This week is the final part of our serialization of The Sayers – Tried & Tested at the Highest level and what a story this has been to cover for the DAILY SPORT.
Bentleys nightclub in Newcastle was always a decent night out. We all used to go there a fair bit and in the late 80s it was one of the places to be. I was there one night with about half a dozen westenders as well as an unnamed bloke from Gateshead and, as usual, the place was bouncing and there was a good atmosphere. Well, that was until Billy Robinson from Gateshead came in with his entourage in tow. Big Billy was, well… pretty big as it happens: about six-foot-three and 20 stone of muscle. He was a former heavyweight fighter who was very agile and nobody’s fool; definitely not someone to just ignore. Not that you could ignore the fucker even if you tried.
In those days, Billy was not shy to lift his hands to anyone he came across. He had a fierce fighting reputation throughout the region and was looked upon by many as the best fighting man around. To give you more insight to this big lump; as another string to his bow, Billy was also Viv Graham’s mentor. There was an infamous straightener between Billy and Ernie Bewick, the big fucker in Sunderland who used to run the doors. As Viv knew both of them, he was present at the fight and it’s been said that he lamped Ernie when he wasn’t looking so that he could save Billy from a pasting. In this business, every big tough man is always out to prove himself. Reputations are made in the time it takes to swing a punch and with Billy essentially being anti-West End, saw me and the people I was with and immediately made a beeline for the bloke from Gateshead. He shouted disrespectful things to him about Gateshead people socialising with westenders. What a racist! He went a bit further though and attacked the Gateshead bloke, but it was broken up quite quickly. As you can imagine, our friend from Gateshead was not at all happy about the attack. Unknown to Billy, our friend also had a 12” blade on him that he could easily have used at any time – during the attack or after – but I’d already anticipated that and took it off him. Thanks to me, Billy got to leave the club without the blade in him. Although he wasn’t from the West End, that friend was in our company and we felt obliged to look after him. He was with us and that’s how it goes. Fights on nights out were pretty normal. I suppose more so because of our kind of work and the circles by which we move; so something like that wasn’t really a showstopper for any of us – it was shrugged off and back to business as usual; more drinks, more laughs and more fun.
We carried on with our night and ended up at a party in Gateshead in a small downstairs flat owned by a lass called Carol. All back to my place parties were always heaving; they were just an excuse to carry on drinking when pubs or clubs kicked you out. And this being in a tiny flat, even a few people would have made it seem packed. I was with my friends Fish Tams, Davey Hindmarsh and a few others and around an hour or so later, Billy arrived with his entourage and he was full of himself: ladies and gentlemen, the ego has landed. He didn’t like the fact that us westenders were at a party in Gateshead… his Gateshead. It was plain to see that something would kick off sooner rather than later. The second he walked in, he brought a dark mood and atmosphere over the place.
Billy was in no mood to reason. I knew of his ability for knocking people out, so my hackles were up as soon as I saw him. He approached me and asked what I was doing there in an aggressive tone… it was like he thought we were rubbing his nose in it. There was no doubt in my mind that this man thought that if we clashed he’d come out on top. He tried to frighten me with his size and overpower me with his voice. He was right in me personal space and I was starting to get a bit twitchy. Inside though; I was agitated that he thought he could get away with talking to me like that. I didn’t like this one bit. His big face was right in mine and I wasn’t intimidated and didn’t give a fuck who he thought he was. In an equally aggressive tone, I told him that I was looking for somebody. This got his back up and he asked me who I was looking for. I told him a man called Jimmy Fear. Billy told me he was getting paid for looking after Jimmy and if anyone had a problem with Jimmy then they’d have to go through him first.
‘What you got to say about that?’ he asked. He was so close that his face was almost touching mine as he spoke. I wouldn’t have minded if he was a smart bewer, but he wasn’t and I was starting to lose what little patience I had.
He could see by my expression that I was very unhappy with his attitude. At that moment, and unknown to him, I had a firm grip on the razor sharp foot-long blade hidden down the back of my coat. I could have ended the party right there and then.
I knew that whatever I replied with, he was going to attack me, so my response was to look him in the eye.
‘My advice to you is don’t stand too close to Jimmy, because when we do him we’ll do you next!’
He immediately waved his bear-like hand towards me and started removing a ring from his finger while telling me to come into the kitchen. I followed him, but it was full of people off their nuts on pills.
‘Get outside,’ he said.
I obliged; I walked out behind him and closed the door to keep ‘our business’ between the two of us.
‘I know someone is there,’ he said.
‘Eh?’ Who was he talking to now?
I didn’t know what he was on about at first, but as I
turned to him from closing the door, he was looking the other way. I was expecting him to be stood ready for a fight. Then I saw a man with a balaclava on and a sawn-off shot gun walk out from a shadow. ‘Fucking brilliant,’ I thought. ‘It just gets better… a fight as well as having to dodge bullets.’
In these situations, people tend to say that time goes into slow motion, like in a film. It’s only because they keep replaying it back in their head and see it like a film, reliving it as many times as they want. We all know time doesn’t slow down. It wasn’t The Matrix and Billy wasn’t Keanu Reeves by any stretch. For me it’s the opposite; it happens so quickly you don’t really know how to react. You’re certainly not prepared for it, you just rely on your instinct to kick in and you do your thing and get the fuck out of Dodge in one piece. I suppose there are those of us who are a bit more used to guns and violence, and we have a slightly different instinct by which to rely. But Billy’s instinct was definitely a bit different… he grabbed hold of me by the shoulders and pushed me towards the gunman, using me as a human shield! See my earlier thought: Fucking brilliant! Again, hardly time to react to it, but I was in the grip of this huge bearlike geezer who was trying to avoid getting shot. He was a strong geezer, that’s for sure. It was split-second thinking on his part.
The gunman must have been there for a reason though, and his timing was perfect; ‘Stephen! Move… move!’ he shouted.
I was trying to! The last thing I expected was a shotgun- wielding bloke with a knack for stating the obvious. I struggled for a good few seconds before I manage to push Billy away from me and back towards the door. He regained his composure and managed to scramble his way back into the flat. The gunman discharged his first shot and missed him, but it went off very close to my left side. My hands were raised up high, which had probably stopped me getting hit. If they were by my side, it would have took half of my arm clean off. The blast and the flash of the light was dazzling in the pitch black yard and, for some unknown reason, Billy came back out and shouted, ‘You’ll never walk in this town again, son,’ to the gunman. No doubt the gunman was thinking the same thing and shot Billy in the leg just above the kneecap. The gunman then fled the scene. Talk about a surreal moment! There’s a saying about being stuck between a rock and a hard place… here I was stuck between a fighting man and a bad man – and the bad man had a gun. I could think of better places to be stuck, that’s for sure.
Meanwhile, Billy was in no state to make any fast moves. He was on the floor with a very big hole in his leg and was losing a lot of blood, so we would need to act quickly if we wanted to keep him alive. The colour was draining from his face, but he managed to hobble back over to the door. Two of his friends came outside and started charging toward me, thinking I was the shooter. I knocked one of them out and, by then, my friend Davey Hindmarsh was on the scene and he floored the other one. The rest of the party-goers were still dancing in the kitchen, oblivious to what had just happened a few yards from them.
We couldn’t get hold of a phone to call for an ambulance or a taxi, so I offered to take Billy in my car. Even though he was in excruciating pain, he was concerned because he thought he was about to be taken away and finished off. Fair enough, though. The shooter had obviously known who I was and Billy would have put two and two together. It probably had looked dodgy, but the shooter turning up was as much of a surprise to me as it was to him. I was only offering to drive him to the hospital; it was the very least I could do, even though he’d just tried to use me as a bulletproof vest. In that amount of pain, I assume your mind would be all over the place; he was in a bad state of shock and wasn’t looking good at all. We got him into a car and my good friend Fish Tams took him to the hospital.
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