Terry Jackson, Samaritan
Today it is my pleasure to introduce the first of five stories by the distinguished Criminologist, Professor Dick Hobbs, Author of Lush Life, Constructing Organised Crime in the UK in which he writes – “My concern is primarily with deviance as an everyday feature of life, an activity that is integral to urban existence, and which I believe justifies academic attention in its own right, without being hampered by any conceits regarding helping the police with their enquiries.”
They say crime does not pay, but – as Contributing Photographer Sarah Ainslie & I discovered – even a bit of do-it-yourself quantitative easing can have drastic consequences. For most of his adult life, Terry Jackson charged around the East End like a cross between Arthur Daley and Del Boy. Fiercely self-employed, he often pronounced himself to be “too expensive for wages,” and thrived for decades at the edge of legality. Terry’s family background is traditional East End. His paternal grandfather was a Ceylonese seaman who came to East London in 1909. A decorated First World War veteran, he married an East End woman of Portuguese background. “When people look at me, they say ‘Are you Pakistani? Greek? Turkish?’ I tell them I like the cold, so I must be an Eskimo,” admits Terry.
Terry’s father Marshall fought in the Second World War and married Florence in 1947. “In those days they took a lot of racist stick when they were out together in the street. He was a black man out with a white woman and it wasn’t the thing back then. He was a great character. He had a good voice and used to sing in the Aunt Sally pub in Burdett Rd. He used to pretend that he was singing in Italian, he couldn’t, he just made the words up, ” Terry recalls. Marshall Jackson died at the tragically young age of just twenty-nine and, when Florence remarried a few years later, Terry rejected his step-dad. “I wasn’t having it. He said ‘I’m your new dad,’ so I said, ‘No you ain’t and you never will be!” Meanwhile the racism continued - “It was blackie this and blackie that, your dad’s a blackie. I had to look after myself.”
Thus, Terry learned the art of self preservation, which he did to great effect, gaining a local reputation for fighting as well as ducking and diving. An almost inevitable ten week spell in a Detention Centre followed, for breaching a probation order after being found guilty of taking and driving away a car. At the age of twenty-one, Terry married Sylvie and lived in Poplar while working as a self-employed lorry driver. After a “bit of bother” in Poplar, Terry moved to Newham and with Sylvie, and children Marshall and Terri they laid down the roots that flourish today.
Terry moved effortlessly between hard physical graft and “buying and selling,” to theft from lorries, factories and warehouses. His first stop after a successful larcenous adventure was the local pawn shop where Terry would retrieve his gold sovereign and half sovereign rings, his necklace and chunky bracelet. I could always tell that his life was on an upward trajectory when he arrived on my doorstep looking like a cross between the Pope and Liberace. Yet violence was always close by and Terry became a renowned cobblestone fighter outside East End pubs.
If he arrived at my house minus the gold and with the addition of a few fresh facial scars, I knew that he was having a bad day. But the stitches and the odd Magistrate’s Court fine never kept him down for long and, looking like Bob Hoskins on steroids, he always bounced back with a new scheme and a van load of hookey gear. One endeavour, involving a local clothing warehouse, resulted in every man woman and child in the neighbourhood, aged from five to eighty-five, wearing identically-branded sweatshirts. Another venture into the world of larceny ended with Terry and his cohorts ignoring thousands of pounds worth of small electrical goods in favour of some tea chests marked as whisky. However, later and after a lot of lifting, from the safe haven of his lock-up garage he found that their loot consisted of hundreds of bibles destined for a regime where Christianity was banned. Ever the optimist, Terry was thwarted from using the bibles as Christmas gifts when he discovered that they “were written in Polish.” I still have one on my bookshelf. As for the dodgy pregnancy testing kits that he liberated from a Chemist shop after he was hired by the landlord to clear it out, that is a story for another time.
You win some and you lose some, but as far as the local kids were concerned, Terry was a winner. When an under-twelves’ football team need transport, he bought an old van, hand-painted it in the team’s colours, threw some cushions in the back and the boys had a bespoke coach.
Terry was a particularly enthusiastic drinker and, when new owners took over his local pub, they asked him to run it for them.“Nothing on the books because you can’t be a licensee if a you have a criminal record. And I had one of them,” he confessed to me. Until it was sold five years later, The Steamship was a booming local community pub. With Terry in charge, there was never any trouble, apart from when one customer turned up with a gun - “I just had a word, talked him round, and he went outside put it in his motor and came back and had a drink with me.”
Over the years, Terry always drew the line at relatively low levels of skulduggery and avoided “doing anything that you could really get nicked for.” Despite many offers to engage in more serious forms of crime, in particular those involving violence, Terry stuck to what he knew. However, life was catching up with him and, after spending a few years uncharacteristically-legitimately employed as a driver, he suffered a series of heart attacks before eventually succumbing to an offer to get involved in a serious crime that was to change his life forever.
In 2006, Terry was convicted for his part in a major counterfeiting case that allegedly threatened, “the fiscal well-being of the British State.” Terry’s role was minor, he operated the machine that imprinted foil onto fake £20 notes. For four months, he operated the “foiler” yet, “I doubt that I made four grand out of it in the end,” he concluded. Police surveillance of the group had already commenced before he started work for the counterfeiters and, when his home was raided, he was found with one of the counterfeiting machines and a large quantity of notes. “They confiscated my motor, it was twelve years old. They took my caravan, which was worth about three grand and a few bits of gold that I bought. They wanted to put a confiscation order on me of £1.3 million when I had twelve-year-old motor and a caravan!”
Terry missed out on the rewards, yet was presented by the criminal justice system as a main player in “Britain’s biggest ever counterfeiting operation.” The subsequent worldwide media attention concentrated upon the seriousness of this “organised crime” and the vast amount of money that had been forged. Consequently, “when we walked onto the wing in Pentonville everybody clapped and cheered”. Terry was fifty-eight when he commenced his five year sentence. Due to his age and the fact that this was his first prison sentence, fellow inmates assumed, “that I was some sort of mastermind, that I had plenty of dough stashed away and that I had been at it for years and hadn’t been nicked. Instead, I had just been involved for a few months and never had a ‘pot.’ I got offered up all sorts of deals while I was inside. Geezer comes in, a forger, says he wants to meet me and comes on like we was best of pals. Says that I am the business, and that he wants to make one with me when I get out. I tells him, ‘No chance!’”
In prison, Terry was afforded a status that was entirely inappropriate to his actual experience and competence. But he buckled down, qualified as a Samaritan, and worked as a Listener helping troubled prisoners to come to terms with their plight. He became trusted by both inmates and prison authorities so, as a consequence, he was able to move around the prison at will and was eventually released with an exemplary prison record.
Terry acknowledges that his family suffered during his time in prison and he is now dedicated to helping them deal with their multifarious problems. He is immensely proud of his Samaritans’ qualification and uses his skills to provide informal support to various local people and visits an old peoples’ home, chatting to residents and singing some of the old songs taught to him by his father. In addition, despite his health problems, he has rediscovered his love of table tennis and is working to get the sport introduced to a local primary school. “Over the years I have taken a lot out of the local community, one way or another, and I want to put something back. I’m not a bad man,” he confided to me.
Terry’s grandparents with a young relative
Young Terry Jackson (right) with his aunt and young brother
Florence and Marshall Jackson
Portraits of Terry Jackson copyright © Sarah Ainslie
You may also like to read about