'I was robbed, stabbed and burnt with acid as a child by gangs who forced me to deal drugs for years'

11 September 2023, 08:59

Jake was beaten, burnt with acid and stabbed in his stint as a drug dealer
Jake was beaten, burnt with acid and stabbed in his stint as a drug dealer. Picture: LBC/Alamy

By Chris Chambers

A young man who has spent half of his life battling against gangs who have exploited him, robbed him, stabbed him, and burnt him with acid has described his horrific treatment.

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Having found himself hanging around with older boys at school, 'Jake' (not his real name) started taking drugs, becoming dependent on MDMA by the age of 13 and ultimately being forced into dealing to pay for his habit.

"My dad and grandad both got diagnosed with cancer, my brother was off the rails… so I thought what have I got to live for? My life’s been turned upside down. Let’s go out, live life more recklessly.

"I had these people who said they’d look out for me… started hanging around with them, smoking, drinking, that led on to doing drugs. Why don’t you come and smoke a joint with us, started misbehaving out in the town centre - just being naughty. It felt good to act out. It felt like I was letting off steam."

Doing a bit of running for some older boys in school moved onto dealing large quantities of pills and ultimately being kicked out of school. And then the next school. And the one after that.

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"I got to the point where I thought I need to get an education; I need to get out. I told them I don’t want the drugs anymore and they said 'I don’t care you don’t want them; you still need to keep doing what you’re doing'.

"So, the quantities of weed started doubling, tripling, crazy amounts of weed, way too much for me to handle and I’m still not being paid for my time.

"It was just, 'take this, go to XYZ, find the people, I want the money for this in three to four days, do what it takes, otherwise. you know what’s going to happen to you.'"

Having left school, and gone through a pupil referral unit, Jake found himself in a situation where he felt his only option was to keep dealing. He was being passed around from gang to gang, with no money for his work and operating under the threat of violence.

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"They would regularly show me on purpose them beating up the crack heads to intimidate me. They’d say 'come round to the house' and they’d beat the crack heads in front of me to scare the hell out of me. So I knew what they were capable of.

"Some other people came into town from Liverpool, came into the town and started taking things over. So now I’m selling crack, heroin, any drug you can imagine, Ket, LSD, MD, DMT, it was like a pharmacy, and we had to have a quick turnover. It had to be done.

"More weapons were being brought in, more rivalry. They’d try and encourage me to join in… I’d just be made to carry the weapons but having to see that level of violence every day made me think well, if I dare saying to them “can you start paying me” - I’d be lucky just to get free weed or my dinner.

"They heard what a good dealer I was, and that I don’t need much sleep and I don’t need paying,… I was stuck in the middle living a double life, trying to downplay things to my family and work for these gangs. I didn’t want to get hurt and I didn’t want to hurt anyone. I’m stuck in the middle. There was no way out.

"I’m being robbed left right and centre. Everyone just wanted me to do the job. I’d go back to the trap house and take a beating; you’ve got work to do… no recovery time. Working my hardest to pay things off. Every time I was close to paying them off, I'd be robbed with large amounts of cash on me. The first time I was stabbed in the arm, the other beatings were bad, but this was like an ambush. It was dark, threw me to the ground, started throwing the knife everywhere, took the money and off they went. It was like a pattern… it was becoming too frequent… every time I got close to paying it off, I’d be robbed, have more debt and I’d be back to square one - so I’d have to keep working for them.

"I was basically their puppet, and they could really control me. Every time there would be a new group, it was a given, almost like a part of a contract, I was to work for them.

"I was meant to be dropping off a big bag of weed and I was robbed. They threw a bottle of acid all over my face - it’s taken two years to recover. The feeling is unbelievable. If you think being stabbed is bad, then acid… it’s a horrible, horrible feeling. There was a couple of times I tried committing suicide. I was done. I was taking crazy overdoses and really giving it a good go. But I couldn’t even do that right!"

Jake has now broken free of the gang world and is effectively in hiding as he tries to rebuild a life for himself and help others.

He said: "My job now is to make sure nobody has a story like me. I do not live a normal life. I'm constantly looking over my shoulder, can’t go out, can’t go to a pub.

"I have good friends but it’s not nice having to be careful where I go - even my day-to-day job I can’t leave the building for risk of being seen. I still get threats, am still on edge, but it motivates me to make a difference."

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