FORMER prison guards have shared their stories of working behind bars in Isle of Wight prisons.

The ex-guards, who have worked closely with some of Britain’s most infamous criminals, including the Kray twins, Charlie Bronson and the real-life Hannibal Lecter, have compiled their stories.

Jam-packed with stories from behind bars, the book focusses mostly on the prisoners themselves.

As author Gary Garabedian, who spent many years as a prison officer at Parkhurst, explains: “In its heyday, when Parkhurst belonged to the Category A dispersal system, which included, Albany, Long Lartin, Gartree, Hull and Wakefield, its brief was very simple and straightforward — to look after those prisoners that other prisons couldn’t handle.

“Parkhurst literally became the dumping ground for the most troublesome, violent and mentally deranged prisoners in the system.

“It is true to say that other prisons looked after similar types of prisoners but not the amount and wide range that Parkhurst was expected to take charge of and rehabilitate.

“Violence, both prisoner on prisoner and prisoner on staff, was run of the mill. Hostage taking, escapes and riots were also major problems.”

Using incident data, the author calculated that in year 2000, there were on average seven members of staff assaulted every day, nine prisoners assaulted a day, one civilian assaulted a day, two hostages taken every month, two fires a day and 43 recorded drug offences every day.

And 2000 was a good year, the author notes.

The book shares untold stories from the officers who worked closely with some of Britain’s most infamous criminals, including the Kray twins, The Richardson gang, The Great Train Robbers, members of the IRA, Peter Sutcliffe — the Yorkshire Ripper, Donald Neilson — the Black Panther, Ian Brady — the Moor’s Murderer, Fowzi Nejad — the only surviving terrorist from the siege of the Iranian embassy, Dennis Nilsen — the murderer of twelve young men, and Charlie Bronson — a man the media dubbed the most violent prisoner in captivity.

Mr Garabedian writes: “If these prisoners were not problematic enough for the staff at Parkhurst, it was also decided to house prisoners who had been diagnosed ‘mentally and criminally insane’ on a separate landing within the hospital wing.

“Again, this type of prisoner was many and varied, with two of them immediately springing to mind — Robert Maudsley, regarded as being the original ‘Hanibal the Cannibal’ from Silence of the Lambs, and Graham Young, who poisoned 70 people, killing four of them.”

Mr Garabedian added: “The list of these most notorious criminals spending time behind the dark and forbidding walls of Parkhurst is long and shocking.

“Try to imagine what stresses and strains are placed on the staff who worked day in, day out, amongst prisoners who, in many cases, were unlikely to ever be released.”

In order to produce this shockingly honest account of life in the prison service, Mr Garabedian, enlisted the help of seven colleagues from his 33 years in the prison service.

All have contributed anecdotes and insights, which have been compiled by Mr Garabedian.

Those colleagues include John Harrall, Ken Pugh, John Cartwright, Eric Jones, Ian Lavers, Chris Devonshire, and Fred Bray.

The group of colleagues decided to put their stories down on paper after they got together for a reunion and began reminiscing about their days in the prison service and the many characters that crossed their paths.

It was decided that if they did not record their memories, they would eventually be lost forever.

They certainly have some good stories to tell and the group are now looking for a publisher so that they can share their stories with the public.

The author of the book can be contacted through the County Press.