The Gangster's Apprentice

Updated: Jul 7

**WARNING GRAPHIC SCENES** Let's say you wanted to become a real life gangster; where would you go for your training? Well, it depends on the level of your ambition. If you are content with being a wannabe gangster, then binge-watching The Sopranos, fixing a second (fake) exhaust to your car and playing Dr Dre through your sub-woofer, while threatening traffic wardens might be enough.

For medium-level gangsters I would suggest a portfolio career, which would involve a smorgasbord of crimes, including violence, extortion, large-scale theft and if you've got the stomach for it, a sprinkling of drugs supply for good measure. Over a period of time, your crimes would increase with severity and frankly you'd get better at it, thus being financially able to employ apprentice gangsters to be your 'Flash floor cleaner' - they do the hard work so you don't have to.

But what if you want to be at the top of the pile? Not a lifestyle business or an aspiring small enterprise. but what if you have high growth potential? If that's the case then you need a mentor. You need to learn from the best. Learn from the gurus. Just how Tony Robbins became the personal development giant of the planet - he learned from the best in the world, his mentor Jim Rohn. Just as Luke Skywalker defeated the empire with the assistance of a tiny Jedi, Mr Yoda and similarly how Leonardo DiCaprio learned how to be high on Quaaludes, from the world's expert, Jordan Belfort.*

You'll learn more in a one hour conversation with a 'guru' than you will in years of trial (literally) and error and Tully knew this.

He was sleeping rough at ten years old, escaping the violence of his stepfather. By 14, he had smashed a glass bottle and holding it by the neck, pushed the fragmented edges into the face of someone who quickly wished they hadn't pulled a knife on him. Sowing the seeds for a lifetime of crime, Tully was to become a tier one criminal.

​In 1983, he was incarcerated in Parkhurst Prison on the Isle of Wight, UK one of the few maximum security prisons in the country. It was here that he had a brief liaison with his first mentor, Charlie.

Like any gentleman would, Charlie invited him in for tea (in his cell) and spotting that he was keen to learn, handed him a book about positive mental attitude. He was a scrap metal dealer who had fallen on the wrong side of the law; when I say fallen I mean leapt, whilst wearing a rocket pack and fully on steroids. 'Charlie' was in fact Charlie Richardson, leader of the Richardson Gang and arch rival of the most famous of British gangsters, the Kray twins. The Richardsons earned the alias' The Torture Gang' as their signature moves were using pliers to remove fingers and toes and hammering six inch nails into (alive) humans to nail them to the floor.

Good to know that whilst he cut off your fingers, he would do so with positivity.

After Charlie came and went Tully, now in his mid-twenties, decided it was time to go to the very top. By some luck (?) there was a fellow inmate who fitted the bill. He'd been given thirty years for murder and sent to maximum security at Parkhurst after the longest criminal trial in British history. It was a highly complex and dangerous investigation, requiring witnesses to have secret interviews and change their identities in exchange for their testimony. The perfect mentor.

Taking the deepest of breaths, Tully approached the cell door of Reggie Kray:

"Mr Kray can I speak to you?"

"Yes come in son." He made him a tea (which apparently tasted foul, but you probably wouldn’t mention it).

"I want you to be my teacher."

"Well, I've never been asked that before, son. Let me think about it and I'll let you know."

Ten minutes later he was back in his cell, clinging onto all he had; a bunk bed and a positive mental attitude, having asked the country's most famous killer to be his mentor. Reggie adored his mother Violet and was still reeling from her death a year earlier, but that night she appeared in his dream. This was the sign that sealed Tully's fate and the next morning Reggie was stood at his door telling him that he agreed to his request. Reggie was now his personal teacher.

They became close and Reggie set about giving Tully the best criminal and business education that money can't buy.

Reggie (left) and Ronnie Kray

Reggie taught him everything. He gave him the nickname 'Dodger,' (as in 'Artful Dodger' from Oliver Twist) and became the father figure Tully had never had and the results spoke for themselves. Tully amassed a seven-figure crime fortune in less than five years but also got twelve years for the trouble after being convicted of the armed robbery of a jewellers. The job went fully sideways, resulting in a serious injury of staff member, a police chase and Tully swallowing a ring in an attempt to hide some of the evidence. The moral of the story, don't commit armed robbery when it's snowing.

Although Tully was later diagnosed with a psychopathic personality disorder and was emotionally detached from his crimes, this was the one job that played on his mind more than any other. It was to be his last conviction.

After his release in 2009, Tully went on crime detox. He wrote a book, became a speaker and in collaboration with university professors this tragic and dangerous street-kid-turned-villain became fixated with giving back, devoting his life to ensuring troubled youngsters don't follow the same path as him.

Spoiler alert: prison doesn’t really work and it’s all we’ve got, but expecting a career criminal to go straight after release is like sending a fox to a chicken coop to learn vegetarian cooking, running a drug rehabilitation course in a pharmacy, or holding an AA** meeting in a pub. You get the idea.

This makes Tully’s achievements even more remarkable and despite his shocking past, I am both fascinated and inspired. Perhaps even more so, because I witnessed the very beginning of his new crime-free life.

I was his business advisor.

*Jordan Belfort, the real-life Wolf of Wall Street who taught Leo how to ACT high on (not take) quaaludes. I think.

** AA Alcoholics Anonymous

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