11 March 2007
MY JAIL HELL BY RAMSAY'S JUNKIE BROTHER...
JAILED junkie Ronnie Ramsay stands dejected and alone in a rat-infested prison cell as he pleads with his long-suffering brother Gordon: "Please get me out of here."
Heroin addict Ronnie, 38, faces 10 years in a grim Balinese jail after being found slumped in a public toilet on the island, clutching a syringe and a £10 wrap of the killer drug.
Jobless Ronnie broke down as he told how he begged his Michelin-starred chef brother to buy his freedom for £6,000, but was told: "Sorry, but this time you're on your own."
Gordon has already bailed him out countless times and spent more than £300,000 trying to get his younger brother off drugs.
In an emotional 30-minute phone call to Gordon on Tuesday, Ronnie - arrested in a car park near Bali's Denpasar Airport three weeks ago - asked his brother to hire him a lawyer.
He sobbed: "I told him, 'Gordon, please help me. I have no one else to turn to. It has been made painfully clear to me - with a lawyer I could be out in a few months, but without one I will be left to rot in this hell-hole for the full 10 years. I could die in here. I know I've been a fool but surely you can't want that?'
"He told me that he loved me but said he couldn't give me the money."
Gordon has tried for many years to get his brother off drugs, including funding a £15,000 six-week rehabilitation course in Wiltshire three years ago. He has bought him a car, put down a year's rent on a beachside flat in Bali and paid for him to fix his teeth - ruined by 25 years of drug abuse.
Despite all this help, Ronnie has been unable to kick his drug habit.
Now he cuts a tragic figure in his prison cell. The startling blue stare is uncannily familiar. So too is the cut of the jaw, the dusty blond hair and the faint air of menace. But for the tracks of collapsed veins on his withered forearms, the tell-tale pinprick pupils and the prison bars he clings to, this man could be Gordon Ramsay.
Like a true addict, Ronnie is quick to blame his current predicament on anyone but himself. He says: "Gordon's kitchen alone cost £500,000 and he drives a Ferrari. For less than a new set of wheels he could get me out of jail. I feel I've been hung out to dry.
"I love my brother and my mother and sisters. But their love for me is conditional.
They only love me if I'm clean. Love shouldn't be like that."
Life should have been so different for Ronnie. He had always been the golden one, adored by his father, spoiled by his mother.
As a young man he was a talented mechanic earning more than struggling cook Gordon.
Both are obsessives. But they took wildly differing paths. Today, one is a multimillionaire with a worldwide business empire.
The other is a penniless junkie looking at years behind bars and an early death. Gordon, 40, has built up his £60million fortune as one of the world's most successful chefs, while Ronnie squandered his young promise on a life of drugs and degradation.
But he is quick to blame his addiction on the brutal father who used to beat his wife and sons in drunken rages.
"I first saw my father beating my mother when I was only five years old," he says. "That is devastating for a child to see and, yes, it probably scarred my life.
"I was scared of him. He took a belt to me too many times. He beat us all. I think that's why I found it so easy to turn to drugs.
THAT was always my way out. Gordon and I were very similar when we were younger. We just chose different directions.
"He was able to escape the torment of our past by working 18 hours a day. I chose the other way. Drugs. I've been addicted to heroin and crack cocaine for 18 years. I shot up for the first time when I was working as a docker in Holland - but I started sniffing solvents when I was just 13."
When the brothers last met, at Gordon's house in London five months ago, the married father-of-four handed Ronnie a ticket to Bali and £1,200 so he could re-train as an English teacher. But the money is long gone - on drugs. Ronnie never took the course.
At the time Gordon said: "If there is a situation with Ronnie where he needs money I do it because it doesn't get on my mum's doorstep. I don't think my mum, at 60, should still be putting up with it. It is like having an 18-year-old to look after."
Since Ronnie's arrest, Gordon has sent a drug counsellor to Bali to get a full picture of the situation. "I think it's a combination of tough love and because Gordon is fed up with me. He sent someone but he just wanted reassurance that it wasn't a story I'd concocted to extract more money from my family. This is no trick. I'm locked up alongside murderers, rapists and paedophiles. And I'm terrified for my life."
He's a pathetic figure in his cell at Poltabes police station in Denpasar, the Balinese capital, in his grubby blue vest, swimming trunks and flip-flops. His fingers are darkly stained from the cigarettes he chain-smokes.
His pupils are still like pinpricks because he's still taking a £5-a-day heroin substitute in jail.
"Without that I'd be going cold turkey," he says. "And the pain is impossible to describe.
You can't move. You're sweating, you're cold, then you're hot, your legs ache and you have stomach cramps. You can't eat, you can't sleep, you can't get comfortable.
"This time I really believe I can kick the drugs for good but I know I've had more chances than I deserve."
He shares a 10ft square concrete dug-out with another prisoner - also a heroin addict.
They are woken each day at 6.30am and led into an open-air exercise area until 11pm when they are returned to their cell and locked up.
The 50 inmates here are given just two bowls of rice a day - at 11am and 5pm. There is a single stained mattress on the floor, a bucket and a trough of water for drinking, bathing and flushing the dirt-encrusted hole-in-the-ground in the corner.
Next week Ronnie will be transferred to the island's even tougher Kerobokan jail where he will be sentenced at a special meeting with a judge and the prosecutor. This grim concrete complex is topped by razor wire and broken glass, and patrolled by guards armed with machine guns and pistols.
Ronnie claims he was clean for 18 months after his brother paid for him to go into rehab in August 2004 but that a motorbike crash in Thailand a year later set him back. "They gave me morphine in hospital and that got me hooked again," he says.
In his autobiography, Humble Pie, Gordon told how, when his alcoholic father died, the only way he could coax Ronnie to the funeral was to buy him a fix of heroin.
Ronnie bites his lip. "I have a lot of emotions - guilt and shame. It's been tough for my mother. And of course that upsets me.
But as an addict you only think of one thing - your next hit.
"There are divisions in my family but I desperately want to try to re-establish a normal, loving relationship with them all.
And I would love my mother to see me with a family of my own one day."
THERE is just a glimmer of hope for Ronnie. Sitting quietly by his side in the interrogation room where we meet later is his Indonesian girlfriend - a pretty 24-year-old called Indy.
Ronnie adds: "Indy has been a rock. We have only been together for four months but we are going to get married when I get out."
But, sitting there, sweating and shaking, it is hard to imagine Ronnie as a transformed character, free at last of drugs. The fact that he doesn't know Indy's surname doesn't bode well, either.
This is, after all, an addict who was introduced to his dealer by a friend he met at a Narcotics Anonymous meeting above a bar in Seminyak in Bali.
Ronnie was arrested on February 12 in the car park outside the Ayu Nadi supermarket in run-down Tuban. The squat toilet there - in which he admits he routinely injected himself - is just four miles from the £50-a-month room he had in Kerobokan, near the prison.
The walls of the toilet are smeared with faeces and crude graffiti. A blood-stained bandage lies discarded on the floor.
Only a truly desperate man would consider even stepping inside, let alone rolling up a trouser-leg to inject his feet with street-bought smack.
Ronnie was found with a Marlboro packet containing a small roll of heroin, and arrested by three police officers.
Local solicitor Erwin Siregar explains: "Ronnie will be transferred from his police cell to the main prison next week to await a hearing with the judge. He will decide whether to charge him with possession or, simply, with addiction - a sentence of either up to 10 years or six months."
Yesterday a friend of the star chef said: "Gordon is at his wit's end over Ronnie. He's spent around £300,000 helping him, buying flats, cars, setting him up in businesses, enrolling him on courses but nothing has worked.
"It pains him to see his elderly mother so devastated over this. He sent a drug counsellor who knows Ronnie over to give him a report on what's happening but is coming to the conclusion it's time for some tough love."
Back at Poltabes police station, the guard raps once on the window. It is time for Ronnie to return to his cell. He hugs his girlfriend, cadges one last cigarette and shuffles off.
He turns at the door: "Tell Gordon I'm sorry."