the old man | 

Author describes what it’s like growing up the son of a notorious gangster

Jason Wilson's father was once most wanted by the National Crime Agency

A signing at former bookstore Borders for my Smuggling Vacation book, when Jason and the Old Man were observed by undercover officers

Clodagh Meaney

Author Jason Wilson has described what it was like growing up the son of a notorious gangster.

Wilson recently penned a biography ‘The Old Man and Me’ all about his life as the son of gang boss Tony Spencer.

His 'Old Man' engaged in a wide range of criminality from selling smuggled cigarettes, producing counterfeit cash and eventually smuggling drugs across Europe.

Discussing his fascinating story on Crime World with Nicola Tallant, he said he didn’t realise his father’s dodgy dealings weren't normal.

“Growing up he was a bit different to other fathers. He left early and he was home really late,” Wilson explained.

“You realise most fathers work 9-5 jobs, he had his own business with a score of people working for him and he had all these shops and he dealt with a lot of money, I got used to seeing a lot of money all the time.”

While his father ran a number of legitimate businesses, he used them as a front for his criminal empire.

“He was quite unorthodox; he'd have meetings, but never in the office; they were always in car parks and the end of gardens, warehouses, so things were never quiet [normal].”

“He dealt with a lot of money and the people were quite unorthodox as well, some of them were quite rough people but on the outside he looked like he was a great businessman.”

Jason said he didn’t know any difference and accepted his dad’s business as ‘normal’ but later learned it was far from it.

“A lot of it was just seeing money all the time. I think most of it was legitimate but later I’d understand he was involved in bank robberies and post office jobs and that sort of thing.”

While his dad seemed to have lots of money, the family were not spoiled with luxury homes, holidays and clothing like many of today’s Gucci gangsters.

“When you watch all the big rich businessmen on TV they all had big houses and we never did, we lived in a small terrace.”

“We were quite happy and that, but there was just a bit of a discrepancy there,” he said.

Anytime his dad’s criminality caught up with him and he was banged up, the family were left in poverty.

“He was in prison when I was little and I didn't know about it. He was in prison when I was seven, I didn't know it was a prison, I thought it was a college,” he explained.

The Old Man in his younger days (1983 taken at HMP Long Lartin).

“I was 11 years old when he got done for bank robbery and that's when I was told ‘look he's gone to prison you are now going to start visiting your father the last Sunday of every month’ and that's when it really hit home.”

“He lost all his businesses, we struggled a good bit, you had bailiffs and the phone cut off and all that sort of thing.”

To hear more about Jason Wilson’s Old Man, the dramatic shoot-out that almost killed him and his criminal career listen to Nicola Tallant’s Crime World: Episode 95 My Ordinary ‘Old Man’ The UK Super-Criminal, available to listen now, wherever you get your podcasts.

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