I sat slouched in my chair, my head in my hands, like I had been for the last two hours, studying the plain white monochrome walls. The room I was sitting in was just one big white box, white walls with a line of windows along one of them, showing a barbed wire fence. In it was a white door, and a blank TV screen on top of a white cabinet, the only colour were pictures drawn by other little kids pined on a pin board in a corner of the room, and about a dozen green single chairs lining the walls around a white table and a white flip board. It was the green room of Harrow Crown Court. My dad was quickly pacing the room in a mixture of anticipation and anger wile we waited for Suzan the courts mediator.
We had waited the whole of yesterday, constantly being told ‘any minute now, I’ve just got to wait for the phone call, blah blah blah’. What was I waiting for, to give evidence against Damian Lewis? Suzan was waiting for the call to say they were ready for me to go to the witness box. Well, not quite the witness box. I was too young so I had to go to another room full of cameras and talk to a television screen. I think it was so the defendant wouldn’t intimidate me, or something like that. I could only see the two barristers and the judge. I knew this because it was the second time I had to go threw this. And last time we had the exact same wait. Only last time I had to be brought up from Bournemouth by police, but that was because I was on holiday at the time. Is I sat there I thought about what I was going to be asked, what I was going to reply with, and if it would be the right answer.
It was September 27th 1999. I sat hunched over the table doing my homework. I then heard max, my dog start to bark from the other side of the front door. My sister must have locked him outside. I went to see what was wrong and as I opened the door I saw two big black men walking up my path.
‘Were looking for MC Dad’ one said with a strong Jamaican accent. I thought this was quite strange because my dad’s old DJ name was DJ Dad, but I had never heard anyone ask for him by that name. After I had worked out who he was looking for I told them that he wasn’t in.
‘He was supposed to be expecting us’ the other man said in a London accent. My sister came down and asked what was happening. After telling her she rang my dad. She spoke to him and then handed the phone to the man with the London accent. He spoke to him for a wile and then hung up. He told us that my dad was on his way home and for them to wait. Thinking everything was OK I resumed my work. And my sister went to get food from the kitchen. The Jamaican sat down opposite me and smiled. It was then I noticed his tooth. His front top tooth had a ‘frame’ of gold all around it. His face was quite square; he had strong cheekbones with a light goatee around his mouth and thin dreadlocks hanging from underneath his hat. He had extremely thin lips with a broad flat nose and small, almost perfectly round eyes sitting quite widely above the nose.
As you have probably realised my dad used to be a D.J. He still is but when big he was a big DJ he built a sound proof studio at the end of our back garden. It’s quite big and had quite a lot of expensive equipment like turntables and mixers, synthesizers, samplers and more.
After the Londoner had been shown the studio by my sister, he came back inside. We sat there for a while after that, me doing my homework, my sister watching TV and the Jamaican sitting opposite me. When my sister walked out of the room the Jamaican spoke. He asked me what my sister’s name was, I told him, and he called her into the room.
‘Were not going to wait for your dad any longer’ he said. ‘Go and sit down on the couch.’ At this point I had no idea what was going on. After he repeated himself I did what he said. My sister, being more stubborn questioned him. That was when I saw the gun. It was a short shiny thing being pulled out of the Jamaicans pocket and pointed at my sister. A red dot appeared on my sister’s face, I don’t know about my sister, but I do know that my heart was pounding like a stampede of wild buffalo.
He lowered the gun while the Londoner pulled out a reel of brown tape and started to tape up my sister’s ankles and wrists. By now I still was clueless as to what was happening but I did know it was something serious. I knew he had a gun and I knew he was going to tie us up, but what was going to happen after that I had no idea. They then told my sister to get next to me. After I protested that they didn’t need to tie us up they ripped the tape off my sister. I could see the tears start to form underneath her eyes.
The Jamaican, who had the gun, started to pace the room cocking back the gun in his pocket as the other one made his way out of the room and towards the studio. A minute later I saw him out of the window, emerge with some equipment in his arms. This was repeated several times, Jamaican pacing back and forth constantly repeating ‘we’re not going to hurt you’ and ‘just stay calm and you’ll be alright’, Londoner going back and forth through the house carrying equipment, my sister was quietly crying, huddled up in the foetus position next to me.
All the while I was focusing my attention on the Jamaican. I was trying to cram my memory with anything I could remember about him, the green and yellow check of his hat, the brand of his big baggy trousers and his black suede shirt. I tried to remember that he was about 6″2′ with very broad shoulders. Roughly fifteen minutes had passed before the Londoner cam back into the room. He had beads of sweat running down his long thin face.
This man wan not as big as the Jamaican, and almost the opposite of him, like Laurel and Hardy were. This man had a long thin nose with big wide eyes. He was as tall as the other man but not nearly as broad. I did not get a good look at him because he was not in the room for very long. He came in and gave a glove to the other man and left again. Now with the glove the Jamaican went round the room and started wiping everything with the glove, the door handle, and the tape. My sister had stopped crying now but her eyes were still red and puffed up.
The Londoner then came back in a few minutes later and signalled to the Jamaican to go. He got the roll of tape and wrapped it around my sisters and my ankles and then just around my sisters wrists. My heart had started to beat again, I was wondering if they were going to do anything to us or just leave us. The Jamaican went to fetch some scissors and after returning told us that he was just going to leave them there so we could cut ourselves loose. I looked at Carleen and she looked back but we didn’t say anything to each other. Then they left.
It was now August 13th 2001; I was slouched in the back of detective Dave Reed’s red Mondeo on my way back from Bournemouth next to my friend. We were told we had to come back to go to the trial, apparently we had to be there on that day and there was no way we couldn’t be there. Three hours later we arrived at my house, my dad was waiting for us at the door to greet us. He was looking exceptionally smart today, much smarter than he normally was, he had black trousers a shirt and for the first time I had ever seen him, he was wearing a tie.
We went out to greet him and then quickly got changed and straight away we were on the road towards Harrow, this time with my sister as well. No one had told me what was going to happen but it was the only question that was going through my head. Then it came, Harrow Crown Court, a big grey block, frosted letters across the front glass doors at the end of steep black steps. I walked up the tall clear doors and pulled them open. After the doors there was another barrier. Two uniformed guards and a metal detector stood in my way. Once past them I entered the lobby, this was breathtaking, it was like I had stepped into the Tardis, it didn’t look too big from out side but once I had stepped in it was massive.
The ceiling stretched above me and the huge walls were cold marble. Mr Gooseberry greeted us and led us into his office. After not doing any thing really I parted from everyone else. And I mean every one; even my friend was not allowed to come with me because apparently no one was supposed to be in the green room to influence me. I knew he would eventually meet me because my dad started to get very angry. He was threatening to take me home if he wasn’t allowed to come with me. So ten minutes later Sami came through the door to greet Suzan and I in the green room, with his usual cheeky grin on his face. The time went by hour by hour as the different ‘activities’ went by.
Videos, board games and anything else we could think of to pass the time. I was supposed to be up there straight away but for some unknown reason I wasn’t. During the lunch break I was shown were I was going to give evidence, if we could get through the labyrinth of corridors and elevators. It was a wooden room, lots of mahogany trim all over the place. In one corner was an exact model of the court, even with little people in suits in it. It had its own en suite toilet with white tiles and blue trim. On one side of the room stood a table. At one end was a glass with a jug of water, a bible, some cards and a vase of flowers. The other side held an old grey television with a Sony camera perched on top, with its twin sitting in a corner further up. In front of the table sat two chairs, one facing the television and the other next to it. I was told that I would sit in the chair in front of the television with Suzan next to me.
Once shown it we went back to the green room for a further hour before we were told to go home. After all that we didn’t even get seen. My dad made his feelings known but not being able to do anything we headed back. The next day was slightly better. I walked up the steep black steps, past the guards and their metal detector and straight into the green room. I waited there for half an hour with Sami and then Suzan got the call. It was my time,
‘Its time’ was all the words she said. The journey back the video room was absolutely silent until we reached it, Sami had waited in the green room. This time I used the en suite toilet to relieve my nerves. I sat in the chair and raised it to my desired height. Then Suzan switched on the T.V.
It was now February 22nd, I sat slouched in the soft green chairs with my head in my hands, like I had been for the last two hours, studying the plain white monochrome walls. Waiting for that call again. It came relatively quick, and even though it was my second time I had been through this I was a nervous as a groom on his wedding day. This was mainly because the first time had been a waste of time. Dean James had got off scot-free. Not enough evidence apparently, even though one of his fingerprints had been found on the back off the mixing table, he had some cock and bull story about being there before with my brother but my brother didn’t even know who he was but the jury believed him.
I think that Damien Lewis was using the same story but there was a lot more evidence against him. For one thing I had given a detailed description of him, which had almost exactly matched him, and there were a few more fingerprints. He was also the one with the gun, the Jamaican one, so it was a bit more serious. So back we went, back through the labyrinth of corridors and elevators, back into the wooden room with its little model of the court and television and camera. This time I didn’t relive my nerves. I sat down with Suzan by my side and a glass of water from the jug in my hand. On came the screen and on came the judge. My heart was racing away with my breathing as slow as possible to control it.
What if I gave the wrong answers I though, what if I couldn’t remember something? What if I jeopardised the whole case because of something I said? But now it was too late, I hadn’t had time to think about it all, it hadn’t come to my head before this. I had a short conversation with the judge before being showed the two barristers and then he put on the video interview I had done straight after the robbery. I looked so young there. This lasted for about an hour and luckily I had said then pretty much everything that had happened in it so I didn’t really need to say much more. In fact the video had been done in the presupposition that I didn’t need to go into court but the defence barrister had demanded it. Once this had been shown I then used the toilet. Seated again I sat down for the firing line of the defence. I thought they were going to be harsh and everything like they been to my Mum and Dad, but it wasn’t like that.
‘Are you Jake Mennie of 355 Watling avenue?’ He started.
‘Yes’ I replied. I know it was a stupid question to start off with but hey, these people were working for Damian Lewis.
‘Jake, I was just wondering if you have ever seen this person before?
‘I hadn’t seen them before but I saw one about one and a half months later.’
‘And what did you do when you saw them?’
‘I went home to tell my parents and then they called the police’
‘And did anything amount to this?’
‘Were these people violent in any way towards you or your sister?’
‘Not really’ I replied to this next set of questions.
‘Were you at all scared when this happened?’
‘Of course I was a bit’
This continued for about 5 minutes, little questions that I didn’t really think mattered but I persisted in answering them. Then the prosecution barrister spoke.
‘Jake, how old are you?’ he said.
‘And how old were you when this happened?’
‘I have no further questions your honour’.
I sighed a breath of air in relief, it was over, well my part was. I could return home and just wait for the verdict.
Exactly one week later Dave Reid called at our door. He had it. We had been waiting for bad news from the result of the last trial. It was only me at the house because my dad had quickly gone out to the shops. Dave had decided to wait until he arrived. I made him a cup of tea and then we sat there for ten minutes until finally my dad arrived. When he heard that Dave was here from me he came in and sat down silently, which was highly unusual for him. Dave opened his mouth and out came two words, ‘seven years’. My dad instantly jumped up in the air with a whoop of delight and I just sunk back into the depths of my chair.
‘There’s more good news’ Dave continued, ‘the Judge decided to grant both Jake and Carleen ï¿½250 each’. This was the icing on the cake.