It was mid-morning when a bunch people jail officers at HMP Holloway were asked to escort 4 detainees to Cookham Wood in Kent– which was then, in 1986, a women’s jail. We were met by a female senior officer who peered into our van and bellowed: ‘Myra!’.
‘ Cor blimey!’ said among the detainees. ‘Who’s she shouting at?’.
A lady appeared in a baggy, mottled old jumper.
‘ Myra, make these officers a cup of tea,’ the senior officer bought. ‘Yes, miss,’ the lady nodded.
Rose West (envisioned) was branded ‘very manipulative’ in whichever prison she was in. Rumour had it, she had numerous affairs with detainees, including Myra Hindley.
When ‘Auntie Rose’ reached Holloway in 1994, her spouse Fred West (pictured) was thought about the mastermind behind your house of Horrors murders in Gloucester.
I had not put 2 and 2 together due to the fact that she didn’t look anything like that image– the infamous mugshot of Hindley (envisioned) with platinum blonde hair and an extreme gaze.
Ian Brady (left) and Myra Hindley, were condemned Might 6 of murder, in the marvelous ‘Bodies of the Moor’ trial. Both were sentenced to life imprisonment.
Picture of Myra Hindley taken by Ian Brady on Saddleworth Moor, Yorkshire, near where Keith Bennett was buried.
‘ Cup of tea, 2 sugars, that will be fantastic, thanks,’ I told her. She was very considerate and courteous and then disappeared inside. On the other hand, the senior officer in charge turned to us with a raised eyebrow and said: ‘You understand who that is, do not you?’.
I had no idea. The officer stopped briefly for impact and stated: ‘That was Myra Hindley.’ Her eyes broadened as if she desired me to be awestruck. I had not put two and two together since she didn’t look anything like that picture– the notorious mugshot of Hindley with platinum blonde hair and an extreme stare.
Her hair was still brief however it was mousy brown. She was using an old woolly jumper that made her look frumpy. She was typical weight for her 5ft 5in height.
I ‘d heard lots of stories about Hindley given that I started at Holloway. Most related to how manipulative she was. She was famous for getting personnel twisted around her finger. There was likewise the story of her affair with a woman jail officer who had planned to break her out and leave with her to Australia.
These things were all racing through my mind as the serial killer returned with my cup of tea. When it comes to the murders she helped carry out more than twenty years previously, I couldn’t bring myself to think of them or her participation in them. It was too dreadful.
‘ Here you go.’ She handed the mug to me.
My ‘video game face’ turned on.
I ‘d check out the profiles: Myra Hindley was a narcissist of the purest kind. The sort of individual who would get a bang out of seeing my shock-horror face. She yearned for notoriety. She would have loved nothing more than to see my eyes grow large upon her return, and I wasn’t going to offer her the satisfaction.
‘ Thanks quite,’ I said.
‘ Anything else I can get you?’ she asked, as if butter would not melt in her mouth.
It was hard to envision she ‘d devoted such evil. The juxtaposition between the lady bringing me tea and the female who ‘d tortured all those kids was almost disorientating. ‘No thanks,’ I responded.
And that was it. Exchange over.
It wasn’t long after our encounter that Hindley went back to the moors, apparently to help the police discover the remains of 2 missing out on victims. A load of hoo-ha over absolutely nothing– they didn’t discover a thing. The victims’ households underwent yet another painful episode where their hopes were dashed.
Not long after, Hindley pleaded with the general public for forgiveness, saying she ‘d served her time in prison and should have a 2nd opportunity. It was difficult to think her admission of 2 extra murders were a real repentance. More a calculated measure to try to get herself launched.
She got parole numerous times, however every effort was thwarted by the Government. Back in the olden days she would have been burned at the stake, much like witches were.
I ‘d had to establish my jail game face quite quickly. Anybody who’s seen the movie The Shawshank Redemption will remember the scene where detainees clap and chant ‘Fresh fish, fresh fish’ to intimidate brand-new inmates. That’s what I felt like on my first day inside as a New Entrant Prison Officer.
Twelve weeks later on I ‘d passed my training and was in Holloway for my first day at work. I fidgeted, young at 23, and somewhat ignorant in spite of my robust character.
‘ Oi oi, who’s this?’ The prisoners locked their eyes on me as they pressed their backs to the landing rail to let me pass. ‘F ****** dyke!’ one cried out. ‘Dyke, bitch!’.
Front page of paper, showing singer, Pete Doherty taking heroin in his prison cell.
The Babyshambles frontman barges through about 40 professional photographers on the steps of West London Magistrates’ Court accompanied by 2 cop.
It would be fair to say I began work at Wormwood Scrubs, among Britain’s a lot of notorious guys’s jails, feeling bitter.
At that minute, I realised the Jail Service might end up being like a household to me – The Guv, by Vanessa Frake (envisioned), is released by Harper Aspect.
No matter what they teach you in training, absolutely nothing prepares you for this. They were attempting to provoke a reaction. I knew needed to develop a video game face or be a lamb to the massacre. For desire of a better phrase, I had to butch up.
I tossed my shoulders back, took assertive strides along the landing and, if anyone tried to stare me down, I ‘d stare right back.
Prison officers are commonly seen as the lowest of the low, as if we take pleasure in locking people up. Never mind the great we carry out in keeping our country safe. Never mind there is a lot more to the job than just turning a key. We’re counsellors, social workers, psychological health nurses and peacemakers, all rolled into one.
When a law enforcement officer arrests somebody, that’s it, job done. However, a jail officer has to work over a long period of time and ideally restore them. Not everybody sent to prison is beyond redemption. Numerous have made dumb mistakes, frequently through drug and alcohol reliance, and with a little help they might make a better, better life on their own when they come out.
‘ One. Two. 3.’ We unlocked the door and charged in, 30 females in shin-pads, shields, helmets, visors and steel-toe boots storming into the fire and turmoil of a riot.
‘ F ****** screws!’ ‘Pass away bitches!’.
The ladies prisoners wailed over the landings like crazed animals, raining bottles, cans and burning rockets at us. They banged the doors with their fists, surged the railings with anything they could get their hands on.
The air was thick with smoke from burning mattresses, lights smashed, the location was pitch black. Still we charged. We needed to recover the wing.
Fifteen people from Holloway had been contacted us to a riot at HMP Bullwood Hall in Essex. It was my first riot but I didn’t feel a flicker of fear due to the fact that I knew we were an experienced team who had each other’s back.
I used my baton like a light sabre, batting away rockets. I was running on so much adrenaline. The sociability had actually sparked my soul. We braved a major situation and escaped fairly untouched. The fear had actually bonded us.
At that moment, I understood the Jail Service could become like a household to me.
It would be reasonable to say I started work at Wormwood Scrubs, one of Britain’s a lot of notorious guys’s prisons, feeling bitter.
I ‘d given Holloway females’s prison 16 years of my life and all of a sudden I had been shoved into a world I ‘d deliberately avoided.
The Scrubs had a credibility: Victorian, filthy, rat-infested and rundown with a major drug problem. A hell-hole filled with lairy guys implicated or convicted of whatever from murder and rape to terrorism.
I was assigned D-wing, where the lifers were– the worst of the worst. As senior officer, I ‘d be in charge of 244 of them. First impressions? Unclean. Rundown. And it stank of men: stale BO, musty unwashed clothes and urine so pungent it made me want to gag.
What if things began? Would I be able to put the men in their place? Could I work alongside male colleagues? Would they respect me? As senior officer, I needed to forecast authority to the officers and, more importantly, to the prisoners, who can smell fear a mile off.
An officer approached me. He was old school– flawless manners, no-nonsense, probably ex-Army. ‘And who are you, ma’am?’.
I took a deep breath. ‘I’m your new SO [senior officer]’.
He looked a little taken aback. I asked him to give me a tour.
I drew in detainees like bees to a honeypot. All presumed I was damp behind the ears.
The discussions went something like this: ‘So here’s the thing, miss out on, the old SO constantly used to provide me an additional see …’.
I played along. You can obtain a lot from little conversations: who the biggest gamers were, the ones most likely to be handling contraband drugs, phones, weapons, cigarettes and hooch.
I obtained 3 things: these men didn’t appear half as bad as I ‘d envisioned, male personnel and male detainees have potty mouths and the location was minging and stunk to high heaven.
It turned out I didn’t have an issue with dealing with males. Nevertheless, the feeling wasn’t constantly shared.
One man believed he was a bit unique due to the fact that he ‘d shot 3 individuals dead. It most likely made him top pet dog in his gang. However that wasn’t how I ran a wing. He plainly had a concern with females in charge– glares, attitude problem and insults under his breath.
He lost the plot one day, introducing into a tirade that echoed throughout the whole wing.
‘ You must be terrified of me. I might have you shot outside this prison.’ He clicked his fingers. ‘Easily.’.
I raised an unimpressed eyebrow and didn’t flinch.
We locked eyes. I coolly ordered he must be secured in the partition wing.
Not long after he was moved to another jail. He ‘d disrupted the wing and threatened my life, whether you take what he stated seriously or not. I didn’t, it was water off a duck’s back.
It turned out that D-wing had actually been weeping out for a female’s touch.
I think the officers liked an assertive female forming the location up. The detainees appreciated my no-bulls ** t mindset since they understood where they stood.
Routine, order and limits imply whatever to prisoners– it assists them manage time inside. Most importantly, I talked with them. Over tea and a fag on the landing, I ‘d reveal an interest and inquire about their households.
Never ever their crimes though. In jail, it’s best not to enable feelings to colour your judgment.
You can inform when a wing has a drug issue– the place has a vibration, an underground current. Murmurings along the landings. Prisoners vanishing into their cells when they see you coming.
Drugs were never a significant concern in Holloway. If we found a piece of cannabis the size of your little fingernail, we were doing well.
Female detainees aren’t so thinking about the huge capacity to generate income offering drugs within. The Scrubs was different.
Cell 445 came from a drug pusher serving life for eliminating somebody in a battle. White, 6ft 1in, substantial tattoo of an eagle head on his right arm. I stepped inside his poky cell while it was empty. ‘Over here, gov,’ stated a jail officer, Steve, his eyes sparkling. My mouth fell open as he pinged a nearly unnoticeable fishing line that was connected to the little, barred window that opened.
It was a zip line from the rooftop of neighbouring Hammersmith Health center, over the prison wall and all the method into the cell. No wonder we had a drugs epidemic. God only knows how many parcels of heroin had actually zipped down that line.
As quickly as I ‘d tidied up D-wing, the governor asked me to do the very same thing on other wings. Before long I was promoted, wound up in the jail’s security office and hardly a year later on became deputy head of security and operations– ‘number five gov’ for brief.
This enabled me to make my existence felt outside the wings– with part of my obligation being security of the border.
One early morning in 2005 I was doing a border check when a pigeon fell from the sky and landed 6ft in front of me. Thud. I pushed it with my toe. ‘Two guesses what he’s carrying,’ I whispered. Drones weren’t yet a thing back then. Tennis balls were a popular receptacle for drugs tossed over the wall, however the stitches across the bird’s stomach were particularly obvious …
When the majority of people take a bath, they relax, however I found myself considering bird netting. It was a eureka moment. Operation Birdnetting was my big idea to fix the problem of drugs being tossed over the wall.
It worked liked a dream. I can’t explain the feeling of enjoying those plans flying over the wall only to bounce up and down like on a trampoline. Favorable drugs tests dropped from 33 percent to listed below 20 per cent and then kept being up to four per cent.
I carried on being non-traditional. We brought in feral felines to assist control the rat population and our booze canine was worth his weight in gold.
Sniffer dogs aren’t reproduced specifically for the job. They are frequently rescue pet dogs, but they need to show a strong desire to retrieve a ball. Why? Because that’s how you get them to learn the aroma of cannabis, cocaine or heroin. Alfie was trained to connect the odor of home-brewed booze to his cherished ball.
We always did a booze search just before Christmas, when the brew-making was most respected, but we had just middling success. Alfie’s first mission changed all that. He returned wagging his tail, with his handler brandishing 2 one-gallon containers and a two-litre bottle of moonshine.
‘ You have actually got to be joking.’ I gazed in rage and shock at a tabloid front-page picture of our resident celeb addict taken in his cell, along with a lurid account of him getting high on drugs inside Wormwood Scrubs.
At that minute I disliked Pete Doherty, lead singer of Babyshambles and on-off partner of supermodel Kate Moss.
Really, I actually disliked him long before that. He was an arrogant so-and-so who had flaunted his drug use, thinking he was above the law. He had actually appeared in court 15 times on drugs charges prior to finally being sent down for 3 and a half months. Now he was my issue.
All of us agreed that with such a prolonged history of drug abuse, Doherty needs to be placed on the detox unit. There he might be observed closely while on our methadone upkeep course.
The feedback was constantly the exact same. ‘He’s up to all sorts. An overall pain in the arse,’ the detox unit officer stated.
Simply as he flaunted his heroin use on the outdoors, he was flouting our guidelines on the inside. Diva behaviour is bad news for a wing due to the fact that it motivates and prompts the other prisoners to believe they can get away with the very same.
‘ The detainees are crowding around him like flies,’ the officer stated. ‘I’ve needed to replace his name card five times currently due to the fact that he keeps taking it down and signing it with his sign.’.
A couple of days later on, newspaper story broke. On top of publishing a picture of Doherty in his cell, they also reported how he had actually been supplied with heroin.
Such a story totally misguided the public about the good work we ‘d achieved. So I had Doherty sent out to the partition unit and marched down to satisfy him.
I needed to bite my lip to restrain my anger. His back was resting versus the wall, one arm hooked over a raised knee, his hair dishevelled. He appeared like he required a good scrub in Dettol. I was respectful: ‘Make yourself comfy. You will not be going back to the detox system. You’ll be remaining here for breaking jail guidelines.’.
‘ I’ll speak with my lawyer about that,’ he piped up.
My rely on shrug. ‘You speak to who you like. Enjoy your stay.’ I left him sulking.
We worked out who Doherty’s partners were and developed a method. ‘Time to get the pets in to the detox system,’ I revealed.
We busted in every cell door at 6am: pets barking, prisoners effing and blinding. We discovered an array of phones and heroin wraps, while the 4 detainees believed to be involved with Doherty were caught red-handed and shipped to other jails.
Doherty served the rest of his time without additional drama.
When ‘Auntie Rose’ reached Holloway in 1994, her hubby Fred West was thought about the mastermind behind the House of Horrors murders in Gloucester.
I was in charge of the segregation system and was not impressed when she was sent there for her own defense. High-profile detainees were a discomfort in the behind.
She stepped from the jail bus using those famous big bottle-glass spectacles. Her dark hair was brief and it was fair to say she was quite big, size 18 to 20. She didn’t look like a beast, more a sweet old bag lady you might see in the street.
Among the very first things she did was put in an application for knitting needles and wool. After that, she knitted early morning, noon and night. Nobody knew what she was making, it was just a long knitted thing.
She was called ‘Auntie Rose’ since she appeared like your old auntie and had a sing-song way about her. She ‘d state ‘Morning’ in a chirpy method and chat away all the time. You ‘d never think that she was a serial killer.
She didn’t even flinch when the number one gov came down on New Year’s Day to deliver what you ‘d believe would be the most significant shock of her life. I didn’t covet him having to inform her Fred West had committed suicide in his cell in Birmingham.
I unlocked the door and stood back. Rose was on her bed and searched for. The guv cleared his throat. ‘I’m afraid I have some problem. Fred has actually killed himself.’ I think she blinked, and then said: ‘Oh, right.’.
Nothing changed, no tears, just that glazed gaze. The level of control and disassociation was incredible.
I believe that was the moment Rose West believed she was going to get off scot-free. It was extensively considered that Fred topped himself to safeguard his better half, hoping his suicide would be seen as an admission of guilt and that the case would be dropped versus her.
You just knew there was something a lot more calculating going on in her head. Behind the ‘Auntie Rose’ smiles and sing-song voice she was silently exercising her every move, like a chess gamer. However Fred’s suicide didn’t save her bacon: she was given 10 life sentences after it was revealed she had actually been the driving force behind their criminal activities.
Rose West was branded ‘supremely manipulative’ in whichever prison she was in. Rumour had it, she had multiple affairs with prisoners, including Myra Hindley. Two of the most manipulative ladies in jail. I shiver to think how that power play exercised.
© Vanessa Frake, 2021.
The Governor, by Vanessa Frake, is published by Harper Element at ₤ 8.99. To buy a copy for ₤ 7.91 go to mailshop.co.uk/ books or call 020 3308 9193 before April 25. Free UK delivery on orders over ₤ 20.