A man’s journey through life can reflect the shifts and changes necessary to survive. When Danny Woollard asked if I’d like a sit-down with a known face within east London’s underworld, well, who wouldn’t! His most famous conviction was the infamous Snow hill robbery; that landed him 21 years. Like those that are known and respected within the underworld, Angelo plays by the ‘rules’. Not to be confused with the purse snatching, two-bob petty thief, Angelo is guided by the ‘code’ that dictates what is simply right and wrong.
Angelo- For me, like most in the start, it was a means of survival. It was different back then though. When you was younger back then, it’s not like it is now. You survived more for yourself. Now you have the care system, this system, that system. You can’t get away with now what you could back then. When you’re younger, your family breaks up, you know, your mum and dad. Now, my dad was Maltese. They can be vicious tempered fuckers, believe me, especially in them days. I give him his due he was a hard working man, but he was fucking violent. Well, my mum and dad separated. It was a case of they’ve gone their way, I’ve gone mine. My brother stayed with my dad. So I started squatting in a little council flat. No toilet, no fucking nothing, you know what I mean! I think I was only 13. And what happened was, you’ve got to eat, haven’t you!
The first thing I nicked was a hamburger stall, and a tin of hamburgers. Done that, but that’s not gonna last forever is it! So, I’ve got all my mates. Now I was bought up in a gang called the Chick sand gang; Brick Lane. Even to this day, it’s generations that have taken over, the same brothers and cousins. You know gone from one down to the other. So, you start off burgling, warehouses, dis, dat. We’d burgle warehouses at least four or five times a week. It was like forever. When I was 14, I was running down the road with mink coats. If I’d had the brains or the knowledge, I’d earnt a fortune, but, you don’t, so people just come and they’re mugging you off, you know what I’m saying! I remember we did a jewelry shop once. We got up on the roof, and we knew how to get passed the security, and this was by the time I was 14 years of age. Don’t tread on the mats, don’t do this, you know, I knew what to do. I’d carry ammonia, that way if someone grabbed hold of ya’, ‘bang’ Straight in their eyes, he’s gone! I don’t care who he is, he’s had it. I never got pleasure in hurting no one. When you’re young, you don’t want someone grabbing hold of you. You don’t want to get nicked. So you will do what you have to do. I’m not saying it’s a great thing, but you do what you have to do.
Now I’m not gonna’ sit here and tell you I’m not gonna’ hurt no body. You know, I’m like the old time villain, I won’t do this and I won’t do that! If I have to do something for money, I’ll do it for money. I can sit here and tell you I’ve never done it out of pleasure. It’s always been about money, because I think that’s a bit muggy, I mean why do you have to hurt somebody if you don’t need to! And that’s the first thing, give me money, and then I’ll change my mind. It might sound horrible, but I’m being honest. So, after all that, I mean you get a bit older and a bit wiser. You then learn what you want for your stuff. My ol’ man used to buy the stuff off us. I knew he was mugging us off with some of the stuff, but you know. It was when I was about 15 or 16, that I went back home, with my foster brother. This came about when I was squatting. I met up with this bloke, that we ‘come such good friends, that he become like my brother. His dad had died, his mum had left him. So I went back to my mum and dad with the condition that he comes with, and that they foster him legally. And that’s what I did. Shortly after, I went quiet, I joined the army, was there for a few years, done a bit of soldiering as you do. Left the army, and what’s about! I mean, really, what’s about! There was nothing about, and I’ve got all this knowledge, and I can’t earn a pound note. Then I started doing small stuff, here and there. Nothing regular, Just enough, you know what I mean!
Got with my wife, had twins, I was about 21. Things are hard you know what I’m trying to say! Things are really fucking hard., living in Brick Lane, doing a bit of work here and there, nothing fully though. And It was always in my head, ‘What’s all this bollocks work!’
I remember when I was a kid all my cousins and my family owned all the speilers and the gambling. That’s why I’ve never gambled in my life. My ol’ man would’ve murdered me! I was never allowed to use a machine. Even now I don’t gamble. I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, never took a drug in my life. I’ve got other vices, but not them. So what it is in that area and you had some right nutty people.
I remember once the Kray twins came to the Maltese cafe, as someone owed them money. I was only about 5 or 6, but that stayed in my head forever. Believe it or not, those people are your idols. It’s like for me now, I go certain areas, and kids look up to me. When I come out of prison, I went to pick my daughter up from school. So I pulled up in a Range Rover, I’d only been out of prison a week. My little girl was about 15 at the time. She’s come out of school, and as I’ve pulled up there’s kids everywhere! So, she’s got in the car and I’ve said we’d better wait as it looks like there could be a bit of trouble here and I pointed out and said there’s a lot of boys standing over there and pointed at another bunch of boys somewhere else, and she told me that they was here because of me and they wanted to see me and who I was! That took me back to when I was a kid. Going back a few years, I knew Charlie Kray very well. I got a letter from Reggie saying “Good fella” and all that. So I can understand how kid’s minds work. Some might think that’s a shame but, then I’ve never regretted anything I’ve done in my life. If I wanted to work in Sainsbury’s, I’d worked in Sainsbury’s, I don’t regret nothing and that’s the truth.
So, you get older. I’ve got my wife, my kids, and you try and get a job, don’t ya’! You know, you’ve got to do the norm’. I just don’t think I’m a normal fella’. I think that’s what it is, you know, but you do the normal, but then you know, you’re still ‘duckin’ and divin’. Now, I’d started up in a security company. I was the manager of it, no one’s above me, and I’m earning about 600 quid a week. Now, this was about 20 years ago. So 600 quid a week is a lot of money. Well, that’s not good enough! Now, I’ve so many guards, and so many that don’t even exist. I’ve got ghost guards on sites all over London, and I’m taking their wages. It’s not just about the money. I’d love to just sit here and say it’s about that, but I think we get a buzz out of doing different things in life. It’s just that little extra bit of ‘villainy’ that gets ya’. Well, I did that for about 14 months. You obviously get caught don’t ya’! I’m asked “why do we have all these extra guards that we don’t have”! Well, I resign. Then I start on the proper stuff. You know vans and that kind of stuff. Armed robberies, some heavy duty stuff, a lot of pavement stuff.
It’s bringing in a living. You’ve got a nice car, a nice house, shooting off here and there. Sometimes you ain’t got no money. If you speak to anyone in crime, and they tell you they’ve had money all their life, they’re a liar. One day, I’m not joking, you’re driving around in a XJR super charged Jag’, 52 thousand pounds. A month later, you’ve got a MK 1 Escort. I don’t know anyone that’s had money, money, money. Even now I have god times and bad times. And that’s life and any trade. Well, I started doing that, and that was my main thing. As for the violent side; I’ve never done violence for pleasure. Half the time, there’s no need for it. If you set up a robbery properly, the chance of violence is, well if it’s done properly, it’s hardly there, and those that have to, well it’s muggy. Again, I’ll be honest. I’m not gonna’ say that I feel sorry for the person, this, that and the other. In that situation, I’m after the money. And I want the fucking money! If I’ve come that far in what I’ve done, I want your fucking money.
If you say you’re not going to give it to me, well, listen, you’re gonna’ give me the money, or I wouldn’t be standing in front of ya’ risking getting a life sentence. If I’ve got that near to ya’, I’m walking away with the money! So I will use violence. I can’t honestly think though, an occasion I’ve used it. If you do it properly, there is no need to do it. Muggs do it. Muggs will go in shouting and throwing people about. Someone wants to know that when you go on them, that they’re not going to be killed. They’ve got a chance of walking out with nothing wrong with them.
This geezer, this robbery, the last one I got nicked for, he was so worried about his wife, the poor fucker, “Oh, my wife” ya know. Well, I said “I can’t leave ya’ here”, because where we put the motor, we covered it, leaded it. I didn’t want to leave this fella’ rotting away there. He looked like an old fella’. So I said “That’s alright, mate. Give us the name of your wife and the phone number and you’ve got my word nothing’s going to happen to you”. I asked him if he’d been treated fine and he said “Yeah”. I said “Well, I give you my word, you’ll be treated fine”. He then showed me that the cuffs/ quick clips was hurting him. So I asked for a blade and cut them right off. During the event I had to simply cover his face, as the plan was to reverse the van up, but he said he was scared of that. So what we did was smash all the mirrors so he couldn’t see what’s behind him. Now we could simply reverse the van up to the armored van, so when we was up top cutting our way in, he couldn’t see the motor’s number plate. So, what I’m trying to say to you there’s other ways of doing something. If he’s all claustrophobic, don’t cover his face, the poor fucker. We’re there for the money, not his life.
So we did all this, got away, phoned up his misses, explained the situation, that he’s perfectly alright, but get someone ‘round there to pick him up. When we got done, his statements said that these people looked after him. He then gave a description of the person that come up to the van window. When I jumped up to the window; it was right outside the police station. I put it right up to the window, and said “Open it or I’ll blow your fucking head off”. He saw me a few inches away! His description was nothing like me. Why? It must have been something! You understand what I’m trying to say to ya’! He really did have a bad memory, or he thought ‘hold it a minute’. What’s right is right. If you have to cause violence, but most of the time there’s no need for it. You leave it to these arsehole kids, with their trousers down to their knees, with their arses hanging out, screaming and shouting, waving guns about shooting lamp posts and fresh air. If you do things calmly and planned there’s usually none. I mean I could take you off the street without a noise, without nothing. Just walk up to them and walk with the person. And while you’ve got them, their brain isn’t functioning. He will turn from a big man, to a sheep in about half a second. This you can do with any man, unless they’re a villain. The villain knows the game in his head. A straight goer won’t.
Now for that, I got 21 years. When you come out, what are you going to do! You do what you know. It’s as simple as that. What would you want me to do? Become a school teacher! If they had half a brain, they’d pick someone like me to go check out their security and their banks or their vans, but they won’t do that, as they think we are there to rob them. And they’re probably right, we would! They pick monkeys to do it, who don’t know what they’re doing.
Scary! Here’s one that sometimes crosses my mind. When we was being bugged, we come out one time, all shootered-up, if I’d turned right, I’d been shot-up by the O.B as they were waiting for me. As when I got nicked, I saw the statements from the SO 19’s. They was waiting for us. Let’s be honest. They’re not fucking around, but then neither am I. They’d shot us, and I’d have shot them. They’re not straight goers. Not someone that works in Sainsbury’s. You’ve got to treat people the way they treat you. Another one that taunts me is when the 3 boys got shot in Essex. Well, one night we was out and up to no good, and they actually nicked us for what we was up to. Now if they hadn’t had nicked us, we’d been fucked! Anyway, we was around the area, shootered-up, and lucky that we did get nicked. The O.B was listening in and they said we was out to hijack a lorry. So, if they wasn’t listening in, they’d nicked us for the Essex boys murders too! And those boys used to come down the office, so the connection was there and it could’ve been really shitty. Another time is when the O.B alleged that we went to shoot another geezer. What they said was we went up through the garden, went to the house, as we got to the window the O.B reckon we saw a geezer, black helmet, black outfit, firearms, ready to shoot the geezer in the house. Well, that’s what they say. What we saw was the SO 19’s and we fucked off. That’s on the record. They was waiting there, that’s another time they could’ve shot us. You’ve got other circumstances where you fall out with people, monies involved, and they’re trying to fucking shoot ya’. It isn’t always the police that are trying to shoot ya’. You’ve got the baddies trying to shoot ya’.
When they (SO 19) come for me; well it’s been twice. The first time they come for me, I was laying in bed and it was quarter past six, boom, boom, boom! Now, I can name that tune in one, I know who that is. They’d put the ram on the door frame; and it’s a sixteen hundred pound door, solid steel frame, thick oak wood, blocks that go everywhere. Bloody great big door that was, and they took it off in six seconds! Marvelous bit of machinery that was. They’d rammed it with hydraulic rams and I heard the shot guns go. Boom, boom! They’d shot off the hinges off the door. I’m one flight of stairs up; sitting room and kitchen downstairs, you know one of them one flight bed room upstairs, bathrooms. So I’ve jumped out of bed, looked out of the window, and they’re all there. Laser sights everywhere, through the window. I thought “Fuck me, must me something!” you know what I mean! Then one of my kids came out the bedroom, and I heard them (SO 19’s) scream “There’s someone in the passage, there’s someone in the passage”. I literally booted my kid back in the room, because they saw her, the sights and lasers were coming through, you know what I’m trying to say! So she’s gone flying back into the bedroom. I’ve then gone back into the bedroom and dragged all the kids into another bedroom. I’ve then said “Sit here and don’t move”. Now all I’ve had on is a pair of underpants, and I’m not going out showing how well endowed I am, you know! So, the SO 19’s are screaming “Come down, come down!” I’m thinking ‘I ain’t coming down yet, mate!’ So once I’ve got all the kids all right, I’m shouting down there “I’ll come down, but my kids are up here”. They continue to shout “Come down”. I could hear the fear in their (SO 19’s) voices. I think if I’d acted like that I’d be a dangerous person on the street. They was shaking and I’m thinking what the fuck are you shaking for, man.
So I just did what they said. Hands up, come down the stairs. Let me tell you something. I’m 5 ft 6, and my hands where so far up, they was scraping the ceilings. I’m giving them no chance. I come down the stairs, hands up, walking towards them. They do the same thing as they always do. I walk towards them, they have their shields up, putting their guns through the shields, they ram you, smash you on the head a few times, with the buts of the gun, and they always do that, every time. Two sets of hand cuffs on me, took me around, helicopter outside over head, ambulances blocking all the streets, I’m in the car, and they took me to the nick, helicopter following the Range Rovers like I’m a terrorist. So they got me to the nick, I’m sat there, and I never make a statement, ever! I don’t ever make a statement, I say nothing, ever. I don’t even say “no comment”. You want something out of me, try and get it out of me, you know what I mean! Once you say something, you’re committed, that’s it. They’ve got nothing on me. 6 days later, they let me go on bail. So I’m in doors, about 6 weeks later, and all of a sudden ‘boom’, the doors blown off again. I thought ‘Fuck me, here we go again!’ And the doors, they cost a fucking fortune. And they still take ‘em off in 6 seconds, and always with the shotguns, on the hinges. Doesn’t matter how many you’ve got, always all of them off, exactly the same routine as before. Same as before, I got the kids in the bedroom, but now I’ve got myself ready, you know, shower, trousers on, bit smart. Not going out again for all my neighbors seeing me. So same as before, this time I came down when I was ready, but this time when I went down, there’s a dog there, a little box on his head, a camera. They’re watching me through the dog. I’ve gone down stairs, and I know what’s gonna’ happen, straight again, they’ve rammed me. Hit me again on the head, and what the fuck do they have to do that for every time! And when I’m looking at this one’s face he was so nervous, he was spitting when he was shouting, his mouth must have been so dry. He’s screaming and his hands are shaking. This must have been Roger from Norwich, he’s probably never seen a real villain in his life. I’m honestly thinking ‘You’re dangerous, you are fucking dangerous’. He had no control. His hands were shaking, and holding a gun. He should have been as calm as me.
Exactly same routine, down the station. The funny thing was, my kids. One was 2, one was 7 and the twins were 14. Sadist thing was, they nicked my wife, they left the kids in the house on their own with no door on it. And they actually had my kids lined up with machine guns pointing at them. And that’s the gospel truth. What are my kids honestly going to do! So, my dad’s gone around there, and he’s a mad Malt’, ain’t he! He’s going mad. Anyway, they let me go again. They’ve got nothing, nothing! 3 weeks later, I’ve heard a tap on the door. I thought, fucking funny, must be O.B, no one else that time of the morning. So, I’ve opened the window and shouted down “What do you want?” They’ve shouted “Hello, Angelo. Come down and open the door, mate”. “Yeah, all right, mate”, I’ve said. So I’ve looked out the back, and they’re fucking everywhere out there. So I’ve gone down, answered the door and they’ve said “Hello, Ang’. Listen, we’re serious crime squad. We’re not gonna’ mug you off like we did before, and bullshit with ya’, we’ve come to search ya’ place, we’ve come to arrest you on so and so charge, and we’ll put a woman copper to put with ya’ kids and ya’ wife and explain you’re not in trouble, we’ll put the handcuffs on you outside the door. And you’ll admit we’re being total gentleman with ya’, aren’t we?” I said “Well, I’ll be the same with you then”. And that’s all cool. Now you have to ask yourself, what’s the difference! So they’ve got me in the nick, and they’ve said “what we are going to do, as we know you don’t talk, we’re gonna’ ask you the questions, you’re not gonna’ talk, and then we are gonna’ give you bail. We ain’t gonna’ try and stop your bail, as we know we can’t, as you have no bail conditions”. There, you have to question on the whole approach. Gentleman and fucks! I understand a real dangerous person, and how they are gonna’ come at ya’. That’s fine coming at me like that. But, my wife and kids! And then to nick your wife, and say to her “We have enough to nick you and send you to prison and all your kids will have to go into a home”.
What has she ever done! She’s a straight goer. I mean, if I’ve got a problem with you, I’m gonna’ come see you don’t make no mistake about it. I’m not gonna’ go see your brother, or see your mother. Fucking yella’ bellies. If you’re a big fuck of a man, I might not and come and see you now, but, I’ll see you when you’re getting into your car. And I will come and see you. So by them coming to see my wife and my kids! There’s a limit for everyone. I’m not here to have people think the O.B are arsehole bastards. Listen, the police are there to catch people like me. And I don’t have a problem with that. You can’t have people like me just running about around the streets. The world would be chaos. You’ve got to have balance, if the police man does his job, no problem. The judge does his job, no problem. Get in prison, the screws, do you job, mate. Don’t try and be a big man, and I don’t have a problem with them. I don’t have a problem with the whole system, not at all. You see with me you’ve got to be straight. Like me, if you’re a criminal, just be a criminal. Don’t you be a double fucking wrong un’ or something like that. Don’t play both sides of the fence. Be one or the other. You can’t stroll around being jack potatoes, full of it, then turn around and be a fucking informer. Take your bird! I did my bird.
I was in Spell side for nearly 6 years, and I was on the worst wing, C- wing, where all the trouble starts. I was with Eddie Richardson, Sid Drape, everyone was given a little spur. And you’ll never meet any one that’s got a bad word to say about me. If there was any trouble, I’m there for trouble. I don’t give a fuck if you’re 6 ft 3, 7 ft 3 or 2 ft 3, it doesn’t matter to me. If I am going to say it to you, I’ll simply say it to you. You wanna’ make something of it, than make something of it. I’ll be standing right beside you, in front of you, any where you want, as long as I win. I’m not one of these people that’ll let you win. I will fucking win, but, I will be the person I am. Not anything I’m not. The other day, I read the paper. And this made me sick. When I was away, there was this person that killed a kid. Anyway, I’m reading the paper, and I see him in the paper. What happened was, he used to run around, hoovering our rooms up, cleaning our floors. All that stuff, a real mug. He was a no one. Then one of the screws walked up to me and said “Ang’ listen. He’s in here for stalking and bashing women and all that kind of stuff”. Now, before you’re told all this, you might get to see some paperwork. His card, what he’s in for, his photo. And that’s the kind of people you’ve got to deal with in prison. I’m glad he was dealt with! All my years in prison, I never had one single photo in my cell. I even made an official complaint, as people could simply look at you file, and see your address. When you get your letters, you have to sign for it. Well I put a stop to that.
You could have a real nonce see all you address. When you’re in prison, you’re surrounded by them kind of people. And they treat me like I’m some sort of monster. Who’s the monster! I nick money. If I’m gonna’ hurt somebody, it’s gonna’ be another criminal. I’m not gonna’ hurt Mr. Smith that runs a shop. I’ve been in places, and I know I could beat someone, and here’s a good example. I’m in my car, and someone shouts out “You cunt, use your indicators” or something like that. I think ‘Or what, I’ve been shouted at by bigger people than you, ya’ mug!’, that doesn’t mean nothing to me. If they’ve got me trapped in a corner, then I’ll show them what, you know. If you’re in a pub and you spill beer on me, I’d probably say “For fucks sake” and I’d even go and buy you a pint. It all depends on the circumstances. What does it really matter? Or do you think that if you spill beer on me and you’ll lose your temper at me, that I’m gonna’ fucking kill ya’. If I don’t kill ya’, I’m gonna’ pull your eyes out of your fucking face, bite you nose off and do your jugular vein? Or, you’re gonna’ do it to me? We may as well go and buy each other a pint. These youngsters think it’s makes them some body, to go around stabbing some body, to be vicious to people. It doesn’t make someone a big man if they beat somebody up if they know they can.
It makes them a bigger man if they beat someone they think they can’t. That makes a tough man, as you know you can get hurt. It doesn’t make you anything more than a bully if you get someone you know you can beat. I saw kids of sixteen and seventeen doing serious time for kicking someone in the head ‘cause some one looked at his bird! My boy has never, to my knowledge, had a single fight in his life, and if he goes through life that way, I’ll be the proudest dad alive. If he has to defend himself, then he’s got to defend himself. That’s why I find it hard myself, when I see it going on. That’s why I’ll never be a bully, you know. People know who you are. I tell my boy as I do my girls, that you must avoid trouble, if you can. If you can’t, you have to go all out. If I ever had to fight, then I’m gonna’ do my best to just kill you. If I don’t, then they could just get up off the floor and kill me. And that separates a lot of us from simple bullies.
Angelo was speaking to Jason Allday for the forthcoming book, My Brother’s Keeper