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LIFE AFTER LIFE

Living in Spain after surviving 24 years in prison. Here I will be sharing my experiences as a writer and journalist, travelling all over the world interviewing dangerous people in dangerous places.

MEET DAVE, A SEAGULL AMONGST PIGEONS - The End
22 January 2013 @ 16:10

....This was both unnecessary and stupid. All it did was to ‘hallmark’ the crime and make it easier for the police to identify him. Very few women took part in the many thousands of armed robberies each year. And from witness statements, and possibly CCTV footage, it would soon emerge that the ‘woman’ was, in fact, a man in drag. Dave might as well have left a calling card.

  Next, the pair robbed a bank of £25,000, with Dave wearing what was to become his trademark black leather miniskirt and carrying a sawn-off shotgun. By now the police must have known who they were looking for.

  A conversation with Dave during this period would have been revealing. Despite being wanted, I don’t doubt that he felt quite fulfilled. He had finally become that which he had so much desired to be, a fully-fledged armed robber.

  It was at this time, flush with money from the robberies and out clubbing most nights, that he met Sue Stephens, a dark-haired, attractive model. It seems that within a very short period of time he was desperately in love with her and, in fact, couldn’t live without her. 

  This came as a considerable surprise to those of us who had known him well in jail. Not because he had fallen in love with a woman, we knew that he was bi-sexual, but rather that he had fallen in love at all. In jail he had been totally in command of all his relationships and, if anything, was quite cold and mercenary regarding them. I took this to be further evidence of the damage all the solitary had done him. It tends to leave one with a deep and enduring feeling of loneliness. 

  No one knows whether Sue reciprocated these feelings, although her subsequent behaviour would suggest that she didn’t. However, she has been reported as saying that she found Dave to be something of a ‘dreamer’.

     The relationship came to an abrupt halt when, late in December, Dave was ambushed and shot by robbery squad detectives. Remanded to Brixton Prison on serious armed robbery charges, it looked like Dave was going away again for a very long time. They hadn’t reckoned with his escaping skills though. Despite being in the top security category, with all the extra security measures that entailed, Dave managed to escape from a cell at Marlborough Street Magistrates Court, where he was appearing on remand. It was Christmas Eve. 

  Any other, half-ways sensible criminal would have headed for parts unknown, but not Dave. He immediately returned to Sue and the pair were inseparable throughout this period while the hunt for him continued. 

  Having had to shoot him to capture him the previous time, you would have thought that the police would now be treating him extremely seriously. Perhaps it was the ‘gay’ label’ that put them off. Certainly the two robbery squad detectives who were checking out an address they had traced thought they weren’t in any danger. As they walked along a corridor towards Dave’s door, they failed to take notice of the tall, attractive-looking woman in a tight black mini-skirt.

  Dave reacted first. Pulling out a small caliber pistol, he shot PC Nicholas Carr in the groin, then ran off. To shoot a policeman is one of the most serious of crimes. It brings retribution in the form of the most intense manhunt possible. I’m sure the symbolism of an Officer being shot in the groin by a transvestite armed robber was not lost on the Met. This powerful imagery no doubt prompted the next incident.

  I didn’t take the brains of Sherlock Holmes for the police to work out that the key to catching Dave Martin was to keep close tabs on Sue Stephens. They put her under constant surveillance. On the evening of January 14th 1983 they were rewarded. A bright yellow mini pulled up outside Sue’s address. There were two men in the front seats, the driver had the familiar long, fair hair.

  Sue and a female friend came out and got in the car with the two men. They all drove off in the direction of the West End, several unmarked police cars shadowing them. Thus, a full-scale operation swung into motion involving dozens of officers, many of them armed. They had shot him before and now he had shot one of them. They didn’t expect Dave to go quietly.

  The traffic heading towards the West End was particularly thick this night. The mini and all the cars involved in the pursuit became entangled in a serious jam near Earls Court. In Pembroke Road everything came to a complete halt. Taking advantage of this opportunity, the Superintendent in charge of the operation ordered that one of his men get out and try and make a positive identification of Martin.

  The plain-clothed officer crept towards the mini, trying to shield himself from view behind other cars. He had been told to be careful. No doubt he was mindful of the fact that the man they were pursuing was particularly dangerous. Probably for that reason, he didn’t get too close. A profile and the long, fair hair was enough for him to call in a positive identification. 

  The Superintendent gave the word and several armed officers ran towards the car. There was no shouted warning and no attempt to arrest. Instead, they fired a volley of shots at close range into the body of the driver. As he slumped in his seat, the passenger beside him jumped out and ran off. Screaming, the two women cowered in the back seat.

  Now the officers closed in on the form of the driver. He had managed to open his car door, but had then lapsed into unconsciousness. He lay, half in and half out of the car, his head nearly touching the road, the long, fair hair discoloured by the streams of blood that coursed through it.

  As the police gathered around the car, guns still at the ready, they surveyed the results of their handiwork. Seven shots had hit the driver in the body. Any fledgling feelings of euphoria were soon dispelled though by a very obvious fact. The driver wasn’t Dave Martin!

  A quick investigation revealed that they had shot an innocent TV producer named Steven Waldorf. That he worked in the media, a group almost as powerful and as privileged as the police, meant that this couldn’t be covered up. The following morning banner headlines screamed out full details of the foul-up. On TV and radio, every bulletin carried a report of the event.

  If Dave Martin had previously been only a very minor character on the underworld scene, that certainly wasn’t the case now. Steven Waldorf was the household name, but in the next breath came that of Dave Martin. The following Sunday, Dave was on the front page of the News of the World. If notoriety had been what he was seeking, he had it in spades.

  Dave was now public enemy number one as far as the police were concerned, and the most wanted man in Britain. Surely, one reasons, nobody but a fool would stay around. Surely, the drumbeat heralding his inexorably approaching doom must have been audible to him.

  Later, I wondered what was going through Dave’s mind at this time, for, of all the things he was, he certainly wasn’t a fool. Perhaps it was a subconscious death wish that drove him at this moment. However, he got straight in touch with Sue Stephens and arranged to meet her in a restaurant at Belsize Park.

  Dave arrived early to look the place over, but it was a trap. Armed police ran from  everywhere. As he fled down into the nearby Belsize Park Underground Station Dave could only have thought that his Sue had betrayed him. 

  He fled ever deeper into the tunnel system, but the police were ready for that. They sealed off both ends of the tunnel. After a couple of hours of negotiations, his situation futile, Dave gave himself up.

  Even with the hindsight of many years, the final acts of the tragedy still seem very strange. Remanded to top security conditions in a special unit in Wormwood Scrubs, Dave embarked on a hunger strike and demanded to see his beloved Sue. For whatever reasons, she didn’t come. Then he took and overdose of medicines he had saved up. Dramatic photos showed him being rushed to hospital by ambulance to have his stomach pumped out. 

  Sharing the same special unit at the Scrubs was Dennis Nilsen, the gay serial killer. Dave then embarked on an amazing relationship with him, which led to the latter declaring that he was in love with Dave and, had he met him outside, he would never had started killing. 

  To those of us who had known him well, this was just further evidence of just how strange Dave’s thinking had become. The ‘chaps’ despised cowardly sex offenders like Nilsen, a man who had lured his innocent and unsuspecting victims to their doom. In the long-term jails, given the opportunity, they would have beaten him senseless. We couldn’t understand why Dave was even speaking to such an individual, let alone befriending him.  

  The actual trial was all too predictable. The judge made much of the fact that Dave had been on an armed robbery where a guard had been shot and that he, personally, had shot a detective. He was described as a ‘very dangerous man’. The sentence was 25 years.

  Who knows what Dave was thinking as the top security convoy dropped him off at Parkhurst. It looked very much like the wheel had turned full circle, except that his time Dave would be located in the ultra top security ‘Special Wing’. In its time, this prison within a prison had housed the Krays, the Great Train Robbers, IRA terrorists and other notorious prisoners. Its normal complement of no more than ten prisoners were watched day and night. Escape from here would be very difficult, if not impossible.

  Despite the fact that all the other prisoners in the ‘Special Wing’ were doing very long sentences too, Dave’s elitist nature soon came to the fore. The prisoners always decided amongst themselves what they wanted to watch on the TV in the association room. Normally, an informal show of hands would suffice. Needless to say, Dave invariably liked to watch something more highbrow. A couple of times he had got up and just turned the TV over to the channel that he wanted to watch.

  On this particular evening the vote had gone against him again. He jumped up to turn the TV over, but this time one of the other prisoners had had enough. He jumped up and physically confronted Dave, who, being no fighter of course, had to back down. He retreated to his cell with the insult of, “You’re only a fucking poof anyway”, ringing in his ears. It was a very public humiliation. As he slammed his door against a world that constantly belittled him because of his sexuality, Dave must have reflected that not even the armed robberies and the 25-year sentence had brought him the respect he so craved.

  All long term prisoners experience moments of despair, times when there seems no hope, and the pain of a meaningless existence becomes too much to bear. Most have contemplated suicide, however briefly. For the vast majority, the moment passes. As miserable as the situation may be at the moment, life is still the only game in town. 

  But not, it seems, for Dave. He made a rope out of a torn sheet, tied one end around the bars of his window and the other around his neck, then stepped off a chair to slowly throttle under his own weight. It couldn’t have been an easy death. My bet would be that, in those last moments, he was thinking of Sue.

  His latter-day arrogance apart, those of us who had known him well were deeply saddened. Whatever he had deserved, he hadn’t deserved that. I walked again in my memories with the soft-spoken, shy, intelligent young man who I had known at Parkhurst all those years ago. I tried to square that image with the strutting poseur who had so briefly blazed a path across the criminal firmament. And failed. I could only conclude that ‘the system’ had moulded him in its own image, then let him loose on the world.

  No doubt there were those amongst the ‘chaps’, myself included, who felt guilty that they had so regularly put him down. For, in the final analysis, the passing of such a bright, strong spirit diminished us all. And we were the weaker for it.

 

The End



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