Richard had a difficult upbringing. His parents both led a life of crime, and as a young boy he believed that this lifestyle was normal. From the age of 18 months, Richard and his twin brother Colin were farmed out into foster care. At 17 he was caught red-handed and sent to prison for various thefts. He had been ‘stitched up’ by his friend Shane. But through a series of supernatural events, prison was to change this young offender in ways he never expected. Richard takes up the story.
“As the prison van drove up to the great gates of Dorchester prison I felt a sense of doom and despair descend upon me. I was entering another world, a world of locks and bars in which I could die and it wouldn’t matter to anybody at all. At the age of seventeen I was already like an ‘old lag’ having been in custody before. I hated induction, standing naked in front of the prison officers and the indignity of having every part of your anatomy checked for concealed drugs. Paperwork that took forever, the de-lousing bath, rough towels and the prison uniform that never fitted properly!
The next day I was escorted to the Principal Officer’s office. There my case details were reviewed and I was issued my prison number, ‘J52327.’ My name was all I had left. Everything else had been taken from me, and so the final act of dehumanising me had taken place and so now every time I had to report to a prison officer I had to say ‘J52327 Pidgley, Sir!’”
“My cell in the Youth Wing held six inmates. One evening we decided that we would hold a séance in our cell. Assembling pieces of paper in the form of a Ouija board, I organised the séance. Placing the glass in the middle of the board, I instructed all the men to place one finger each upon the glass. We all began to concentrate quietly, focusing upon the spirit world. Suddenly the glass began to spell out the answers. The spirit told us that he had once been a prisoner at Dorchester and that he had committed suicide because he had been very unhappy.”
Things began to get really scary when Richard became bored with the depressive ‘game’ and asked the spirit if he could predict the future. The spirit said it could, and it told them that one of the six, Stuart, would die of cancer before the age of 30. He says, “The guy nearly died there and then!” But the approach of the night warden caused them to stop the game, hide everything in the cupboard, and leap back into bed. But there was worse to come.
As we heard the clock tower in the centre of Dorchester strike midnight, suddenly the cupboard door flew open with a crash and before our eyes, the glass we had hidden floated out from the back of the cupboard, violently smashing on the floor just where Stuart had been standing! If that wasn’t frightening enough, the drawer slid open of its own accord and all the letter pieces of paper we had used for the Ouija board blew out, slowly floating to the floor like large confetti. One of the men almost wet himself with sheer horror and began to recite the Lord’s Prayer. The next day, two of the men asked to be transferred to another cell – they were too frightened to stay with us any longer. I knew that the kingdom of darkness was for real, but things that went bump in the night didn’t scare me!”
Richard initially felt he had the inner strength to do ‘time’ in prison, but now he was getting anxious as remand was a long process. The time alone gave him the opportunity to fester and his hatred for Shane grew. “I was hell bent on getting revenge and this became my ‘obsession’, consuming my thoughts throughout the long periods of lock up.”
The day came when Richard had an opportunity to get Shane. They were placed in the same cell and as soon as the screws were out of earshot, Richard had his hands around Shane’s throat. “As I squeezed the life out of him he frantically smashed his hand into the emergency bell on the cell wall by the door. Almost immediately the door crashed open and prison officers rushed in. If they had not intervened, I would have been in prison today serving ‘life’ for murder!”
The prison officers marched me to the punishment block, or dungeon as we called it. I was flung in with a torrent of threats from the screws as they slammed the door shut on me. Sinking to the floor, I felt absolutely lonely and totally isolated. My life flashed before my eyes; everything came back to me in my mind like a slide show, and I felt that my whole life was a waste of space. I was empty, I was ruined and I had nothing in the world. talk about poor; I didn’t even have a name, just a prison number. I didn’t know how long I was going to be in the dungeon, and I honestly felt that I could no longer cope with life. Nobody loved me or cared about me, and as far as the screws were concerned I was worthless scum.”
Feeling suicidal, he pulled the sheet off the bed, rolled it up into a makeshift rope, tied one end to the bars and the other in a slip-knot around his neck. “I stood on the radiator pipe with the rope around my neck and I tottered forward into a certain and most painful death of suffocation. And then the miracle happened! it seemed as if a strong, powerful and yet invisible hand pushed me back against the cell wall. the hand then lifted the rope from my neck and let me slide gently to the floor. When the cell door was eventually opened and the prison officers saw the rope still attached to the prison bars, they stripped me naked and forced some medicine down my throat. I was then placed into a padded cell, still naked, with a sort of quilted blanket as my only source of covering and warmth.”
At Bournemouth Crown Court he was sentenced to four years for a string of burglaries. He was now serving a long jail sentence at Aylesbury top security prison for youth offenders and the future looked bleak. But when all seemed lost, Richard experienced another supernatural sign. Lounging in his cell at Aylesbury, he noticed a book on the floor. “It turned out to be an old Gideon’s Bible. I had never read the Bible before as I thought it was an old stuffy book for old stuffy people who went to boring churches! But now here I was, bored to tears, with this boring book! And yet when I opened the pages and began to read of how God had sent his Son to us because he loved us so much, and how Jesus’ time on earth was filled with amazing miracles, I found that I couldn’t put the Bible down! As I read, everything became clear. The mess I was in and the emptiness of heart that I felt were consequences of me trying to live my life without God! The Bible taught me that Jesus died on the cross to pay the punishment for my wrongdoing and if I put my trust in Christ I would be forgiven, I would be friends with God, I would have a life filled with love, joy, peace, power to do the right thing and purpose, and finally I would have a future secured in Heaven for all eternity!”
Richard prayed and asked Jesus to save him and forgive him. There was an immediate change in his heart, and time proved it was no ‘flash in the pan’. Pastor and author Jeremy Griffiths writes, “The grace of God is stunning. God’s grace links us with His plans that began before time was created and extend beyond the end of time. God’s grace lifts us from the depths of human despair to the delights of a relationship with the Father. God’s grace liberates us from slavery to the deception and ugliness of sin into the freedom and beauty of his love. And God’s grace makes us rich, seriously rich!”
The young offender is now an ordained Christian Minister. He has travelled to 17 different countries sharing his personal story of how God can soften the hardest hearts and change lives forever. His autobiography ‘Seriously Rich’ is available from Amazon Books and Christian bookshops.
Story by Ralph Burden with extracts from Richard’s autobiography ‘Seriously Rich’.
order Seriously Rich from Amazon books – LINK
Feature photo: Richard the photographer. Photo 2: Seriously Rich book cover.