ME, GOOD NITE TOM! YOU OK? IT HURTS INSIDE MY HEART, HE SAID. CLOSING HIS OWN CELL DOOR.
It was quarter to eight on a Tuesday night and we had been let out for wing association at six pm. Swaleside prison was a long term prison and some of the guys have lived in their same cell for years. My neighbour Tom was one of these guys, at this time he had less months to serve than the eleven years he was serving, I was 3 years in to my own 12 year sentence. Tom was Stuck in his ways he hated anything out of line or anything that changed, Everything was in line and perfect in his cell. We would make some light-hearted comments about his uniformity in his own cell and even the cleaning cupboard where the mop & bucket where kept to clean out our cells. This became a light-hearted joke amongst the other lads on the spur and every now & then, when the atmosphere on the wing was quiet and a little relaxed, myself and some of the other lads would put the mop & bucket in some of the weirdest places. This brought out some fantastic reactions from Tom, bringing about a better atmosphere which brought lots of good humour to the spur and wing as a whole. A great lad, the kind of lad that everyone had time for.
The mail had come round the cells whilst we was banged up over tea. This was between 5 & 6pm so the officers on duty could have their food. Long term prisons have a different regime than most other prisons today. This is because people are serving some very long periods of their life in prisons.
As we got unlocked, I had to run about and get a few things sorted for the family visits day in the next couple of weeks. On passing, Tom said to me ”She’s only changing the kids names to the stepfathers name and they’re going to live in Australia”. I said, I’ll be back in a minute mate and we’ll have a coffee.
Tom loved his children, he longed for the day to be released and be back in their lives once again. Every few days you would see Tom with a spring in his step with a bubbly out-going laughter and joy about him. We all knew he had got a letter and/or drawings from his children. On visits day he would be bouncing around the wing like he’d won the biggest lottery ever. Although he’d been away for 6 years and only had 9 months left to release He had been divorced from his wife within the first year of him receiving the 11 year sentence. He had come to terms with that and it wasn’t an issue for him. Infact, I don’t ever remember him speaking a bad word about his ex-wife or new partner. He had a fantastic mother that would pick his children up from his ex-wife every month and bring them to see Tom in prison.
I was shocked and devastated when I was let out of my cell the next morning to see a security lock on his door along with yellow and black tape sealing all the door. My heart sank as I walk along the spur and saw a notice had been put up on the wing saying, sadly Tom had passed away last night and the results of the inquest will be held in the near future.
The thought of his children losing his name and moving to Australia before he was released was a step to far for him. Sadly Tom went behind his door that night and hung himself…
I never got back for that coffee, we’d spent years drinking coffee together and I never got back to have the most important cup of coffee I would ever have my life today… R.I.P Tom. Sadly missed and always remembered…