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Monday, 7 October, 2002, 11:04 GMT 12:04 UK
Archer says he considered suicide
Jeffery Archer
Archer was strip-searched for drugs
Disgraced millionaire peer Jeffrey Archer thought about killing himself during his first days in prison, according to his controversial new diaries.

The first instalment of the journal, being serialised in the Daily Mail newspaper, also tells of how the former Tory vice-chairman rubbed shoulders with murderers as he was jailed for perjury.


The grill in the door opens and two eyes peer in at me - suicide watch.

Jeffrey Archer
The diaries have provoked new criticism of Archer, with claims he has broken Prison Service rules by identifying some of his fellow prisoners.

But Archer is said to think any punishment would be a "price worth paying" and his wife Mary says he believes his writings on drugs, paedophiles and prisoners on life sentences need debating.

'Agonising cries'

The first extracts of the diaries tells how he was strip-searched after being jailed for four years for perjury and perverting the course of justice.

On his first night in the top security Belmarsh prison in south London, he fell asleep in the medical wing despite the "agonising cries of the patients from cells on either side of me", he says.

Ronnie Biggs
Ronnie Biggs was in Belmarsh with Archer
"An hour later, I'm woken when the light is switched back on, the grill in the door opens and two eyes peer in at me.

"This is repeated every hour, on the hour - suicide watch."

A few days later, as he was given a razor to shave ready for his mother's funeral, he did contemplate suicide, he says.

"I consider cutting my throat, but the thought of failure and having to return to that awful hospital wing is enough to put anyone off."

Mixing with murderers

Archer tells how he was approached by a man called Gordon, who has served 11 years of a life sentence for murder, during his first 45-minute experience of the prison exercise yard.

"He points out the Train Robber, Ronnie Biggs. I glance across at the sick old man with a tube coming out of his nose, a man who doesn't look as if he has long to live....

"Another circuit and I ask Gordon about a young West Indian who has his face turned to the wall and hasn't moved an inch.

Martin Narey
Martin Narey is taking legal advice about the diaries
"'He killed his wife and young daughter - he doesn't talk to no one,' says Gordon.

"As we overtake another man, who looks totally lost, Gordon whispers: 'That's Barry George, who's just been done for killing Jill Dando.'

"I don't tell him that Jill was an old friend - we both hail from Weston-super-Mare. For the first time in my life, I keep my counsel."

Archer, nicknamed "Lord Jeff" by his fellow inmates, also complains about the prison food and explains how inmates bet on ant races, with only the victorious insect allowed to live.

Family worries

Seeing his "ashen-faced" wife at his mother's funeral, Archer realises the effect his life behind bars is having on his family.

"I begin to accept that this terrible ordeal may be even more taxing for my family who are trying so hard to carry on their daily lives while not letting the world know how they really feel," he says.

The Daily Mail is not paying any money to Archer or his family but has agreed to donate money, via his publisher Macmillan, to charities working on drug rehabilitation and victim support.

That has not stopped calls for the Press Complaints Commission to investigate the serialisation, which critics say will boost Archer's return when the book itself goes on sale.

Martin Narey, the director-general of the Prison Service, is taking legal advice over the diaries.

Archer could lose some of the remission on his sentence if he is found to have broken prison rules.

The peer was moved from an open prison to the higher security Lincoln jail last month after attending a party hosted by Tory MP Gillian Shepherd.


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02 Oct 02 | UK
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