't anything more we could do to prevent the tragic ending.
"He went to prison for attempting to murder someone with a gun and his life ended with a gun; this time of his own doing.
Itıs a story that I prayed he would make a success out of. The shadow over Rickey wouldn't break and he couldnıt get to the sunshine.
" Rickey donated his organs to medical research.
"I hope the good parts of Rickey Womack that he wasn't willing to share in life will have some value to others through this most unforeseen giving of himself. Maybe in the end, Rickey's life was worth it, not to himself, but to other people," added Dr. Kirschenbaum.
R.I.P. Rickey Womack.