Special report

A FORMER member of a gang which terrorised a Blackburn estate today turned his back on a life of drugs and crime and warned others: "Don't do it - it could kill you."

Scott McKay was one of the infamous Johnston Street Boys who terrorised the Bank Top area and earned it the title 'Bronx Of Blackburn.'

He was also a friend of Paul Rothwell, 24, who was shot dead in Whitehead Street earlier this year.

Scott, 21, has spent almost six years locked up for a string of petty offences, initially committed for kicks, and then to fund a £70 per day heroin addiction. His life reflects new national figures which link drugs and crime.

And he revealed how learning of the shotgun death of Paul Rothwell prompted him to start writing a book which he hopes will act as a grim warning for others.

He said: "People think they are stronger than drugs, but they never are. I heard about Paul's death while I was in prison. He may have taken drugs but he was still a good person. He had everything, a loving girlfriend, mum and brother. Everyone had tried to help him but at the end of the day he could not help himself.

"If my story can prevent one person from following the path that I have, then it will be worth it."

Scott, released from Lancaster Farms Young Offenders Institution two weeks ago, said he had never heard of drugs or considered committing an offence until he moved to live in the Johnston Street area, aged 12.

But he remembers falling in with a bad crowd, turning to petty crime and truancy and starting drinking cider. He said: "I started drinking all the time because it made me more confident. People liked me. But a headmaster said 'I have seen this story before, you'll end up in prison.' I would like to tell him he was right. Now I wish I had finished my education."

Losing his liberty for the first time, aged 14, placed Scott on a pedestal with his friends, even though seeing his mum for the first time on release made him think "I'm never going back." Unfortunately, his release coincided with the reign of the Johnston Street Boys.

Ironically, he recalls: "We had rules, like the Triads, that none of us would touch heroin. We only did Js (cannabis), drinking and trips (LSD). We smashed up the house of a dealer who gave someone a fatal heroin overdose."

However, things had changed when Scott was released from prison for his involvement with the Bank Top riots of 1994.

He added: "By then everyone had moved on and was taking heroin, although most of them were ashamed of it. I started tooting (smoking) lines of heroin until one day, the man I shared the house with was withdrawing and said there was only enough for me if I injected it.

"It was the summer of '96 when I developed a habit. I would follow my housemate around town because I knew he was an addict and would eventually score.

"Then I started shop-lifting and burglaries, anything to make enough money for drugs. "Each time I went to prison I went through cold turkey. I cannot explain the pain I went through."

Scott now plans to start a new life away from Blackburn, drugs and crime as well as finishing his book, entitled Institution.

He added: "It is about the institution of life, drugs and a number of other things.

"A lot of my friends who took heroin are in prison.

" I have also got friends who tried to help me stay off drugs, they were proper friends.

"I feel I have thrown away my youth and want to stop that happening to anyone else."

Converted for the new archive on 14 July 2000. Some images and formatting may have been lost in the conversion.