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From hell to the high life

UPS AND DOWNS: Peter Murray learned the hard way how to get on in life and now enjoys helping people

THE FIRST 35 pages of Peter Murray’s autobiography Self Made read like a movie, and it wasn’t until the seventh chapter that I finally paused and drew a deep breath.

Sexual exploitation, a dysfunctional domestic situation compounded by destitution and a burning desire to be better than the awful situation he’d been born into, Peter was determined to bore through the quagmire of excrement life was throwing at him.

But the reform and charge towards financial freedom didn’t come until a long time after he been exposed to, and refined by, Her Majesty’s finest jails. “Ok, so, from aged eight, nine, 10, I was looking at the elders who were like 14, 15, 16, seeing what they were doing and they were committed teenage gangsters, if you like. I was attracted to that scene and I wanted to be like them,” Peter told The Voice.

“They were my earliest role models. I wanted to be a committed teenage gangster so I followed that path. I became a juvenile delinquent from the age of 10. I got convicted for possession of a firearm aged 11, the same age I got taken into care. I was in and out of the care system for the next four or five years and the care system was quite brutal back then.

“I was subjected to racism, child abuse, mental and physical abuse, sexual abuse, you name it. I experienced all of that while being in care. So I used to abscond from these various care establishments and return back to my ends in Harlesden. I couldn’t sleep at home because the police would be looking for me there, so I would sleep at friends and so forth. That spiralled and that behaviour took me further into criminality.”

He continued: “I was a committed thief at that time and I kept on getting arrested, charged and convicted and being returned to juvenile establishments.

PAINFUL

“Then, as I progressed, I got stabbed when I was 14, I was on a life support machine and it was touch and go whether I lived or not. That was very painful for me to let my mum see me in that state, but it didn’t stop me. I continued that life of being the juvenile gangster, I glorified it, I wanted to be a part of it. I was committed to the cause, so to speak.”

Unlike a lot of career criminals, however, Peter says stints behind bars made him the success he is today. Adept at turning lemons into lemonade he credits incarceration for arming him with the tools he needed to escape his negative cycle.

“My last formal education took place when I was 11. I’ve had about 10 weeks of formal education in my whole life,” he admitted. “But when I was in a detention centre in Woking, Surrey, I remember we had to go through this regime and it was about order and discipline.

“And when I went to Feltham I learned office practise and typing. When I was at Ashford remand centre I actually learned English. It did me good.” He added: “When I was in Ashford, you’re banged up, you’ve got all the time in the world, what are you going to do? I learned to read and write, how to construct sentences and paragraphs and grammar. I was like, ‘Wow, I’ve found something’.

“While I was in Chelmsford for two years I was reading like a fanatic. I read books, newspapers – I even read a dictionary when I was in Ashford.”

There is so much to Peter’s life that an article, a few stories here and there will not suffice. He had to put pen to paper and write about his journey. It took two years to complete and the rollercoaster it takes you on is palpable.

Who could learn best from a man like Peter, though? His life, coloured so vividly by ostentatious gains and tragic losses, is one that many who grew up in London will identify with. Could he see similarities between his life growing up and some of the issues black youths, in particular, were dealing with today?

“I think young black men are angry and there are reasons why they are angry,” he said. I think that although I believe there are greater opportunities today, I think there is a lack of direction, there is a lack of leadership, there is a lack of role models, a lack of engagement. All those things would help.”

At one stage in the book, where Peter is clearly devoid of any leadership and is experi- encing the challenges of adult life, from broken relationships to not being able to see his child whom he became a father to aged just 14 and later loses when she took her own life, he admits to visiting Jamaica and going to see an Obeah man.

This age-old practise isn’t usually spoken about, let alone admitted, but Peter concedes he was at a low ebb and had turned his back on God. “I was in a place in my life that I have never ever been to before, I was extremely depressed and there were so many situations going on around my life at the time, personally, commercially, in every direction.

“Some people would turn to alcohol, some would turn to drugs – I got exposed to Obeah at that point.”

Having come full circle in terms of his faith and experienced much success away from any criminal circles, one of Peter’s fondest memories centres on his time as founder of Pride magazine.

The move came after his first jaunt to Jamaica in which he was overwhelmed with the need to create a business that serviced his people, black people. Having been immersed in industries that amass huge sums of money it was time to bring a title to life that presented black Britain, as it had never been seen.

The venture saw him work with some of the biggest names in black media, fraternise with well-to-do folk and even spawned other hustles, which emanated from the world of music.

But when the chance to sell it for big bucks came about from a wealthy Zimbabwean businessman, he admits he didn’t have it in him to of oad the publication to anyone who didn’t have genuine intentions for its future.

Today Peter is a successful insolvency professional, an area of business he has always shown a natural air and acumen for. His journey has been an epic one, but it’s not over yet.

He wouldn’t share the next phase of the PJ Murray story with The Voice for now, but wherever it leads, it’ll probably end up with him making a lot of money.

On the subject of making the right moves in business, staying the course, treading the road from rags to righteousness, Peter said: “I think the most important thing, is to remember it’s a journey. You’re not going to get there overnight, you have to be prepared to go the distance, it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon.

“When you begin, that’s when you start to collect your experiences and it’s the experiences that set you up for something greater and further down the road. It’s not the fruit, it’s the root. Spend time on the root and then you can enjoy the fruit.”

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