EXCLUSIVE: Michael Healy Interview for Glasgow Crime Research – March 2014
For me meeting big Michael Healy face to face was a daunting prospect; I had heard all the stories and of course read all the news articles and chapters in the numerous books he has been mentioned in. I knew of Michael’s reputation, the respect he had and how he approached prison life. Thirty-one years the man has spent in numerous prisons around the UK.
How does one cope with such a large sentence I asked, “You just get on with it”, he said casually.
Michael is originally from the Shettleston. He was born there then at the age of eight moved to High End Ruchazie, in the east end of Glasgow. He is an old school criminal, a man who uses his head, and planned his armed robberies to military precision. Michael had already been through the prison system as a youngster and he knew the score from an early age.
This is when he started coming across William Lobban. Lobban had broken into the Balmore bar with Ponny Shannon and some others, he had been sent to prison for the pub break in, but he told the staff he was older than he really was. Younger prisoners done this a lot back then, especially if they had friends or co accused who had already made the move up the ladder, legally by coming of age.
Lobban wanted to go the cons, so he would be in a prison where he knew there were inmates that were well-known criminals and people he could use to climb the criminal ladder. These people were all over 21 and already on the road to being very violent hardened criminals.
When the likes of Michael Healy, Paul Ferris, Gerry Rae and George Goofy Docherty were serving time in HMP Shotts it was then Scotland’s showcase security prison. The Scottish government displayed it on TV and in the press as the inescapable prison, the prison where the staff ran the show and not the inmates, as had been happening in other Scottish prisons at the time.
It was the security prison that the people of Scotland saw as being 100% secure, the barrier between the public and some of Scotland’s most dangerous men. Michael Healy, one of Scotland’s cleverest and most dangerous criminals in the country had come into the possession of a large bladed chopping weapon. The meat cleaver was stolen from the prison kitchen and was kept in a safe storage area. It had been previously used to chop up fresh meat that was delivered to the jail and was not on the items that the prison inmates had to check in and out daily.
That is why it was never reported missing , but this was HMP Shotts, where most inmates were in for violence or had violent offences on their records. Also in addition, a lot of the inmates held old grudges with each other, some carried on from the outside..
Michael showed Lobban the meat cleaver he had stolen from the prison kitchen where he worked and asked him to stash it. Lobban obliged.
Michael had grief with some well-known criminals; Gerry Rae had a good team behind him. They all wanted a go at Michael, especially one George Goofy Docherty. Michael had a big problem with Gerald Rae. Rae had been accused of being after young boys. Michael had faced him up over it and Michael knew Gerry could be a very dangerous individual.
Rae had noticed Lobban and his young age, he would have looked like a duck out of water to Gerry, so he started making moves on Lobban. Lobban himself will admit Gerry Rae scared him, called him his peaches, would blow kisses at him, and wink at him, that sort of thing.
To any youngster at the time who knew Gerry this would be enough to scare the shit out of you. I never ever felt Gerry was jail gay or a predator to young boys in prison or on the outside.
I knew he was as violent as they came, but in later years the people who have told me Gerry liked young boys have become more and more and these are well-respected people who have nothing to gain in talking about Gerry and his fondness for young boys.Therefore, I find myself having to accept the claims of those who knew him better than me. After all I was only a young person when I knew Gerry, was this his reason for being so fond of me? “I smile with a look of disgust at the thought”.
Back to the story.
Lobban had already sussed out the prison politics between Healy and others and wanted nothing to do with it as it was way over his head in terms of what could happen. That is why he told Gerry Rae that the trouble between Healy and others was nothing to do with him and gave Rae the meat cleaver that he was asked to stash for Healy and then Lobban attempted to demonstrate his intentions to distance himself from Healy.
Unfortunately for Lobban another prisoner who heard the conversation between Lobban and Rae and told a close associate of Mick Healy’s what was said, this prompted Healy to go to Lobban’s cell which he found was locked. Healy asked the prison officer to open the cell door and was told in no uncertain terms that Lobban’s cell was not to be opened.
Healy then opened the spy hole (which was covered from the inside) and kicked the door to make sure Lobban was still there.Lobban responded and Healy told him to remove the obstruction away from the spyhole so that Healy knew Lobban was there and conducted a whispering conversation through the closed door as to what the fuck was going on. Lobban told Healy that the prison troubles were way over his head and informed the prison officers that he was aged 19 and not 21, so should be moved to a young offender prison thus getting away from the imminent violence.
During the cell door conversation Healy was quick enough to understand that Lobban had just pulled a master stroke to get him removed from Shotts (an adult prison) but also to get him removed from the potential violence that he perceived was about to take place. Lobban was also making Healy vulnerable by handing over such a weapon to the opposition and leaving his so-called “Brother” Healy to face the consequences of any physical retribution by the opposing jail factions Lobban knew it was just about to kick off big time in Shotts..
Healy was also aware the prison staff where showing signs of protecting Lobban, by refusing to open his cell door so he could talk to him, a requirement that would usually have been granted without question, with them both being known to frequent each other’s company. The reality was that Lobban was now on protection, in prison terms this is classed as going “Behind the door.”
To say that Healy took this conversation with Lobban through a locked door lightly is a massive understatement as here we have one of his own (Lobban) handing over a weapon to the opposition (Rae) which left Healy not only outnumbered but also without the main weapon ….The meat cleaver!
Lobban had been placed on a protective status after his conversation in which he admitted his age (19) to the PO (Principle Officer) George Silver in which he also informed the PO of other deadly weapons that are within the prison including lock knives, metal spikes and the main one being the meat cleaver. Lobban was removed from his prison cell during lock up time when other inmates are in their cell and removed from HMP Shotts to a YOI (Young Offender Institution) and because of the nature of the weapons that Lobban had described to the PO the prison governor made the decision to place the prison on lock down.
This meant that all prisoners were to remain within their cells and a specialist search team was brought in to search for the weapons that Lobban had informed the prison authorities about. As a direct result of this information from Lobban the meat cleaver was discovered in the laundry area of the prison wing along with a lock knife and several other items that were deemed to be deadly weapons. Several prisoners were removed from HMP Shotts to other prisons so that any feuds that were about to kick off reduced the fear of prison officers being maimed or getting caught up in the violence that was at boiling point.
Lobban denied that he deliberately told the authorities his real age so he could avoid the disagreement with Rae and Goofy; he said his reasons for telling his age was the fact that Rae had told him he was raping him. There are questions only William Lobban will know the answers to, but you never get a true answer from Lobban, only his version of events, which have been proven are only versions that make him look good and the truth comes second.
Michael was not long into his ten-year sentence, he was working in the kitchens at HMP Shotts, Lobban and others had moved on when he noticed the butchers van came in and out regularly. He joked with someone who will remain un-named, “do you think I could hide in there and get out the prison, the person said yes, and no problem.”
Michael watched the van come and go for another few weeks then decided it was time to take the chance. He climbed into the van when no staff was looking and pulled a load of boxes on top of him. He said, “The van door opened and the head count was done, then he heard the word, Clear”.
However, HMP Shotts had been showcased as Scotland’s most secure prison; they had built a perimeter fence outside the main fence, so the van had to go through another gate before he was free. Michael hadn’t noticed the van was in fact a refrigerated van, it was cold in there so he snuggled into the boxes, the van door opened for a second time and the call of ,“Clear” was again shouted out, the van door was closed, the main gate opened and Michael was off to freedom, so he thought.
Inside the van, Michael had tried ripping the tin from the inside of the refrigerated van but there was insulation in between, so he thought, “Fuck it, I will wait it out till the driver opens the van and sprint out. He said, I found a little hole I could see through, I was watching and getting more excited as we got nearer Glasgow. I could see the familiar scheme’s pass me by.The next thing I noticed Ruchazie, then the turn off, I was thinking, “NO”, but as sure as hell, the van turned into HMP Barlinnie.
I had just escaped from one of the most secure prisons in Scotland to be taken straight into another. My heart sank, I hid behind those boxes, thinking, I have no luck, I am caught, but lady luck or someone was looking down on me that day, the van went in, done its delivery and drove straight back out. The driver’s next stop was in the town centre, when he opened that door I came flying out like frozen maniac, eyes wide aware. The driver nearly took a heart attack, especially when I started chatting to him and making jokes about mates locking me in there all the time. However, I was free.
I was the most wanted man in the country; I was a known dangerous armed robber. They had my photo everywhere. Friends got me set up in a little flat in Rutherglen. But it wasn’t long before his and William Lobban’s paths would cross again.
Michael had been watching Rutherglen rent office, it held a bit of money on a certain day but it was a difficult job, others had thought of trying it but they all dropped the idea, as they knew there was a guard on the door and it would have been near impossible to gain entry to the required area without alerting the guard.
William Lobban talks of this in his book, “The Glasgow curse”, but William tells it as if he was in the Rutherglen rent office, carrying out the robbery. Michael watched it and noticed there was a children’s panel above the rent office. He asked a good friend if he could ask a female he knew if she would go to the door of the rent office and ask the guard where the children’s panel was. Michael thought the guard was more interested in the good looks of the woman than the thought she might be playing him to gain entry to the building. The guard showed her through the door and into the council office. Michael now had his way in.
He met up with Lobban and asked him to be his getaway driver, thinking, he is now more experienced, he should now know the score and put the Shotts incident down to lack of bottle and immaturity. He told Lobban his plan and how he wanted it followed and asked him to be his getaway driver. Lobban agreed, Michael gave him clear instructions to wait outside until he came out, Lobban was told that when Michael came out and got into the car he was to drive away slowly and turn right into traffic and the getaway would be easy. They would mingle with other cars and no one would know any difference.
Michael went into the office and the raid went as planned. Michael had dressed as a woman with a pump action shotgun in his jacket. Thinking back, he laughs to himself, thinking how he must have looked to others that day.
He grins at the thought.
Michael got the moneybag and came sprinting out the rent office, like a transvestite on speed. He got into the car and said to William, to “DRIVE, “but slowly, as pre-planned, take your time no need to panic”.Lobban done the opposite and put his foot down, the car screeched off drawing the attention of passers-by, Lobban’s over enthusiasm, nerves or inexperience , caused him to hit an oncoming car head on.The getaway car was a total write off. They had to get out and escape on foot. Michael was dressed as a woman, in heels and pencil skirt…not easy to try run while dressed like that, especially with a heavy cash bag and pump action shotgun inside his jacket.
Lobban and Michael headed to the nearest house and asked the householder if they could use their phone; the old couple looked at Lobban and Michael and agreed. The old man tried making conversation with Michael, but Michael said, “ I couldn’t say anything, all I could do was nod, as my voice would have been a dead giveaway…he said, I was looking at Lobban thinking, what the fucks going on?
The man let Lobban use the phone. Lobban called a taxi and when asked where he was going he said, “The town centre”. Michael recalls, “I was looking at him, thinking, “The town fucking centre”, why not Rutherglen, Ruchazie anywhere but the centre of fucking town. The taxi came and they headed to the town with Michael still not able to speak, all he could do was draw Lobban looks that would kill.
They got to the town centre and paid the taxi driver, Lobban then headed into a pub. Michael by this time was fuming, there he was dressed up as a woman, standing in the middle of the town centre with shotgun and proceeds of a robbery and Lobban wanted to go into a pub? The man himself said, “I looked a right state, look at me, I’m not exactly the right type to pass as a woman, me being six foot odd and athletically built”. His height makes him look a lot thinner than he really is.
It brought a wry smile to my face as he told me this amusing story. So it appears it was not such the master robbery as Lobban portrays in his book, “The Glasgow curse”. Both were arrested for the Rutherglen rent Office Robbery, Michael got a Not Proven and Lobban getting six years.
The inexperience in which Lobban showed as a getaway driver was experienced first-hand by Healy when the screeching of tyres and zooming off from a crime scene was nothing short of an amateur driver losing his nerve. Healy had only really known Lobban for a short period of time and after the chaos of watching Lobban doing the exact opposite of what he was instructed to do as a getaway driver it came as no surprise that Healy parted company with Lobban who was fast becoming a dangerous liability.
Talking to Michael gave me the impression he was annoyed and maybe a bit angry about Lobban’s claims in his book, but more amused.
As stated above Michael had known William Lobban a short time, OK they had met through the years but the time spent in together company was relatively short, especially outside prison. But he was a criminal, an associate so there was a level of trust between them until the betrayal by Lobban on Michael in the well documented,” Ferris situation” at the flat in Rutherglen.
Michael stated; before the betrayal by Lobban it was ideal I could come and go, I had done all I could to change my identity but I am a tall man, not much you can do about that.Until then luck was on my side, I had good friends and family, who looked after me, they know who they are don’t need to mention names, as they all know they have my lifetime respect for helping me out in those days.Michael had been on the run for four years from HMP Shotts, working away, keeping himself to his close friends and virtually living under the noses of the cops in Rutherglen.
Then William Lobban escaped from HMP Dungavel, well he never escaped he absconded, ran away, from a hospital visit with three months of a 6 year sentence to serve?This puzzled many people, why run when only 3 months to serve?However, he did and his first point of call was Ponny Shannon and his brothers. They were old friends.
After a few weeks William claims he got bored with the Shannon’s and went looking for Paul Ferris. He went to the Cottage bar and told Paul he was on the run, he needed some work and some help.
He also looked up an old friend Michael Healy. Michael knew what had happened in Shotts and what had occurred in the Rutherglen robbery, but now they were both escaped prisoners.. Lobban went to Michael’s mother and asked if she could find out where Michael was living, she knew Lobban but did not know exactly where Michael was.
However, word got to Michael and an address was provided for Lobban to go see Michael. When he got there, it was like long lost friends, but looking back Michael now said I should have got onto what was happening It was all talk of old times then Paul Ferris name came into the conversation. I had been holed up, being provided with only second-hand information of what was going on in and around the criminal scene in the city.
I had heard that Paul had a long list of warrants for attempted murder; I had heard the damage he and his crew were doing, I had heard he was around McGraw, actually Lobban told me that. So I said to Lobban as a friend, I would watch yourself with that mob”. It was tongue in cheek; it was passing comment, he was an escaped convict running around with the criminals that Strathclyde police wanted most. Not the choice of friends or people I would be around, that is why I stayed on the run so long. Of course, I had friends who were as active, but I kept at arm’s length, for their sake as much as mine. Also the letter by Mr A Vannett, that was doing the rounds never helped at the time.
On this visit, Lobban left as quickly as he arrived. Next day he was back at the door, I had told him he was a friend and to come see me anytime. So when he re appeared I thought nothing of it…he sat chatting then asked to use the toilet. I do not think I even answered.He went out into the hall and next thing Paul Ferris came rushing in with a pistol with a silencer on it, a shot was fired into the stereo I was listening to.I was told not to move and interrogated by Paul as to who was saying what about him, me, I was only interested in Lobban. I was looking at him with utter contempt. Lobban saw a chance, maybe a chance to get rid of Paul and me in one swoop.
Here is a man to an extent I trusted, he was a fellow criminal I had been on the run from Shotts for 4 years, and I had been his co accused. Here he was, setting me up, demanding I be killed. Paul and I spoke and came to an agreement, with at one time Paul actually turning and telling Lobban to be quite.
He was telling Paul he could not leave me alive, as I would come after them both.I would have, straight after they left, but Paul and me gave each other our word that it was done for now. Paul made me swear that I would not go for Lobban and if I did then I would have to deal with him as well. I had plans; I had to stay out of prison. When they left, Paul did not take any guns, he took the ammo though. I also had a little white escort van that I used to get about. I needed that van more than I needed the hardware.
Before they left the flat, a friend came to the door. A good friend and one as capable as Paul or Lobban. If he had have got involved it could have got very serious.However, Paul was the one with the control. Michael put the word around that they had taken his little white van, “The fuckers have left me without a van, and they took my only method of sneaking around” and certain people thought this was out of order and when word got to Paul, he ordered Lobban to take the van back. This had been ten days later. I had been holed up in my flat and had not moved or taken a visitor, but I had the material to protect myself replaced. Ten days later, I was sneaking about the flat, looking out the windows when I saw two cars draw up. One was my little white van being driven by Lobban.
I went into the room and got a shotgun, I had on a baseball cap…I went to the flat door and looked through the spyhole with the gun loaded and pressed against the letterbox. I saw Lobban come into view.He was hesitant, looking at the door and all around him, I had after all not moved for 10 days, they had been watching the flat, he must have been thinking that after the scenario between him and Paul I would have fled my safe house to a new hiding place. However, I decided they had guessed that and I stayed put.
Lobban was still standing, looking at the spyhole and the letterbox without making the few steps forward to come into the doorway. I turned to get closer to the spyhole of the door and the rim of my baseball cap hit the door. Lobban jumped, he froze, was alert and paranoid: his eyes were fixed on the letterbox…I watched as he walked into the doorway. I press the barrel of the shotgun against the letterbox as I watched him take my little white van keys from his pocket and put them towards the letterbox, “clink” - they came through and Lobban was off. One lucky man that day. If I had not been on the run, I would definitely have decided to pull the trigger. Actually, at the time, if I had, it could have caused a major gang war to escalate to murderous proportions in Glasgow, worse than it did end up not long after.
When I got my van back, I went to see auld Arthur Thompson, His son had been killed and the press had linked my name along with Lobban’s and Paul’s. Auld Arthur was not a stupid man; I asked him if he thought I had anything to do with his sons murder, he did not, I was asked about Lobban and I warned him of his methods, devious and untrustworthy but dangerous. Auld Arthur asked me, “So this Lobban will betray his friends”
He kept on about that. I told him, I knew he would betray anyone, he done it to me and he classed me as a friend, we spoke some more and left auld Arthur’s. Next, I heard the rumours that Bobby Glover and Joe Hanlon, had been lured to their deaths by Lobban.
I was put in the frame for the Thompson murder and police suspected I had killed Lobban and cut up his body. However, I had nothing whatsoever to do with any of that. I was having my own problems and was now the most wanted man in the UK. Healy had to go back to work, so he started planning a robbery and had teamed up with some of the most prolific armed robbers who he met and formed an armed gang that were very professional in robbing security vans and banks. A few boys from down south had been earning down there, they were doing well. Getting good turns and walking away with good money. Therefore, I was planning the big one. I had been told there was a big bank in Torquay that was a holding bank.
On a certain week, it would have at least £6,000,000 (six million) in it, which would do me. I started putting together the team but things went wrong I was arrested and charged with a robbery in Torquay along with Ian McDonald, my brother James, Robert Harper, Micky Carroll and Thomas Carrington.
The next time I came across William Lobban was when he offered to appear as a defence witness in our trial for the Torquay robbery. William offered to go as a defence witness and help incriminate Paul Ferris, Bobby, and Joe for the robbery.
Incrimination is accepted in criminal circles, as long as the person being incriminated is innocent, it is a funny use of a legal method, but I incriminated Paul for the Torquay robbery and he incminated me in the Thompson murder. It the done thing and criminals are well aware of this. Lobban turned up at court in a suit and tie and a bible in hand. I was defending myself; Lobban swore on oath that he was a reformed criminal and that Paul Ferris was responsible for the armed robbery.
He started adding things about leggy blonde-haired women being set up to give people aids. He was asked a question about Bobby and Joe; he mentioned he had remorse for Bobby Glover.
The trial was stopped and the judge warned him that the word “remorse” could have other meanings.
I wanted him off the stand; he had tried his best but was making things worse.We were all eventually found guilty and handed down heavy sentences. I was sentenced to 31 years, for the robbery and the escape from Shotts.
When Lobban came to Full Sutton he came into my cell and said, “Mick my life is in your hands” I thought, well he tried helping me in the trial so, let by gone be bygones…that is just the type of guy I am., though I would now definitely keep an eye on him.
The last time I seen him was when the riot at HMP Full Sutton kicked off. I was one of many prisoners told to go behind my door by the rioters as this was nothing to do with me and I had other charges to face even the screws shouted at me to get behind my door. I did just that bowed out the prison politics, a hard thing to do when you have been in so long, but the prisoner were right and I took that advice.
When I dubbed my door I could hear wooden furniture being piled against my door, I started panicking thinking if this is set alight I’m dead, there is no chance they would get me out. I then heard something outside my door, I went over and took the bit of toilet paper I had covering the spyhole of my door. William was there, with a look like Jack Nicholson from the movie The Shining, “Here’s Johnny type of look”.
He had a lighter in his hands lit with this crazy smile, he was not going to set the furniture on fire but was letting me know that because I gave it the all clear in full Sutton for him he was returning the favour.He could quite easily have lit that furniture and I would have been in serious trouble.
After Lobban was moved the police approached me from Glasgow and two cheques were put on the table, each for £50.000, it was the insurance cheques for Bobby and Joe.I was asked if I would appear and confirm that Lobban had confessed to the murders of Bobby and Joe and his admission during our robbery trial that he had remorse for the death of Bobby Glover.
Being a major criminal and serving a 31-year sentence, I just could not or would not cooperate with the police for any reason. Just the way it is, but all criminals and ex criminals like me would do the same in my position.
The then Strathclyde police reckoned that him using the word remorse indicated that he had involvement, in both murders,If not he would have used a term like, regret, upset - but not remorse. Lobban himself and Gerry Gallagher both admit the police were calling him an evil man every time he walked by them to take the stand in my trial. I assume Paul and Reg McKay used some artistic licence when describing the events, they played a clever game writing those books, they knew nothing of what happened to Bobby and Joe but writing those books got them a lot more info that they would ever have got. Good smart move on both Reg and Paul’s part.
I look back and think. William Lobban had a deep desire to be the number one criminal in Scotland.Does he still hold these views? Recent events make me think he might just have. He is a game player. Someone who thinks he is more intellectual than any other criminal is.
However, sadly he is not, he is a betrayer of friends - a Judas would do whatever it takes to get his own way.No matter what, no matter who.
Glasgow Crime Research (c)