I was a gangster from the toughest estate in Britain – I slept with a machete under my bed… now the violence haunts me | The Sun

A FORMER gang enforcer who grew up on one the country's most notorious housing estates is now haunted by the violence he inflicted on his victims.

Stu Otten,46, grew up on the Netherton Park estate in Merseyside, which was nicknamed 'Dodge' by locals in the 1980s and 90s.

The estate was one of many blighted by crime when heroin and then cocaine swept across Merseyside during an era of high unemployment and recession.

Stu said he saw his first heroin needle aged just five and grew up surrounded by drug addicts known as "zombies." In the 90s the estate became associated with a notorious drug gang.

After years of bullying and emotional issues, Stu joined a local mixed martial arts club to boost his self-confidence. But tragically this ushered the teenager into world of criminality.

Stu claims to have worked as an enforcer for a drug gang, and described forcing his way into homes to attack debtors in front of crying children.

The Merseyside man said he had a machete under his bed for protection and routinely used hammers and knives when enforcing drug debts.

He said: "By 18 I had been to cities across the UK for these guys. I learned how to use a knife and a baseball bat.

"I could kick a door in cleanly and make a quick getaway. I wasn’t the biggest or the toughest but I had no “off” switch, I’d do
what they needed from me.

"When I’d beat people up, I just saw it as work. I’d say to myself, “I’ll finish this meeting then it’s onto the next meeting.” It’s just what my life was like.

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"You hear a lot about County Lines now, it isn’t new. I was involved in County Lines 25 years ago before it had a name.

"I was recruited to the gang when I was 18 and had no idea what I was doing. I took drugs to people and the violence followed."

Stu, now a reformed character, travelled the UK delivering violence to individuals who owed his gang drug money.

Armed with a knife and a baseball bat, he claims that he had "no off switch" and would do anything his bosses asked of him.

Stu worked as a doorman in Liverpool's clubland during an era when nightclubs were linked to drugs and crime.

After years of violence and crime Stu decided to turn his life around, and signed up for a course at Liverpool John Moores University.

He then moved to Sheffield to start a new life for himself and get away from Liverpool's gang scene.

He said: "I deeply regret the harm I’ve caused. During counselling I’ve had to come face to face with my demons again to acknowledge what I did.

"The stuff we did was horrendous and – for a long time – it would keep me up at night. I’d wake up drenched in sweat thinking of the violence. The worst memories were about the families affected by what I did."

Stu now works at the anti-slavery charity Causeway where he tried to dissuade young people from becoming involved in crime and gangs.

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In a new film for the charity he said the trauma he experienced as a child led him toward crime gangs.

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