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Would-be murderer to get sex change while serving life sentence

IN ONE life sentence for attempted murder, a Croydon criminal has escaped jail, fathered a child, and is now beginning a sex change. Alan Baker, from Thornton Heath, was just 19 when he was given a life sentence, for trying to kill another inmate while serving a seven-year jail sentence for the kidnap and torture of his stepmother's brother. Now, 23 years later, he is fighting to secure parole and start a new life – as Sarah. In a phone interview with the Advertiser, the 43-year-old spoke of his hopes, his fears and his experiences of life on the inside. He said: "I feel very vulnerable. Prison is brutal and it's all about being the hardest and the most macho. If you tell a member of staff you feel threatened, nothing will happen until you are beaten up. "People are not well-educated or liberal in the way they think in prison, and the rules are outdated. For example, you are allowed make-up but you are not allowed to wear it." Baker is currently chronicling his bizarre life story in a book with the help of Pamela Stockwell, from South Croydon, who has stood by him throughout his incarceration.

It follows the publication earlier this year of his guide to life imprisonment. Now housed in a secure unit for vulnerable prisoners Baker rarely accepts visitors because he does not want to walk from his cell to the visiting area. "The culture of prison is still set in the 1980s," he said.

"I know a lot of gay people but they would never say they are because they're too scared."

Baker also criticised the justice system for its lack of rehabilitation for inmates.

"Prisoners kept in for so long become institutionalised and unreleasable," he said.

"I've learnt a lot of things in prison but these are just mostly about how to survive.

"Social skills are not taught. If you're chucked out at 40 with barely anything in your pocket, how are you going to survive?

"The thought of being released terrifies me and I would find it easier to be left here.

"At least we know what to expect here – what will I do, die alone in a bedsit?

"However, 25 years is enough. I have hurt people but I want to do something positive."

The violin player added: "The London Chamber Orchestra have said I can work for them if I am released."

Despite writing his prison guide, forthcoming autobiography and a play, Baker insists he does not want to glorify life inside.

He said: "My brother was murdered and even the person who murdered him – I would not wish prison on them.

"A number of people have committed suicide or are on antidepressants. It's a real thing when you see a grown man slashing his arms."

On his hopes for parole, Baker said the chances were slim.

"They keep you in here for the smallest things – it's like hitting a fly with a baseball bat.

"You do one tiny thing wrong and that could be another ten years on the inside."

In his book, Baker gives a grim insight into the realities of prison life which, he says, is a far cry from the picture painted by the media.

"I have witnessed eight men being slashed with razor blades fixed into toothbrushes as handles, 12 stabbings, three scaldings with boiling hot oil and five with boiling water," Baker writes in his book.

"I have even been scalded myself. I have known four men who hanged themselves with torn-up bed sheets, and two others who have committed suicide by overdosing."

"Prison is a terrible place to be. It is often full of dangerous people, devoid of all humanity, who view each other as potential prey."

Baker also takes pains to apologise to his victims in the first chapter of his book, writing he is "deeply sorry and ashamed for the selfish, thoughtless way in which I behaved.

"With all my heart, I wish I could undo all the damage I have done to those who did not in any way deserve it."

Baker was given a life sentence with a minimum term – or tariff – of nine years.

He has failed to pass the parole panel – since they began in the late 90s – about seven times and has spent time in more than ten prisons across the UK.

In 2007, he escaped from an open prison – Leyhill in South Gloucestershire – and met up with a pen pal who had recently been in touch.

He was on the run for around 100 days before police caught him again and his pen pal later gave birth to their son.

His next opportunity to appear before a panel will be in October this year.

Would-be murderer to get sex change while serving life sentence

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