When I was a child, all I ever wanted was to be a soldier, and at 19, I joined the British Army. But after 5 years, I was on operations in Iraq and was offered a job by a private security company there who were looking after an American oil company. Over three years in the early 2000s, I moved around as a private security contractor in Iraq. It was dangerous. Lots of guys who stayed in our hotel in Baghdad went out and didn’t come back.
When I started a new contract bringing in convoys of medical supplies and generators from places like Jordan and Kuwait, we would be hit every day. It could be anything from a roadside bomb to a full ambush. Every vehicle had to carry two body bags, that’s not normal on a private security job. I did that for just over a year, and then I went to Afghanistan and spent two years working for what used to be The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) looking after the British government.
In 2006, I was home on leave from that job when I got a call asking if I was available to work in London. I was told that there was a gentleman travelling in from America for ten days. They wouldn’t tell me who it was but asked if I would work as private security for him and told me the job started the next day. I agreed to do it. When I arrived at Heathrow Airport the following day, I was given a document that told me who the client was: it was Michael Jackson.
He had come to London for the World Music Awards in 2006 and was staying at the Hempel Hotel in Bayswater. There were fans who had flown in from all over the world and bought rooms in the hotel just so they could be in the lobby when he came down each day. They all had black cabs booked for the whole day so they could run out, jump in the black cab and follow us wherever we went. His fans weren’t violent, but it was the sheer volume of them, and the fact that they were always there.
So we only moved Michael if he absolutely had to be somewhere. He wouldn’t go out just because he fancied it. On the night of the World Music Awards, we ended up driving the car right into the arena, which you weren’t allowed to do. It was just the only way we could get him in, because even other artists wanted to see him. But he was nice; very calm and very quiet. I always remember him being very polite. He wasn’t loud and he didn’t move around quickly. He would slowly sit down and slowly lean forward. He was pleasant and softly spoken.
It wasn’t until many years later that I realized what a big deal that job was. I never used to tell people, but others would say of me: “he’s looked after Michael Jackson.” After that job, I spent another 18 months in Afghanistan and then I worked as part of the private security team for the Dubai royal family in London for two years, followed by several years out in the Persian Gulf protecting oil tankers from pirates.