A cannabis grower who cultivated plants in his home in Northants to help him cope with his childhood trauma spent years on the run from gangsters – because they thought he had launched a turf war.
The man, now in his 50s, was beaten up and left for dead on his own doorstep on one occasion and on another had to crawl out of a burning car because the organised criminals wrongly assumed he was dealing on their patch.
Now the former Northamptonian, who still cannot return to the town and has to be given a false name (Mr X), is penning the tale of his ordeal for a book.
“I just think it’s a story that needs telling,” he told us in an interview this week.
“The main reason I’m doing this is therapy for me – it’s about getting everything out in one go.”
Back in 2011 the man was growing up to 90 plants in his home before a neighbour informed the police.
When the force used a battering ram to break into the property, reports at the time carried the police line that they had discovered a ‘cannabis factory’ nestled in a relatively crime-free village.
Yet Mr X, a former firefighter who had a career in construction, was only ever cautioned when he handed himself into police some hours later.
The grower says he was keeping a round-the-year crop of various cannabis strains as a means of self-medication for his devastating post-traumatic stress.
As a youth he claims to have been raped and later placed on a high dosage of valium to help with the nightmares. Cannabis, he says, is all he has had to numb the flashbacks since kicking a near life-ending heroin addiction in his 20s. He says he became hooked on the class A drug as a direct result of his valium prescription.
“I was researching,” he said. “I had different strains, I had a lot left in jars that were drying.
“I wanted to find out what strains suited me and what suited those around me.
“I had too much weed, but I was never selling it, I was giving it away.”
But the police’s ‘factory’ claim and reports in a local newspaper carrying pictures of his house and car at the time had dire consequences.
An organised crime gang, believed to be operating from within Leicestershire, had read the stories and could easily locate him.
Six months later, two men turned up at Mr X’s house.
“I felt threatened straight away,” he said, describing the night of his first attack. “The gist of it was ‘ we know what you’ve been doing – now you owe us £100,000’.
“I knew what was going on here. There was a big guy and a small guy, so I went for the big one.
“The trouble is I got the wrong guy – the little one was hard as nails.
“They kicked the hell out of me and left me in a pool of blood in my porch.
“I remember there was so much claret everywhere, it seemed like it was half-an-inch deep. I had to get the porch professionally cleaned afterwards.”
The attack was a warning that Mr X didn’t heed initially. He remained in the house for another half-year before the gang returned.
Only the next time, he believes they intended to kill him.
On driving up to the house in his pick-up truck, two men emerged from the darkness before tipping petrol all over the vehicle and setting it alight.
“As soon as I felt the woomph of the explosion I slammed on the brakes,” he said.
“My doors had failed because of the fire. I managed to get out of my car and pull myself at full force through the window. “They had long gone.
“That was it for me. That day I just walked.”
Mr X moved to another town in the Midlands and managed to pick up his career in construction once again.
The trouble was the nature of his job saw him often having to travel to areas patrolled by the drug gang.
Once, on a job which saw him return to Northamptonshire, gang members showed up on the forecourt demanding information about his whereabouts from his boss.
On another occasion they showed up at his girlfriend’s house dressed as policemen.
Thankfully, on both occasions he was not there at the time.
But shortly afterwards, staying over at a guest house in a coastal town, Mr X was tracked down.
He said: “I remember just seeing this car going around the roundabout over and over. I called the police to say I thought I was being watched but no-one came out.
“I was the only person in this guest house – but then I saw these shadowy figures trying the handle and then trying to get in through the window.
“I thought that was it. I called my girlfriend to say goodbye; I wrote letters to my children.
“Eventually these guys had given up trying to get in, but then they covered off every access point to the house.”
Mr X only escaped by making a dash into his girlfriend’s car, who had arrived to rescue him, before the two of them sped to Peterborough police station to be kept in protective custody.
Since then Mr X has had to stay on the move – living around England, and for a spell, in Spain, occasionally setting up a cannabis grow for himself and friends; on occasion making cannabis oils, which various reports claim have cancer-fighting and painkilling properties, for a seriously ill friend.
Cannabis-based medicine will be available to UK patients in the autumn, after Home Secretary Sajid Javid relaxed the rules around medical marijuana in early summer.
Seven years after gangsters first targeted his Northamptonshire home, Mr X still feels he cannot return to the county town.
But he says he has no regrets about growing the class B drug himself over the years, even though he also claims to have accidentally caused two explosions making cannabis oil, and is applying for a Government licence to grow marijuana for medicinal use.
“Cannabis is a sustainable alternative to tobacco, alcohol, fuel and pharmaceutical medicines,” he said.
“It was never about making money for me, it was about saving money. I must have saved £100,000 over the years.
“I don’t want to give my money to people in the organised crime trade.
“If people could supply themselves it would cut out the whole drugs trade.
“It’s no wonder people say cannabis is a gateway drug – that’s because their dealers are trying to get them on to their other products.
“I still have nightmares,” he went on to say.