But the prisoners were only getting started. They started ripping his toenails off with rusty nails and pulling and smashing his teeth out with the only knife in the cell. One tooth at a time and one nail at a time, the guard was fucking screaming with agony and the Indonesians prisoners were just laughing at him.
The van came to a crawl. We had passed through two sets of gates, waiting minutes at each set. Each time the van slowed or stopped I was certain I had reached my final destination. Which, at the time, felt like it would be my final ever destination.
The van stopped again. The doors at the front opened and slammed shut making the van vibrate beneath my feet. I heard nothing for a moment or two, not that I was really paying attention at this point. My mind was numb. Loud, booted steps penetrated the silence, coming closer from the front of the van around towards me at the back. Instinctively I shifted my body sideways, away from the doors and deeper into the darkness of the van. It was as if I thought that when those doors opened they might not see me and forget about me.
The steps stopped abruptly and what sounded like distant voices struck up a conversation between themselves. There was no rush to their conversation, in fact, softer steps sounded as if they were walking away, beyond the back of the van. I exhaled, realising I had been holding my breath for a long time.
With that tiny sliver of relaxation, I allowed my head to lift and my eyes to look up and stare vacantly across to the other passenger in the van. He was staring back at me, probably had been doing so for a while. We were sat opposite each other, like two men sat across a table. His knees were only inches frommine but separated by a pane of Perspex that made those few inches seem like miles. We were sat like mirror images, my hands down in front of me, his in front of him. Unlike a mirror though, I could see that everything I was feeling was the opposite of him.
He was calm, relaxed, smiling even. When he noticed that I had returned his gaze, he winked and allowed his smile to grow even wider. I couldn’t understand it, he was in the same position as me. I was fucked and he was fucked just the same. Yet you wouldn’t know it apart from where we found ourselves;in the back of a van, not knowing exactly where we were but knowing it wasn’t where we wanted to be. I wanted to say something to him. I wanted him to justify why he was feeling how he was. Maybe he could make me feel the same, or at least make me look as relaxed as he clearly did. But what would I say? How could I get him to open up to me in these circumstances? Before I knew it, I had spoken. The words echoed back around the van. I said to him, “Wow, I never knew we had the same middle name.” That was it. That was what I had chosen to start a conversation with. To try to elicit some support from the only the person in the world, who, at that moment, was in exactly the same boat as me. Well, the same van as me at least.
He didn’t reply.
The conversation outside had stopped, meaning the silence that outlined this person’s lack of response was even more deafening. He just stared back at me, still smiling, perhaps even wider than before.
Thankfully, or not, the silence was broken by the mechanics of the van’s back doors whirring into action.
The dimness of the van escaped out into the light but, after a moment or two, having adjusted to the brightness of the daylight, I took in the view in front of me. I don’t know if you have ever travelled in a vehicle without being able to see where you are going. In fact I hope you never have, as there is rarely a good outcome. It doesn’t matter if you know exactly where you are going to end up. Not seeing the roads means you always hold out a little hope that where you will arrive will be better than what you expect. Like when you are a kid, being driven to school, you always hope that when your journey ends your parents have not delivered you onto the school premises but instead have detoured to the nearest park or playground. It was like that in this situation Even though I was far from those innocent childhood days. I realised that I was still hoping that I wouldn’t arrive where I knew I was going.
But I had.
The van doors opened. I was ushered out onto the hard,concrete floor. The other passenger followed moments after me, stumbling out and stopping next to me. We looked up and around. We saw a nondescript building, the white letters ‘Prison Reception’ printed on a blue plaque above a solid blue metal door. We saw barbed wire surrounding everything. We had arrived. We were at HMP La Moye, Jersey’s only prison facility.
This journey took place on the 12th October 2014. I was 24 years old and about to embark on a five-and-a-half-year prison sentence for ’possession and intent to supply’ £66,000 worth of heroin. Five and a half years, 66 months, 66 grams of heroin.
The story is not about this arrest. Nor is it about the sentence that I am currently serving. This story is about what brought me to this point. The ill-judged adventures I have been through. AsI walked through those gates, I was determined to exit them a different person.
This story is not like others that have been written by prisoners. It is not about being locked up but instead about the freedom that I enjoyed, abused and explored through the years beforehand.
You will read about my mistaken corpse, the literal and physical destruction of a gentlemen’s squash club, escapes from Thai hospitals, the worlds slowest car crash, befriending heroin addicts in a maximum-security Bali prison (yes, this isn’t my first time in prison) and all manner of adventures that you will doubt ever happened to one person. Not only is everything in this story completely true, I have decided to tell it without holding anything back, which hurts my heart severely.
Before you get reading, I first want to say two things. Firstly, good luck. My hope is that you share not only my story but the emotions the story brings. I know that I felt all range of emotions and hope you do too.
Secondly. It is probably best to say this now. I am sorry. You may come away from this wanting to ask me several questions, most of which will probably be peppered with insults and accusations. I can understand that and look forward to those conversations. But I will say now what I will say to you then. I am sorry.
PART 4 - INDIA
Goa, in the morgue
I had been to Goa once before, so I thought I knew what I was expecting, but it was completely different this time. When I was 16 I was like a little cowboy going around Goa on a motorbike - no helmet, full of life, so pure and innocent really. Now the place had been taken over by Russians. The place was overcrowded with Russian flags everywhere. The charm had gone. There was a big Jersey crowd there, so we sought out an apartment through a man we knew from the first time we were there called Glenn. He was not as happy to see us the second time. We were troublemakers and had drank and eaten food at his expense. We left Goa the first time owing him a fortune. I managed to pay him back, but this took a while. Me and Jordan got an apartment, I think it was around £120 for a month which was so cheap. The house was massive, the only problem being the fucking roosters in the morning screaming. There was a cow tied to a tree in the front garden. It was a very picturesque place. Me and Jordan went out that first night and met some friends from Jersey. We went for a steak at a very reasonable place and the steak was beautiful. I started drinking white wine and taking Valium.
I woke up. Sort of woke up. The last thing I remember was the steak. I wasn’t in my bed. In fact, I wasn’t in anybody’s bed. As morning and reality crept into my brain it appeared that I was hanging off a stainless-steel trolley. What was going on? My head was buzzing, my face hurt. I struggled to open my eyes. As my vision started to clear I thought I saw bodies. Dead bodies. I closed my eyes again, tried to sleep. Another hour’s peaceful sleep and everything would be fine. I dozed uncomfortably in that place between sleeping and waking where nothing makes sense.
Slowly surfacing once more, my head was thumping, my face hurt, but I was re-entering the real world. I flicked open my eyes, shut them again, then fearfully opened them once more, hoping beyond hope that what I saw wasn’t reality. There were dead bodies all around, some clothed, one or two naked. All the bodies had been thrown haphazardly onto trollies, onto shelves. Motionless, soundless. It was like some grotesque Madame Tussaud’s. Jesus, I was dead. I had met my tribe in this nightmare place. I was in some sort of waiting room pendingprocessing with the other dead folk.
Logic slowly prevailed. I was moving, albeit gradually. I was thinking and reasoning. I couldn’t be dead. Maybe this was a hospital or something. Certainly not Jersey General but the Goa equivalent. My hand went gingerly to my face. The left half of my face was all scabbed over, no wonder it hurt. My left leg hurt too; I couldn’t move it. And suddenly there was a strange moment of euphoria. I was hurting therefore I was alive. I lived to fight another day. Soon they would come for me. I heard voices, then nothing. Please come. I want to go home.
And they eventually came. Uninterested orderlies in filthy coats, apparently unsurprised to find a live body amongst the dead ones. A typical Saturday morning after a typical Friday night in Goa. The orderlies looked at me, poked me, gabbled at each other. Eventually they started to wheel me down the corridor.
“What happened to me?” No answer. “Where are you taking me?”
Through swing doors, past the dead bodies – maybe there were others still alive - into a white van and to a hospital which, although it was not a morgue, was basic to say the least.
I came to realise that, unsurprisingly, I had fallen off a bike. This was an accident well overdue. I’d scraped my face along the road and had broken my leg. The chap on the back of the bike had suffered head injuries but eventually recovered. And once I made the staff listen to me and understand that I held medical insurance, I was moved again. I was quickly wheeled out down the corridor passing half-eaten rats and Indian patients who might as well have been dead, chucked into another van and taken to another, private, hospital. I’d been there maybe two hours and two people had died next to me. The bleeping machine went bleep bleep bleeeeeeeeeep. That was the first person. The other followed straight afterwards. The nurses were trying to resuscitate this bloke. It sounded to me like they were doing a running commentary like auctioneers, like they were gambling between them to see which one of them kept the man alive the longest. It was horrific.
My operation took place two days after I got to this private hospital. The surgeon was going to put a pin into my leg. The anaesthetic they used to put me to sleep was not totallyeffective. I could hear them banging. I couldn’t feel anything,but I could hear them banging the pin down into the bottom part of my leg to act as a support for my fibula.
Afterwards there were so many complications with my insurance. I had a fat Indian doctor in my private room every day demanding money, telling me to get it from my parents. I was so fucked I could not even get off the bed without getting an extreme headache. Every morning a nurse would come into my room and I would have a depository inserted in my rectum. This happened daily for eight days. She snapped the plastic glove on and got it up there. I lived on Domino’s pizza every day. The Indian pizza guy was always late as well. Domino’s say if the pizza takes more than half an hour you get the pizza for free, but I was not that cruel. The hospital had my passport so I was told I could not leave the country, but I’d had enough of being in hospital. I went back to where I was staying with the cow tied to the tree and waited for the insurance to pay. The day after the insurance ponied up, I went back to the hospital to get my passport back. I was suffering from severe headaches. I couldn’t stand up for more than 15 minutes without getting an extreme headache. The insurance company insisted I go home straight away. This was a nightmare for me because I had friends coming over and I wanted to see them. I was on crutches and was not in a very good position to stay in Goa, but I still wanted to stay. I had a phone call from the insurance company saying, “Mr Higgins I hear you are suffering from headaches.” I said I was, and they had to let me stay in Goa to get a check-up. I was over the moon, but I basically carried on partying the way I was, drinking and taking drugs. I was walking on two legs or should I say dancing and I damaged my leg even more but didn’t feel much pain because I was in a coma through the Valium and the alcohol.
My head scan came up clear, so I was instructed to fly home. They put me first class on Qantas on New Year’s Eve. I was that cocky and confident I bought 10,000 Valium for £500. Yes, you read that correctly but even I didn’t need that quantity personally. The stuff was so cheap in Goa that I sniffed a killing. I found a chemist and, in a back room, told him what I needed and handed him the £500. Two days later I picked up the Valium, put it in my hand luggage and headed for home.
I remember putting my hand luggage through the X-ray machine at Goa airport. I had a few t–shirts and some underwear but the rest was basically Valium. The bag was pulled aside, and I was asked by the Indian customs man why were there so many tablets in the bag. Before I could reply he answered for me saying, “Is this the medication from the doctor?” I obviously replied yes, and I got through. I was in a wheelchair the whole way back to Jersey. I was off my head all the way back to Gatwick. Valium and Qantas champagne, it was bonkers. I got to Gatwick airport and I was getting wheeled through the airport with my Valium-heavy bag on my lap.
Now a couple of weeks before I had set off to India, I had beento see my mate in Manchester, and I had gotten arrested for being drunk and disorderly. I’d been due in court on the 14th of December but obviously I was in India and hadn’t mentioned it to anyone. There was a warrant out for my arrest and when I gave my passport at the immigration control this showed up on the computer. Next minute I have five coppers around me asking questions. So, there is me in a wheelchair all bandaged up, half my face a scab, 10,000 Valium on my lap. If I’d been caught, I was looking at maybe five years in prison. Because I had a good reason, and it was very obvious that I was injured they let me go. That was a close one. I got to the departure lounge and I bought more bandages and wrapped them around me, so I looked even worse than I already did. I swallowed five pints and made my way to the terminal for Jersey. I was on walking sticks for this part of the journey but as soon as I got to Jersey airport a special lift came onto the plane for me. The driver placed my special bag on my lap and wheeled me straight through Jersey airport. The doors opened and I was greeted by my mother and ex-girlfriend with open arms.
I was glad to be back. I’d learnt my lesson and I was now going to knuckle down.
But first there was the small matter of my consignment of Valium. Let’s just say I knew the right people to talk to in Jersey. Within days I’d netted a £9,500 profit.