My IRA prisoners escape "exclusive"

Reading about the latest bout of escaped prisoners reminded me of one of my journalistic highlights at the Cambridge Evening News. It was one Saturday afternoon and we were waiting for the nod to go home when a call came through to tell us that some IRA prisoners had escaped from a high security prison in the town of March, Cambridgeshire. I was sent to report a press conference there.

When I arrived at the prison, I was asked by someone from the Home Office if I knew of Michael Deaves who had worked at the CEN before joining their Press Office. I confirmed that I did. I asked if there was any chance of interviewing the prison guard who had chased the prisoners, but was told it was out of the question.

Five minutes later there was a tap on my shoulder and this person, who had in the meantime called Michael Deaves to check me out, told me I could have an “exclusive” with the guard, but it would have to be in the ladies loo out of earshot of all the other hacks who were being given the spiel from officials.

I can only assume that my former colleague had said that I was ok and could be trusted, that’s why he was so helpful. It was a dream come true, my heart was racing with the excitement of it all. Besides myself, only the Press Association were allowed to interview the guard. As you can imagine, there was intense media coverage of this audacious escape. They had cut through a wired fence and were armed with guns which had been smuggled in. I wonder if this is the reason they managed it.

As I left the prison, I saw another former CEN colleague Chris Elliott arrive for the press conference, but had missed it. He had to file over a report over to the Sunday Telegraph asap. As I had phoned over my report and my paper had just splashed with our “exclusive”, I gave him the notes of my interview and was later paid the princely sum of £50. Chris is now Exec Editor of The Guardian, I still enjoy meeting up with him at reunions and fellow hacks’ parties in Cambridge.

I must admit I do miss the thrill of that kind of excitement, I don’t get quite the same adrenalin rush from blogging. It’s the only interview I’ve ever done in a toilet.  I did interview Gavin Hastings in his changing room once after a shower, but that’s another story – you could say a perk of the job!


  1. It comes as no real suprise that your exclusive seemed far more exciting than the latest political hoo-haa over recent prison escapees, who apparently had the skill to walk out of an open prison.

    Now the talk seems to have taken an ugly authoritarian tone, with the prospect of doing away with open prisons altogether. With questions like ‘should open prisons have tougher security? Well, if they did, they wouldn’t be ‘open prisons’ then, would they?

    Your right though Ellee, compared to todays political shenanigans, it all rather makes the days of the IRA look far, far more exciting. Well… that is in terms of military, and propaganda skills.

    As for the interview in the toilet…

  2. That must be a first i’ve ever heard of an exclusive interview in the ladies bathroom!

  3. Bel, Kind of you to say that. I believe everyone has a good story to tell, it’s a case of finding it (which I always enjoy doing). Personal stories add a little spice to a blog, help people get to know the real person behind it.

  4. What an interesting story, Ellee. Thank you for sharing it. This is one of the reasons I like this blog; there are always gems like this on offer.

    Hope the diploma assignment you mentioned in your previous post went well.

  5. It must have been very exciting, Ellee! I had to look up who Gavin Hastings is!

  6. I bet the kept a record of the prisoners that had escaped, unlike those that are allowed to walk out of the category D prisons today.

  7. Ya gotta do what ya gotta do Ellee :o)

  8. Gavin Hastings!!!

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