Skip to content or view mobile version

Home | Mobile | Editorial | Mission | Privacy | About | Contact | Help | Security | Support

A network of individuals, independent and alternative media activists and organisations, offering grassroots, non-corporate, non-commercial coverage of important social and political issues.

Update On John Bowden

Brighton ABC | 24.07.2008 09:30 | Repression | Social Struggles

In May this year, long-term prison resister John Bowden went on the run whilst out on a routine shopping trip from HMP Noranside. We can now reveal why he did so when he was so close to a new parole hearing.

Lifer and long term prison rebel John Bowden, who absconded from Open Prison whilst on home leave, was recaptured on 6/6/08. After 3 weeks on the run the Police discovered JB hiding on a farm on the outskirts of Glasgow. He now languishes back in maximum security conditions in HMP Glenochil in need of support and solidarity.

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.

Brighton ABC

write to JB at:

John Bowden
Prison No. 6729
HM Prison Glenochil
King OMuir Road
FK10 3AD

Brighton ABC
- e-mail:
- Homepage:


Hide the following 18 comments

A little less obfuscation

24.07.2008 20:31

While I sympathize completely with the fact that Mr Bowden has been discriminated against for his professed beliefs, I can't help but be disquieted by what appears to be the deliberate evasion and downplaying of the reasons why he was imprisoned in the first place. Bowden himself attributes it to his upbringing, blaming his crime on society etc. Leeds ABC has stated that "John Bowden’s original crime is of no relevance whatsoever to his current situation". True, perhaps, but let's not pretend it was a "drunken mistake" or something daft he did when he was young - Bowden carried out a sadistic, premeditated murder. I don't have owt against folk supporting him, but it'd be nice if the facts were made clearer beforehand.


To peanucle

25.07.2008 08:39

maybe you could tell where you got your information about his crime from as you seem to be very informed about the facts?

Sub Stance

Dear Sub Stance

25.07.2008 14:28

This article from the BBC -

This one from Sky News -

There are similar articles online from ITV News, The Scotsman, a few local papers, and of course our beloved tabloids.




25.07.2008 20:09

cheers, excellent stuff.

They'e all news reports from 2008 (which of course i trust implicitly).

I was thinking more about the fact you knew it wasn't a drunken mistake, the fact it was premeditated, i was assuming you had full knowledge of the events, maybe court documentation, maybe orginal source material from the trial?

Here's me thinking you knew what the fucking you were talking about when in fact you're relying on a couple short news pieces from earlier this year you read off of the internet.

Sub Stance

I think someone needs a warm drink and a cuddle

25.07.2008 23:11

I didn't claim to have any insider info, just using common sense really. Killing someone in a drunken fight or in a heated argument usually involves beating them to death and not, generally speaking, starting to hack them up with various implements, keeping their severed head in your fridge for a wee bit and scattering the rest of the bits about your neighbourhood. The latter suggests sadism and some sort of mental health problem, one would hope. The use of said implements also suggests premeditation, as I don't know many folk who have machetes or carving knives kicking about their living rooms. But then, maybe that's just me.

Have you obtained any court documents yourself yet? Seeing as how you're clearly quite distressed by my slandering of Mr Bowden's good name.


Common sense?

26.07.2008 09:53

Bowen's case is a weird one because there's absolutely no original soure material (off of the ineternet) than we can work from.

We can therefore assume a lot, as seems to be the standard here.

What would be useful is if we want to be Bowen authorities is we actually have corroborated evidence of the facts to reinforce it.

Otherwise simply repeating, with a certain degree of satisfaction, bits of media gossip can seem to some a little bit ghoulish.

Sub Stance

Prison : a microcosm of our state at our worst

26.07.2008 18:37

Johns individual legal redress
Johns individual legal redress

"Bowen's case is a weird one because there's absolutely no original soure material (off of the ineternet) than we can work from."

It was a pre-internet story when the crime occurred, if that is what you mean, but we can still research the invasion of Vietnam if we want and that was pre-internet too, there are still first hand sources available. You can still get back issues of newspapers, but while I know most people here are smart enough to distrust today's newspapers, while some folk take archived newspaper reports without the proper understanding of how the 'propganda model' filter worked then. Is the 'Daily Record' someone whose stories deserve reprinted here ? I for one have noticed that done without implicit irony.

"We can therefore assume a lot, as seems to be the standard here."

I'm not sure if that is a criticism of IM in general or this thread so I won't comment.

"What would be useful is if we want to be Bowen authorities is we actually have corroborated evidence of the facts to reinforce it."

What facts ? His crime he'd served his time for ? I met once John and I never even thought to ask him about his crime, I still don't know why anyone could justifiably bring that up on a genuinely progressive forum.
Or do you mean the facts about his case since being sent from open-prison to high-security lock-down simply for having been visited by anarchists ? I could fill you in on that better, quoting corresspondence with the politicians, the prison service employees, former prisoners and probably anyone other first-hand witness you'd want. You could too for him or any other number of prisoners or unrelated stories. I'll include a scanned letter that proves that John was making great headway into his case. even after everyone started dissing him and he was left to do it himself.

"Otherwise simply repeating, with a certain degree of satisfaction, bits of media gossip can seem to some a little bit ghoulish."

To me it seems worse than ghoulish - it seems Murdochs extending his empire of the Sun further from MySpace into our space. If there are any media analysts reading this, you may want to compare the newspaper columnage and vernacular for John Bowden being missing from Castle Huntly compared to the many other prisoners who went missing from open prison over the last year. It shows his special treatment. He is getting special treatment becuse they still haven't broken his spirit. You remember in 1984, who they didn't release after Smith broke in room 101 under torture ? They told him they had to make him love the Party before they killed him ? I get the impression John is hardier than Winston, but our prisons are one of the cutting edges of our state.

Brighton ABC seemingly have put his going missing as due to anxietiy of being set-up on a false drug charge. That may be so, undertsnable on it's own, I haven't asked him yet. I can tell you that last year he recieved a lot of support that was suddenly cut out from under him, and that story disgraces more than just me yet. I can tell you his lawyer hadn't visited him last time I phoned and got a reply. He is in a solitary cell, with no idea about his future, with no legal representation. Last time I heard back from his 'appointed lawyer' he still hadn't heard where John was. And yet all posting on IndyMedia brings Brighton ABC is more abuse directed to John.

For shame on the IM editors here. I know ABC wouldn't say that but I can, I'm just a punter. For shame or the lack of it.

I have first hand evidence John was given special treatment inside prison - especially harsh that is. I have first hand evidence John was given a hard time by some "anarchists" on a couple of sites. I have proof anarchists who supported him were targetted too. Little of the schism that has been exposed is anything to do with John, but it isn't evidence I would trust to here as of now.

Brighton ABC, I think you should stop posting here for a while about John. I think it is counterproductive - although very informative - in this poisoned environment. Please give me a week or two to try to sort out this mess behind the scenes or tell me to f off more directly.



26.07.2008 21:17

Sorry Danny, perhaps i should have said a curious case instead of weird.

The very fact we haven't got ready access to any concrete and corroborated evidence allows people like peanucle, and other assorted low-lifes, to dress their fantasies in the most sordid way possible. It gives them a sense of warmth and satisfaction. The more the facts remain elusive the more the myth allows them a special place in their own fetid imaginations.

Bowen is, to the middle class anarchist, a modern day bogeyman, a figure of ridicule and fascination. He has to be.

And i do think the responses to Bowen's case (both here and elsewhere) are very much of class significance. That is, the intellectual middle class is horrified and delighted by Bowen, he is (if we are not to get too poncy about it) a working class monster that can be tamed by repeating, in slavish detail, the things he was supposed to have done (each time of re-telling adding their own personal affectations and sinister little asides). The diminishing of Bowen and his ultimate dismissal allows them to create an emotional distance between the civility of their class and the ugliness of ours.

What then is a horror story of failed humanity (and indeed a story of resilience and dignity in rebuilding a human life) is turned into a grotesque caricature.

This is the only mechanism the middle-class has of dealing with such things.

Sub Stance

small things..

26.07.2008 22:33

It is "Bowden", not "Bowen". Get it right for fucks sake.


Different class

27.07.2008 01:13

It's also 'internet' not 'ineternet' but I think 'Sub Stance's point about different responses from different classes to Johns case is worth discussing, maybe not in public though. I never used to be aware of class differences between activists before, at least I didn't think they were that important anymore. I was wrong, the cut between Johns supporters and Johns detractors matches old class divisions exactly in my experience. It is the 'anarchists' whose daddies used to buy them ponies before they joined the SWP then relabelled themselves as anarchist who have behaved as police informers and unpaid adjuctants of the state in this case. I'd love to provide names and addresses of people I personally hold responsible but I won't as it would be hidden too. In short though, some of us on this forum always face prison, while others here are trying to get us imprisoned, and that is a class difference.


@Sub Stance - fully agree

27.07.2008 01:52

On second reading I still fully agree with your post, but it was a revelation to me to discover it first hand by 'putting my hand in and getting burned'. The working classes produce their own share of intellectuals, and if you genuinely got your opinion without any involvement then I think John would appreciate a letter from you. If you want to do it anonymously, give a false name and give your nearest social centre as a return address. Don't let ABC getting annoyed at your mispelling of his name make you ignore him, they are his best supporters and they've been getting unwarranted grief. You should read their websites about this prisoner. If you want to talk to me about Johns case then email and I'll explain my take on this - which isn''t much different from your starting point.

Danny Prior

one last thing danny

27.07.2008 12:44

The stereotype of daddy-buying-pony anarchist has moved on a little. The ugliest and most voracious bowden detractor actually worked for his daddies consultancy company (on £35,000 a year first job straight out of university). His daddy was head of corporate affairs at the labour party during the blair years. His company is in the process of helping privatise the nhs as well as being involved countless gentification projects.

I'm not connnected to any abc, although do have political background and there is a lot of crossed paths and mutual comrades, but will be in touch.

ps aye the bowden misspelling was sloppy, apologies.

Sub Stance

Publicising John's sitiuation

27.07.2008 14:25

RE: Danny and "Brighton ABC, I think you should stop posting here for a while about John." We have been in touch with John on a number of occasions since he was returned to Glenlochil and asked him expressly if he objected to our releasing an update on his situation. He replied "...yes of course please do write something about my present situation....Anyway, I trust you to write as good an analysis as any of my current predicament so please go ahead".

Brighton ABC
mail e-mail:
- Homepage:


27.07.2008 14:55

Decrying someone as middle class is the anarchist equivalent of Godwin's Law, surely.



28.07.2008 11:08

Brighton ABC,

I wouldn't have heard of John if it wasn't your reports, and you are almost as eleoquent as the man himself. I just know how crushed he was by the mindless criticism on another site, I've already seen that repeated on another IM collective site, and I think Sub Stances take on Peanucle is correct. Still, if John wants you to post here then good on you.


I am don't dislike malicious police-informers because they are middle-class, I'd dislike a malicious working-class grass too. I'd dislike anyone who pretends to be anarchist or progressive openly doing the work of the police.

Danny Prior

@sub stance

28.07.2008 23:32

"The very fact we haven't got ready access to any concrete and corroborated evidence allows people like peanucle, and other assorted low-lifes, to dress their fantasies in the most sordid way possible. It gives them a sense of warmth and satisfaction. The more the facts remain elusive the more the myth allows them a special place in their own fetid imaginations."

Has anyone, including Bowden, ever denied that he pushed someone into a bath of scalding water then dismembered him while still alive?

"What then is a horror story of failed humanity (and indeed a story of resilience and dignity in rebuilding a human life) is turned into a grotesque caricature.

This is the only mechanism the middle-class has of dealing with such things."

Yeah, the working classes love a good murderer. For fuck's sake.

there's nothing wrong with being honest about Bowden's crime

IM Scotland meeting

30.07.2008 05:21

So I went by to the last IM Scotland meeting to complain about their admin acting as a police informer - with proof. And no one was there. Hardly an open collective or an open meeting then. It is not a problem, if I can't take this up with the relative collective I do have other media that'll be interested.


Upcoming Coverage
View and post events
Upcoming Events UK
24th October, London: 2015 London Anarchist Bookfair
2nd - 8th November: Wrexham, Wales, UK & Everywhere: Week of Action Against the North Wales Prison & the Prison Industrial Complex. Cymraeg: Wythnos o Weithredu yn Erbyn Carchar Gogledd Cymru

Ongoing UK
Every Tuesday 6pm-8pm, Yorkshire: Demo/vigil at NSA/NRO Menwith Hill US Spy Base More info: CAAB.

Every Tuesday, UK & worldwide: Counter Terror Tuesdays. Call the US Embassy nearest to you to protest Obama's Terror Tuesdays. More info here

Every day, London: Vigil for Julian Assange outside Ecuadorian Embassy

Parliament Sq Protest: see topic page
Ongoing Global
Rossport, Ireland: see topic page
Israel-Palestine: Israel Indymedia | Palestine Indymedia
Oaxaca: Chiapas Indymedia
All Regions
South Coast
Other Local IMCs
Bristol/South West
Social Media
You can follow @ukindymedia on and Twitter. We are working on a Twitter policy. We do not use Facebook, and advise you not to either.
Support Us
We need help paying the bills for hosting this site, please consider supporting us financially.
Other Media Projects
Dissident Island Radio
Corporate Watch
Media Lens
Earth First! Action Update
Earth First! Action Reports
All Topics
Animal Liberation
Climate Chaos
Energy Crisis
Free Spaces
Ocean Defence
Other Press
Public sector cuts
Social Struggles
Terror War
Workers' Movements
Major Reports
NATO 2014
G8 2013
2011 Census Resistance
Occupy Everywhere
August Riots
Dale Farm
J30 Strike
Flotilla to Gaza
Mayday 2010
Tar Sands
G20 London Summit
University Occupations for Gaza
Indymedia Server Seizure
COP15 Climate Summit 2009
Carmel Agrexco
G8 Japan 2008
Stop Sequani
Stop RWB
Climate Camp 2008
Oaxaca Uprising
Rossport Solidarity
Smash EDO
Past Major Reports
Encrypted Page
You are viewing this page using an encrypted connection. If you bookmark this page or send its address in an email you might want to use the un-encrypted address of this page.
If you recieved a warning about an untrusted root certificate please install the CAcert root certificate, for more information see the security page.

Global IMC Network

satellite tv


estrecho / madiaq
la plana
northern england
nottingham imc
united kingdom

Latin America
chile sur
cmi brasil
cmi sucre
puerto rico


South Asia

United States
hudson mohawk
kansas city
minneapolis/st. paul
new hampshire
new jersey
new mexico
new orleans
north carolina
north texas
rogue valley
saint louis
san diego
san francisco
san francisco bay area
santa barbara
santa cruz, ca
tampa bay
united states
western mass

West Asia


fbi/legal updates
mailing lists
process & imc docs