I was an international drugs trafficker who found God in prison alongside Reggie Kray thanks to a Page Three girl
WITH red laser dots lighting up his car in the darkness, Michael Emmett realised armed cops had him in their sights.
He screamed at his wheelman to drive, but there was no escaping this time – they were busted carrying out what was then the biggest cannabis smuggling operation in UK history.
Michael got out the car and was arrested with a gun pointed at his head, with the officer detaining him saying: "A penny for your thoughts?"
"I said: ‘My three kids,’ and I started to weep," Michael, now 62, told The Sun.
"That was the first thing that came in my head – and the relief it was over.”
Michael's dad Brian, a hardened East End criminal who counted legendary gangsters like the Great Train Robbers, Kray Twins and Freddie Foreman as friends, was also arrested for the same crime.
They were both sentenced to 12-and-a-half years in prison for the five-ton cannabis blag.
But in jail, with the help of a Page Three model, Michael ended up having a miraculous conversion to Christianity.
And his conversion led him to found the Alpha in Prisons course – a series of talks in which inmates are introduced to the Christian faith.
For years, though, Michael looked set to follow in his father's footsteps and join the ranks of some of Britain's most notorious criminals.
“When I got involved with crime, to be honest with you, I loved it," Michael says.
"It was exciting. People say: ‘How can you like criminality?’ I’m not saying I like the action of crime – I liked the feeling, the high it brought.”
As Michael's biography Sins of Fathers is published, he tells us how he turned his staggering life of crime around.
Horrific abuse and the call to crime
Michael thinks his attraction to the dark side of life began even before he was born – it was in his blood.
And his own father, Brian, had entered a life of violent crime, stealing safes and eventually importing drugs, including the first shipments of ecstasy, in the 1980s.
“I believe what my grandfather had, my dad had, and so did I," Michael says of his restless character.
"It repeated the behaviour. It was a high level of aggression. There was a lot of shame attached to it.
"There was a lot of control. We were broken.”
Michael also attributes a lot of his early tearaway behaviour to an early childhood trauma.
At just six years old, he was repeatedly sexually abused by his 16-year-old babysitter.
"It wasn’t every week, but a six-year-old child being abused obviously has an effect," Michael says.
"And that affected my relationship with women.”
He started stealing makeup from Woolworths when he was 11 to hand out to pretty girls on the high street because he wanted them to like him.
And by his late teen years, he was stealing and selling antique furniture.
“There’s lots of things I’ve done that I can’t tell you about because I got away with them," Michael says.
“Then I got involved with a drug gang.”
Stepping into smuggling
Drugs had caused problems for Michael long before he became an international trafficker – in fact, they'd nearly killed him.
On one occasion, he was in a car stashed with cocaine in London when cops started chasing them, with the chase ending in a horrific smash.
"I was being driven in a car by a guy who passed away," Michael says.
"And that was a very hairy police chase around Tooting. I got badly injured and there was some coke in the car that they didn’t find at the time because the steering wheel was squashed – it was in there.”
He was arrested after the chase and sent to Brixton Prison – but his dad managed to pull some strings and got him bailed out.
Michael used a bent passport to get out of the country, which is how he ultimately landed in Marbella, Spain, in 1985, where drug smuggling was taking off.
It was there that his little brother Martin came out for a doomed visit which set the course for the rest of Michael's life.
This was a high level of crime: it was international, it was with high level criminals
"We used coke that night," Michael says. “We had an argument.
"He got in the car, and he went underneath a lorry and it killed him stone dead. His girlfriend was three months pregnant.
“That was one of the turning points.”
By this time, Michael's now ex-wife Tracy had already had the first of their three children – Aimee, followed by Lillie and Beth.
But Martin's death caused Michael's mental health and drug use to spiral out of control.
One night a couple of years after Martin's death, Michael's mum found him snorting cocaine under the quilt in his bedroom.
"It was four o’clock in the morning and she went: ‘What are you doing?’" Michael says.
"I said: ‘I’m not doing nothing,’ but there was a straw sticking out of my nose and I was gone. She said: ‘Son, there’s something wrong’.”
It was only in 1990 that he went back to Spain to get clean and throw himself into his dad's drug trafficking racket.
“I thought: ‘I’m going to take it serious’," Michael says. "And I did. I smuggled."
Banged up behind bars
And that's exactly what he did – until November 7, 1993, when he was caught trying to bring around £13million of cannabis into Britain.
The crime involved a massive network of international criminals which came crashing down on the quayside of Westward Ho! in Devon when armed cops caught Michael and his crew – which Michael was relieved by.
"I was sick of it," Michael says. "No matter how much money it meant, no matter what it brought to me, it was a relief.
"Because this was a high level of crime: it was international, it was with high level criminals.”
And that meant a big sentence – he was carted off to HMP Exeter to begin serving his 12-and-a-half-year sentence along with his dad, with whom he shared a cell.
Inside, Michael's then-girlfriend Daniella was invited to attend Holy Trinity Brompton (HTB) church in Kensington by a friend of hers, the Page Three model Christian convert Samantha Fox.
He'd already had some dealings with Page Three girls, enjoying a nine-month fling with a different glamour model when he was just 21.
"We used to have tremendous sex and drugs, and smoke freebase and all that," Michael says.
"She was one of my triggers to be quite honest with you.”
But after hearing about Samantha's church from Daniella, Michael got interested in faith and, one day, asked the prison chaplain if a team from HTB could visit the prison.
When he agreed, HTB curate Emmy Wilson came to Exeter to give a service, and Michael's life was transformed forever.
"Emmy came down, and a miracle took place," Michael says.
"Something changed. It not only overwhelmed me, but it overwhelmed everyone in that room."
The 20 inmates at the service started to laugh and cry, and even Michael's dad was knocked off his feet, rolling on his back laughing.
Everyone thought I’d gone nuts
Prison officers thought they were drunk or high, but Michael says the overwhelming feeling was completely real.
“What I felt was the presence of love, the presence of peace, the presence of hope," he says.
"It just touched me. I stopped taking drugs straight away.
“Everyone thought I’d gone nuts.”
Praying with Reggie Kray
After his miraculous revelation, HTB and Michael were keen to give other prisoners the same experience – laying the foundations for the course that would become Alpha in Prisons.
The course, which still runs today in 900 prisons around the world, allows inmates to learn about the Christian faith and ask life's big questions.
Michael took the course to Swaleside Prison in Kent where he was moved after Exeter.
And from there he was moved to Maidstone Prison – where Michael befriended notorious gangster Reggie Kray.
He and Reggie even prayed together, asking to God for the grace to forgive when Michael found out Daniella was having an affair on the outside.
Since being released from prison in 1998 after serving four years and six months, Michael and Alpha in Prisons has gone all over the world.
He's spoken to Hong Kong Triads and, even in recent years, he found himself welling up when hearing a Ugandan man who spent decades on death row talking about how much the course helped him.
"I thought: ‘That’s the fruit’," Michael says. "That effort we put in at Alpha in prisons at the beginning, I saw the fruit of this big Ugandan man who’d been on death row.
"It made it all worthwhile.”
He's now the proud 'pappy' of seven grandkids and he's in negotiations to have his incredible life story turned into a TV show.
But despite being 21 years sober and dedicated to helping others with his own experiences, Michael says he still thinks he has work to do.
“Listen, I make mistakes," he says. "I still don’t like traffic wardens – but I’m getting better. Something’s different in me.
"I’m not the finished article, I’m a work in progress."
Michael's biography, Sins of Fathers, is published by Harper Inspire
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