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Real-life stories: Perpetrating violence or crime

Slave To Crime

Steve CattellSteve Cattell was a career criminal. Dubbed Britain’s most prolific burglar, he spent 24 years behind bars before making a life-changing decision. He became a Christian. Here he tells his story of hope.

I was born into a life without love. I felt unwanted by my parents and rejected by my brothers. I felt hurt and angry. As I grew up I felt more anger and more hate. Crime became my release. Through crime I discovered a high I couldn’t get anywhere else. I was ten years old when I was first locked in a cell. It marked the start of a total of twenty four years in prison.

Surviving inside meant becoming immune to everyone and everything. I would fight at every opportunity: other inmates, prison officers, the system that kept me from my beloved crime. At night in the isolation unit I would scream and pray to the devil to give me enough anger to see me through until the next night. I didn’t care about anyone.

Unbreakable (book)

I became an armed robber, a drug dealer, and Britain’s most prolific burglar: breaking into eight thousand homes a year. I’d marry and get my wife pregnant just to reduce my sentence. I’d rob my children of their father, my wife of her husband, and I didn’t care.

I had once done some jobs with a heroin addict and he started talking to me about God. He’d managed to come off drugs and he’d gone straight. He said it was down to Jesus Christ. I thought he was mad, and I told him so, but he wouldn’t leave me alone. He was constantly ringing me and praying for me and talking about a new way of life, a life of truth and hope. He said that the truth would set me free.

I saw freedom in terms of either being in a cell or not. I didn’t realise that I was just as much a prisoner outside the prison walls as inside. I was a slave to crime. I had sentences hanging over me. He kept on ringing. I was desperate. I started to question whether there was any truth in God. It didn’t make sense. If he was real, where was he when I was growing up? And, if he knew my past how could he love me? How could he forgive me for the things I’d done?

Things began to change. I began to feel love for my wife and family I’d treated so badly. I found myself confessing to the police. I lost the desire to burgle and to hurt. I even started to trust again, in God. I began to understand that in Christ I was a new creation. It’s been a steep learning curve. I’ve discovered that some Christians are suspicious of ex-convicts. I felt God calling me to reach out to people but there were so many barriers. I missed a lot of education being in and out of institutions, and churches and prisons sometimes mistrusted me. But I learned that God is in control.

I now talk in prisons, colleges and churches. I have been interviewed for newspapers, radio and television. I even work with the police! With people this would be impossible, but not with God. My God is a God who opens doors. He is my dad. I trusst him in everything.

Steve Cattell

Steve Cattell, 2009

Story and photos by courtesy of Challenge Newsline

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