My Story – reformed Middlesborough hard man Shane Taylor - April 2011
Shane Taylor went to an Alpha course meeting for the free biscuits ... but ended up finding God. ANDREW PAIN reports
A reformed Middlesbrough man, once classed as one of the most dangerous prisoners in Britain, has told how finding God has changed his life.
At one point, Shane Taylor was housed on the same wing of Wakefield maximum security prison as the notorious Charles Bronson.
Though he has now changed his ways, Shane is brutally honest about the lifestyle that led him to be marked as “dangerous” by the Home Office.
He recalls first indulging in crime as a boy when he and a friend smashed open a phone box and took coins from inside.
This theft marked the start of a 17-year campaign of drugs, robberies, burglaries and all kinds of savage violence.
In late 2000, aged 20, Shane was arrested on an attempted murder charge following a stabbing in Hartlepool. The charge was dropped to wounding with intent and affray but he received a sentence of four years and nine months.
While imprisoned Shane chose to fight the system – by launching violent attacks on fellow inmates and prison officers.
“I was trying to be the baddest and hardest man around,” he said.
His dangerous reputation was heightened by a prison riot at Holme House in July 2002 for which Shane received an additional four-year sentence for the part he played.
The Home Office categorised him as a high-risk inmate and too dangerous for ‘normal’ prisons.
Shane was moved 13 times in five years between the likes of Frankland, Full Sutton, Long Lartin and Whitemoor. His violence towards prison officers meant long spells in segregation.
At times Shane even had a team of officers wearing protective riot gear watching him as he showered or exercised in case he ‘kicked off’.
But in 2006, at Parkhurst Prison on the Isle of Wight, Shane met fellow prisoner Robert Bull, who would change his life.
“This man spoke to me at great length about Jesus Christ,” said Shane. “And I thought he was crazy.
“However, one thing he said to me stuck in my mind. That he will never get out of prison, but in his mind he was already free.
“At the time I didn’t understand what he meant by that, but during my time in segregation I got a clear vision in my mind of Robert Bull the Christian, and an overwhelming urge to write to him.
“I described how I felt in my letter to him and that the urge to contact him had been overpowering and he replied at once to me.
“He told me that God was trying to touch my life – he was trying to open my eyes but I just didn’t know it yet.
“Again I thought the poor man was indeed crazy.”
But on Shane’s next move, to Long Lartin Prison, he walked into an Alpha course.
Shane admits he only went for the free cakes and biscuits but came out a changed man.
His reputation for violence was already well established and prison officers were shocked by the sudden change in Shane. Many – fairly, in Shane’s view – thought he was putting on an act to secure early release.
“At times I was mocked, laughed at and doubted, but I didn’t care,” said Shane. “I believe I was being tested because of my new-found faith.”
Following a year of ‘good behaviour’, Shane was released six-and-a-half years through his eight-year and nine-month sentence in May 2007.
Since then he has moved back to central Middlesbrough and has devoted his life to spreading the Word of God.
Shane commented [about the Alpha course]: “I would say to people, just try it and see what happens. If it’s not for you, it’s not for you.
“You might come and have an experience like I have and it will change your life.”
• This article and photo first appeared in the Evening Gazette, Middlesbrough and are used with permission