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Inside 'UK's grimmest prison' as ex-lag warns Benjamin Mendy will be in for 'hell'
06/01/2022 11:23:41

A Premier League star charged with rape may still be in danger behind bars, one ex-lag has claimed, despite switching to a high-security prison over safety fears.

Benjamin Mendy was recently moved to one of Britain’s toughest jails, HMP Manchester - more infamously known as Strangeways.

He was transferred to the high-security prison because it is reportedly better equipped to protect him.

Here, we take a look inside Strangeways and explore why it is regarded as one of the UK’s grimmest prisons.

We also hear from ex-lags who provide an insight into what Mendy can expect there.

French international Mendy, 27, is accused of seven counts of rape involving four women and he is now in Strangeways with his 40-year-old co-defendent, Louis Saha Matturie. The pair will have their next court appearance on Friday.

Strangeways - history

Some of Britain’s most savage criminals have stayed in Strangeways - including serial killers Dr Harold Shipman and Ian Brady.

Other former inmates include the killer of April Jones, Mark Bridger, and cop killer Dale Cregan.

And Mendy isn’t the only Premier League athlete who has stayed there.

Former Manchester City footballer Joey Barton also served a short sentence for attacking a man back in 2008.

The prison has held criminals since 1868 and it carried out executions until 1965.

It reached a new level of infamy in 1990 with the Strangeways Riots - 25 days of carnage that involved a rooftop protest.

One lag was killed and almost 150 prison officers were injured during the trouble.

It remains the longest riot in British history.

What can Mendy expect?

Reformed criminal and former lag Richard Jones believes Mendy’s switch to Strangeways will be a “big deal” for inmates.

He told the Daily Star: “There will be people shouting out of windows screaming his name just for entertainment for their own selves and to see if they can get a response from him.

“Some of them will be well into football and if someone is in a category-A like Strangeways they are locked out from the outside world for a very long time so when they get something like that happening in prison it’s actually quite a big deal.

“It is like that storm in a teacup. It is big news for everyone involved because it is something going on.”

Ex-soldier Jones, who served seven years for conspiracy to supply cocaine, also spoke about whether Mendy will be safe.

He said: “If you are [suspected of] a sex offence, it doesn’t matter who you are, someone will feel the necessity to want to attack you.

“If someone has had a bad day, you could have someone who normally wouldn’t want to bother but they’ve had a bad day or they are in debt and they then have a reason.

"Someone might say 'go and get that f*****g Mendy, we will chuck a few quid in your canteen, sort you out with some food, just go and cut him or slash him'.

“That could happen even on a VP wing but he could be gone to segregation for his own protection because he is that high profile."

Jones, 51, also gave an insight into what it is like when a well-known celebrity enters a prison.

He spoke about Ross Kemp visiting HMP Oakwood when he was serving time there in 2018.

Jones remembered: “It was a big deal because everyone knew he was in there and we had to lock off the route in the prison so he could be escorted around.

“But you had people shouting from windows, ‘Ross Kemp you w****r.'

“They are called window warriors. They will be shouting out the window for anything but if they have something particular to shout at then that is what they are going to do.”

According to The Sun, Mendy was moved to Manchester from Liverpool’s category-B HMP Altcourse on December 23 because it is better equipped to keep him safe.

And this was view was echoed by Jones who said: “The cat-A system is designed to manage risks a lot better.

“In some cat-A prisons, movement around the prison would be in tunnels rather than an open route from building to building.”

Ex-lag's perspective

Cody Lachey is a reformed criminal who has spent two years behind bars - including a stint in Strangeways.

His charges included assaulting a cop and harassment threats.

And in 2017 he spoke to the Manchester Evening News about how he survived his first 24 hours in the notorious prison.

He said: “All replica tops like United and City shirts are banned, for instance, in case it encourages football rivalry. The staff are authoritative, unfriendly. It was my first time and so I was nervous and anxious.”

Lachey, who is from Manchester, added: ““At Strangeways, it’s pretty much 23-hour bang-up which means you are in your cell all but one hour each day.

“You are supposed to get one hour ‘gym’ and one hour association time, when you can walk around on the landing and mix and chat with the other prisoners and play pool.

“This hardly ever happens, though. Because of all the cut-backs in the prison service, for the screws it’s much easier to manage us if we’re in our cells most of the time.

“I was in Strangeways for three months in the end but those first 24 hours were the most frightening of my life.

“I was petrified. I could see it was worse for some others though, the kind who don’t ever want to come out of their cell.

“These are the ones who are a suicide risk. Some inmates are friendly and they’ll help you learn the ropes but they’re not all like that.

“You have to watch your back. I went back to prison twice more after that for various reasons, so I can’t say the experience helped to rehabilitate me.”

He concluded that his three-month stay in Strangeways was the most “frightening” time of his life.

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