“I was a mixture of opposites- I was always fearful but I was fearless.“
Michael Emmett, 62, is a father of three and grandfather of seven, who found God in prison following an arrest in Devon for smuggling five tonnes of cannabis into the UK.
You would think that a man whose father rubbed shoulders with the likes of Eddie Richardson and the Kray twins was predestined for a life of crime, but Michael was quick to put that assumption to bed.
His mother was “a very peaceful lady” and his sister played musical instruments and achieved a Bachelor of Arts degree.
It was a life that called to him, the boy who used to steal sweets from Woolworths.
Michael’s dad Brian tried to push him away from criminal activity, up until he saw he was “a naughty boy like him”.
He didn’t teach him to be violent but Michael “saw a few things here and there”, despite being unaware of his dad’s career as a criminal.
There were no conversations over the breakfast table, however Michael lived life on the edge from a very young age.
When his dad realised that he was stealing and getting into scraps in his late teens, he decided to help him in his career.
And so began Michael’s career as an international drug trafficker.
Michael explained that his career was all about the money, ego and pride.
He won his dad’s approval when he started to bring in the big money, but Michael had a big hole in him, had been in a lot of pain since he was a child, and had low self-worth.
He said: “I started to work with my dad and I started to do little things here and there which were illegal, and we got raided a few times.
“So all of a sudden, we’re creatures of habit, so I just grew into it.
“Once I was into it, it became a money situation for me where it’s all about earning money.”
The criminal world Michael found himself in was initially exciting.
He knew most of the Great Train Robbers and was in awe of them.
A turning point for him was when his younger brother died in a car crash in Marbella whilst visiting him there after he fled the UK when he was on bail.
Michael, who was using cocaine at the time, said: “Then the wound that I had been trying to cover up with this plaster of women, drugs, money, big cars, all of a sudden it was lanced and it spewed out everywhere.”
His drug use worsened and he had a breakdown.
Michael then went to work with his father, which culminated in an arrest for smuggling millions of pounds worth of cannabis into Britain.
He said: “The judge said that drugs kill people and the barrister in the court jumped up and said: ‘the only way this could have killed anyone, your honour, is if it fell on top of them’.”
Michael was arrested alongside his father in 1993 and sentenced to 12 and a half years in prison.
It was in HMP Exeter where Michael discovered the Alpha course, a Christian programme that teaches the basics of the religion and encourages discussion about Christianity.
Michael had a girlfriend on the outside who became involved with Holy Trinity Brompton church, where Emmy Wilson was a curate, and she helped Michael get the programme into prisons.
The Alpha course was introduced to HMP Exeter, leading to the creation of Alpha in Prisons, which has reached 900 prisons globally.
Michael said: “God provided me a whole auditorium.
“I lost everything and embraced the humility that came with it.
“I still haven’t got it right but I’m not Bambi on ice. I’ve got a foundation and good people around me.”
Helping others is now at the heart of Michael’s message.
He said: “A guy was walking down the beach with his son and there were thousands of jellyfish and the dad said: ‘I can’t help all of them but I can help a couple of them’.
“I think that’s what recovery is all about, if we can help one person or two. We only keep what we’ve got by giving it away.
“It’s attraction rather than promotion.”
Michael has been sober for 21 years.
Michael is currently in talks to turn his life story into a TV series.
He said: “We want to portray the story of darkness to light without it being over spiritual.
“We have some great stories which will put bums on seats but we want to get the message out and the message is love and hope.”
Michael made it clear that he doesn’t want to glorify crime, and wants to help others by sharing his transition from the darkness to the light.
Sins of Fathers, published by Harper Collins, is out now.
Feature picture credit: Jonty Herman