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  • Published: 31 July 2017
  • ISBN: 9780143780526
  • Imprint: Ebury Australia
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 288
  • RRP: $22.99

Australia's Toughest Prisons: Inmates


There is no escaping the truth. Even though some might escape jail – and you will soon hear the first full account of the world’s most famous jailbreak later – every prison in Australia is a house of horrors.

They are all bricks and bars, sex and stabbings, head-jobs and heroin. And in the following pages you’ll read the full and shocking account of what jail is like, with some of Australia’s most infamous inmates going on the record for the first time.

You will meet the alleged hitman and undisputed hardman called ‘Goldie’; John Reginald Killick will divulge how he really escaped from Silverwater Jail in a helicopter and survived Pentridge Prison’s ‘Hell Block’; and former Rugby League star Craig Field will tell you his incredible story in a series of interviews conducted from inside a maximum-security jail.

But first, let’s meet David Hooker … and find out how the juvenile justice system in New South Wales made him a murderer.


Flick. Nothing. Flick. Nothing. Flick … Finally the flint sparked the butane, sending the flame into the unfurled aluminum foil.

‘Nah, not yet,’ said the kid holding both the lighter and the sandwich wrapper he’d rescued from the bin. ‘Wait. I’ll tell ya when.’

The other kid – the one with the sipping straw stuck to his lip – pulled back. ‘Yeah, sweet,’ he said, nodding.

The flame turned the foil black, and the brown blob sitting on top began to bubble.

‘Now,’ said the cook. ‘Rip in.’

Sitting on the concrete, a toilet the only thing between him and his newest mate, he leant in and sucked, aiming the end of the straw above the bubbling blob. He heaved into the smoke and inhaled with all his might.

‘Hold it,’ said the cook. ‘Hold it in for as long as you can.’

So he did. Not daring to exhale until his face was red-raw from the strain.


Smoke spewed into the air as his lungs contracted explosively.

He waited.


‘This ain’t doing shit,’ he coughed.

And then it came. The hit. The oblivion.

He smiled, not knowing he would soon be an addict … A druggie at the age of 13.

This is the shocking story of how a juvenile detention centre turned a child into a killer. How bashings, brawls and the ever-present badness of a house of horrors made a murderer.

And it all began with a spot of heroin, smuggled into the Minda Juvenile Justice Centre in south-west Sydney by a 16-year-old.

‘I had a mate from school, and he was in there the same time as me,’ said Dave Hooker, now 38, who bravely went on the record to tell his sad, sickening and soon-to-turn sinister story. ‘He came up to me one day and asked me if I wanted some “uzzles”. I didn’t even know what the fuck it was. That was what they called H [heroin] in there. No idea why, but that’s what they called it. I don’t know how he got it, but he had it and I was up for anything.’

Hooker, a 13-year-old car thief and Minda’s newest resident, nodded and said, ‘Sure, why not?’ Amid the monsters, most aged 18, more men than boys, sucking back on heroin was better than sitting alone and thinking about when – not if – he would be bashed for his shoes.

‘He told me to meet him down by the toilets, so I did,’ Hooker continued. ‘He put the shit on the foil and gave me a straw and said, “Here you go.” He sparked it up for me and I had a toke. I had a smoke afterwards while he was having a go. We went back and forth until it was all gone.’

The fear of being bashed, raped or just bloody bored was sucked from Hooker’s body by the burning brown. Numb, the teenager walked out into the yard. He felt nothing … well, until he felt sick.

‘I walked out into the yard and started spewing,’ Hooker continued. ‘I had been feeling smashed, awesome. There was nothing in my head. And then I started chucking all over the concrete. Blokes were looking at me like I was on fire or something. I was like, What the fuck is this? What did I do that for? I felt terrible.’

But there is no prize for guessing where this story goes. Like all soon-to-be addicts, he forgot about the chunks that had flown from his mouth and splattered onto the concrete floor, about the horrible headaches and the shakes he suffered throughout the night.

He went back for more, of course.

‘I was around H all the time after that,’ Hooker said. ‘I would take it whenever it was around.’

So how does a 13-year-old get his hands on the world’s most addictive, destructive drug while in a state-run juvenile centre? A place where he had been sent to ‘learn his lesson’, to reform and rehabilitate?

‘It was easy to get in,’ Hooker said. ‘My mate was an Asian, and it was the other older Asian blokes who were giving it to him. I ended up meeting those older boys too, and they started giving it to me. I did it whenever I could get it. Sometimes it would be once a week. Sometimes it would be once every second day. It just depended how much was around and whose turn it was to get some.’

The infamous Sydney Vietnamese street gang called ‘5T’, or the T’s for short, were supplying heroin to the juvenile offenders, according to the kid who would become a teenage junkie.

5T was a murderous outfit that imported heroin from South-East Asia and flooded Sydney with the drug during the 1990s from their Cabramatta base.

‘The T’s were coming in and giving it to their younger brothers,’ Hooker continued. ‘The older boys would come in to visit and give it to them. It started becoming more regular from the time I got there, and eventually it was coming in every week.’

5T, cashed up from their roaring drug trade, handed the H over to their family members for free. They didn’t know or care whether or not their brothers were taking the drug themselves or using it as currency.

‘I never had to pay for it,’ Hooker said. ‘Not during my stint in Minda, anyway. I probably would have never become an addict if I wasn’t getting it for nothing, because I had nothing. But in that place, at that time, we were all mates and we shared what we had. They were getting plenty, so they were happy to pass it around. It went that way until I got out.’

But this is where the story takes a darker turn – in Minda, with a 13-year-old sucking heroin through a straw next to a ‘shitta’, one night after being thrown in a cold, lonely cell, with nothing but a bed, a pillow and a blanket.

Australia's Toughest Prisons: Inmates James Phelps

These are the stories about Australia's hardest inmates, from Australia's hardest inmates: the true and uncensored account of life inside Australia’s toughest prisons.

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