I was held in San Antonio prison, a smashed-up building on the tourist resort of Margarita Island in the Caribbean. When I arrived I was greeted by lots of prisoners, hands outstretched through their cages, all yelling, “Gringo! Gringo!”.
Inside the front door, four inmates with guns gave me a knife and ordered me to fight another prisoner. They said that new arrivals must fight, so the gangs can see if you’re a bad boy or a wimp. I thought, This is survival, and took the knife. The other guy attacked, but I hit him. Signalling to end the fight, the boss said, “Bob Marley, you’re a bad boy.” He then introduced me to another Englishman who they had nicknamed King Kong.
His first words to me were: “Welcome to hell.” I asked what he meant, but he simply said, “You’ll see in the morning.” The next morning, the boss sent for me. He was on the roof. He pointed at a prison wing he was at war with, pulled out a handgun and started shooting.
The prisoners wandered wherever they wanted. There were no guards or locked doors. Some of the local gangs roamed around picking on foreigners, pistol-whipping them for no reason. One day, one gang member called Thomas insulted me. I tried to stay calm, but when he pistol-whipped me, I pushed him over. Other gang members came. I told them Thomas was causing trouble. Thomas pointed his gun in my face, but I managed to knock it away.
We fought a couple more times over the next few weeks; he obviously didn’t like me. Then one night he decided to kill me.
I didn’t feel any pain, I just heard the gunshot. It was like someone had pricked me with a pin. I saw a grey colour near my stomach. King Kong said, “Oh my God! Thomas shot you!” Holding my side, I started to walk, but collapsed. I felt blood gushing out. I heard someone say “Bob Marley, don’t die. Don’t die. Stay strong.” I saw a white light. I reached for the light. When my eyes reopened I was in a hospital. My stomach had stitches everywhere. I had breathing and feeding tubes going into me. The doctor said my survival was a miracle. My stomach had been blown to pieces, and I was 50 / 50 at one point. I’d lost four litres of blood.
After that, I always slept with one eye open. I wanted to transfer home, but it was a long process. Thankfully, Prisoners Abroad supported me all the way. At one point I made a phone call to my family, told them I loved them, and asked them to take care of my daughter and my son, because I didn’t think I was going to survive.
I’m very grateful to Prisoners Abroad for the money and newsletters they sent me. I don’t know how I would have survived without them. In 2007, during a time of less violence, two of their caseworkers visited me. That visit gave me great hope.