The day I met a murderer on the bus



Do you ever hear a song and it transports you to another time and place? I had a moment like this just the other day.

I was out for a walk on my own in the forest nearby, and through my headphones came the song Innocent Man by Rag ‘n’ Bone Man. I hadn’t heard the song before but as I enjoyed his recent hit ‘We’re only human’, I  had added a few of his other songs to my playlist.

This song tells the story of a man in gaol (jail/correctional centre) who says he is innocent. Nothing new there! For those of you who don’t know, I worked in a correctional centre for 22 years as a Senior Correctional Education Officer, managing the provision of Education to male inmates.  I started as a part-time teacher before becoming a full time teacher and then the manager of education services.  The teachers and I were employed  by the state government but late last year we were made redundant, as it was decided they could do it cheaper and better if they outsourced the teachers and downgraded the staff to clerk positions instead of teachers.  My staff and I all left and took redundancies, after fighting the plans for 6 months, with our final finishing date of 23 December 2016. It was a sad time.

Education beats crime

The day I met a murderer on the bus 

Anyway, moving on…..many years ago while I was travelling in the U.K. I caught a bus from London to Bristol.  My husband was playing in a Touch Football tour and had to stay in London, while I was able to escape for few days to see our daughter, who lives in Cheddar, Somerset.  The bus wasn’t terribly full but one of the later arrivals decided to sit in the spare seat next to me.  I am quite a friendly person and nodded hello as he took his seat. There was nothing visibly remarkable about him but I was soon to learn…a lot!

He noticed my Australian accent and asked me about myself. I gave him a few general replies until he asked me what I did for a job.  I told him I worked in a gaol as a teacher and to this day I’m still not sure why I did.  He was immediately taken by this and asked some more questions throughout the trip.

Towards the end of the journey he opened up that he had recently been released from gaol and had a high regard for education and the place it has in life.  He had appreciated education courses and while in gaol he had started writing poetry and songs.   I told him about the annual booklet our literacy teacher produced with inmate’s stories, poetry, artwork and thoughts and he started rummaging in his backpack. He presented me with a sheaf of papers which were copies of his poetry and rap songs.  He wanted me to share these with our inmates and use  them in our next ‘Authors and Artists’ booklet, as a sort of guest writer, an ex-inmate from the other side of the globe who understood their world.

As we left the bus he looked around surreptitiously and whispered to me that he had been inside for murder.  He didn’t say he was an innocent man.  He was determined to stay out of gaol and felt there had been some ‘divine intervention’ in choosing to sit next to me, ‘the pretty Australian girl’, on the bus that day.

A few things happened after this:

  1. My daughter was horrified that a) I had spoken to a strange man and b) one who turned out to be a murderer!
  2. My husband decided he should have come with me after all and told me to be more careful next time!
  3. I took his work back and shared it with my teachers and we published it in our annual booklet.

It goes to show that you never know who you are sitting next to on the bus, train, tram or plane and you can never judge a book by its cover! You don’t know their background or their stories.

I had only told him my first name and he had introduced himself using his nickname so I have no way of verifying his statements but from his writings I could tell he was telling the truth.  I believe my experiences as a teacher in ‘that world’ helped me deal with this meeting. I wasn’t scared at any stage but I did feel a bit weird telling my daughter about it when she collected me, but maybe that was more so because of her reaction.

So hearing the song, Innocent Man, by Rag ‘n’ Bone Man took me back to this memory.  It was an interesting career, and one I hadn’t really planned on, but it was something I just fell into. I must say I leant an awful lot! Although I finished unwillingly, I was proud of myself for never losing my compassion or my sense of humour and staying true to my principles.

What would you have done in this situation? Do songs hold memories for you too?

Thanks for stopping by!

Deb

Categories: blogging, education, life, politics, redundancy, Retirement, Travel, writingTags: , , , , , ,

52 comments

  1. Great story Deb. I generally get older ladies sitting next to me for a chat – but who’s to say one of them hadn’t spent time in gaol! No self-confessed murderers though. You sure do have interesting adventures!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the comment Sharon, always good to hear other people’s stories from the public transport. Have I told you that story before? Yes I love having adventures as you know!! 😊enjoy Rove.

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  2. In the job that I did before having kids, I worked with prisoners. I mostly represented them at disciplinary hearings and at parole board hearings, so the majority of my clients were life sentence prisoners, many murderers. It is a bit odd the first time you really come to realise that people who have been convicted of murder really do get released and live lives in the community. Also the first time I realised that, when they have progressed to lower security, they do get taken for trips into the local community to reintegrate them.

    When you know more about the system and the figures though, you realise that, statistically, it would have been more likely that any other person on that bus would have committed murder than that that man would ever commit murder again. The rehabilitation rate on murderers is very high, and recidivism very low.

    Such a shame that your job was removed from the system. I think what people like you do in the prison system is amazing. I saw so many clients who had really turned their lives around in prison, mostly from the work they did with the education department. Especially the young males, who had led chaotic lives and had little education – many of them did so, so well given the opportunity to get some education.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your supportive comment! It is exactly as you say, the system seems very odd to those who don’t know how it all works and are only fed the dramatic information, not the real stuff that goes on without incident. We had a great workplace and made a kit of headway with young males who had been left behind in the education stakes, they can only learn when they are ready to commit and really want to. Usually that happens in jail and we are ready to deal with it. I appreciate you sharing your experiences too, it all sounds very familiar!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, I found that many of my clients were motivated to really commit themselves to education once they found themselves in prison for long periods. Many of them turned out to have far more ability than they had ever realised.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow. Amazing story Debbie!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Interesting story. Perhaps in some unconscious way we attract the people who need us or whose stories we need to hear. I am a nurse and I feel like people can sniff this out even in a grocery check out line. I have to admit I keep my head down and grunt at times if someone wants to start talking about their medical conditions. Your story is a lesson for me to be more open to ‘working’ outside of work.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Wow. I could see myself in this situation. I typically will talk and listen to anyone. My hubby says I’m too trusting and should be more cautious. That’s not the way I want to live. I choose to trust until I am proven wrong instead of the other way around You lived to tell the story and good came from it.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Fascinating story Debbie and interesting comments to compliment it.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Isn’t it true Deb about never knowing the person next to you. I can relate to your history. I worked 39 years in Social Work, 29 of which in prison and 15 of those as administrator. We all have an effect on others no matter what our titles or occupations and each of us is capable of anything.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Wow…interesting read….after the experience, did you become more conscious about who sits next to you ? Probably forgot after a while yea…

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Wow, what an experience. (For him and for you I imagine.) Did he look as if he’d improved himself during his spell on the inside?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Shirley it was an experience for us both. From memory he had made an effort to change and seemed determined to do so. It’s usually a lack of support that send them back inside, after so long away from mainstream society. It’s a different world!

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  10. What an experience Deb and you are right you never know who you may be sitting next to. To me it was a fascinating experience and even though we condemn murder I believe if someone has done their time we need to help them move forward. I suppose it did sound a bit scary to your daughter and husband hearing about it after the event. You must have felt comfortable though and i so pleased you published his work. I really enjoyed this post thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Sue, I’m glad you enkyed my post. You are right, you never know who you are sitting next to anywhere, or what their story is. I think my work experience helped, so I did feel fairly comfortable in the situation. I’m glad I followed through with publishing his work and telling the inmates about him. Life’s always interesting!

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  11. If the bus that I’m on is not full, I have a (bad) habit of putting my backpack in the middle of the seat beside me. Opportunities lost!
    Great post, Deb!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Lovely story Debbie, and I think Molly has a point. Public body language can be quite powerful. I don’t travel much on public transport these days, but when I do usually find someone who wants to sit by me and share stories. In my student days I hated that and kept my head firmly buried in my book (usually some weighty tome that screamed “wannabe intellectual, leave me alone”. My mother could (and probably should) write a book about all the encounters she’s had on buses. She is completely open and attracts people who want to share with her. My gran was the same, except she sometimes brought her new friends home with her. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Oh my goodness Debbie, be brave but be careful too x

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I’m somebody who will talk to anybody, Deb. I would have happily done the same as you. Of course, it also gives me the chance to pick up new ideas for stories and characters, so maybe that’s why I say what I say.

    Music is very strong at triggering memories. I’m running a weekly music feature on my blog, and the memories that have been shared have been amazing to read. I’ve had so many people thanking me for unlocking those memories, and all because I have asked them to chose and feature a favourite song.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Thanks for linking up with us at #overthemoon link party Debbie. Have a great week! I’ve pinned and shared.

    Like

  16. Hi Deb, I came over after seeing you at Donna’s Blog party.
    What a remarkable story! Although I will usually chat with people, I think I may have been a bit unnerved sitting next to and chatting with a murderer!

    Like

  17. Hi,
    I. I met you at Donna’s Meet and Greet. I came to meet and greet you.
    2. In response to what you wrote– that’s scary. I once was playing poker in a casino with someone who revealed he’d been in prison. That’s what your story reminded me of.
    3. Maybe you can check out my blog if you need any blogging tips. That’s what your story reminded me of.
    Janice

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Wow, what a story! I so admire the work you did and the lives you touched. I teach adult ESL and used to teach adult literacy & GED classes and I know how true it is that education is the key. But I think I might have been a little freaked out if he’d dropped that info on me. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know what you mean and in hindsight it was a bit of a freaky moment! I’m glad you recognise the difficulties in teaching this area but it was very worthwhile as you’re well aware!

      Like

  19. Wow! I was flying from Florida to Texas a couple of weeks back as the man sitting next to my daughters and I confessed he had stabbed a man three times 30 years ago! You have me beat. Way to support his growth!

    Liked by 1 person

  20. I rode the NYC Subway for years. I’m sure I’ve chatted up my share of fellow passengers who did far worse than your murderer… 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  21. As a nurse, many have laid their secrets bare for me to see, especially those who are actively dying. It never fails to surprise me what human beings can be capable of. Everyone has a story and many of those stories are shocking.

    Liked by 1 person

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