The incident at the farm quickly escalated into a tense siege situation, with armed anti-terror Police, who were acting on a tip off from an informant, ringing the perimeter. It was at this point that John feared that this was a scene the cops would be only too happy for him not to walk out of alive. However with the intervention of a sympathetic journalist a line of communication was opened and the siege ended peacefully after 7 hours, with John and another person arrested.
The Scottish media had from the outset portrayed John's being-at-large with predictably sensational headlines ( 'Mad Axeman on the loose', etc...) when in reality he had been on home leave once a month for the past 12 months and on the long road to eventual release. The day he was recaptured reads like a Western stand-off between the sheriff's deputies and a bunch of desperados rather than the Police taking an absconder from an open prison back into custody.
John was convicted for a murder he describes as stupid and a terrible mistake, has spent his entire adult life in prison. Politicised by his incarceration he's regularly payed the price for his resistance through long periods of isolation, brutal beatings and treatment amounting to torture. He has never been broken and is one of the UK's most articulate and vociferous prison writers and a powerful advocate of prisoners rights.
Throughout his 25 years imprisonment, John has suffered constant harassment and brutality at the hands of the system. As someone who is not prepared to compromise his beliefs, this has served to mark him out for special attention. In May 2007 the Scottish Prison and Probation Service were involved in a clumsy attempt to prevent his parole by framing him (and smearing the ABC prisoner support network) with accusations that the ABC was involved in terrorism and that JB was therefore associating with terrorists! This all spectacularly backfired, with the SPS issuing a full apology. However it was successful in preventing his parole then and cost him a transfer back to closed conditions for 6 months.
In Britain life sentence prisoners are in the hands of the Parole Board who can stretch a prisoner's term to suit their prejudices. Not having a fixed date to work towards is a form of torture in itself. As John said in a recent letter received after his 'apprehension' "Yes it's very depressing being dependent on faceless bureaucrats for some hope of release, especially when you know they possess not a shred of compassion or humanity and certainly no sense of fair play or justice. Being locked up in jail on a long sentence is horrendous enough, but for most long-term prisoners the certainty of a release date at least provides them with a definite hope of release, a cut off point when the hardship and suffering will end and they'll regain their freedom. For those serving life there never is any definite hope of release, just this constant, seemingly endless passage of jail time measured not in the passing of days, weeks, months and years, but in the physical ageing of oneself and the hardening of ones heart in the face of constant parole knock backs and dashed hopes. It definitely requires a particular type of strength to retain one's sanity and humanity in such circumstances, and of course the cruel irony is that those who survive with dignity, courage and grace are usually considered the least suitable for release by the cold, heartless bastards who decide on such matters."
On top of that, in May this year, during a routine drug test he provided a false positive result for cocaine (a second subsequent test established that he was in fact drug free). Under duress and fearing yet another fit-up was under way to prevent his release and send him back to maximum security again, he absconded.
At the moment John is facing fresh charges over his absconding whilst on home leave (and resisting arrest) and is potentially likely to suffer a major setback to his eventual release. Therefore it is vital that John is supported through these difficult times and the Scottish Prison Service put on notice that it cannot isolate and persecute prisoners at will.
write to JB at:
Prison No. 6729
HM Prison Glenochil
King OMuir Road