Preston youth zone launched by reformed murderer and gang member closes due to Covid

A youth zone launched 18 months ago by a reformed gang member who wanted to steer children off the path he chose has closed down.

By Stef Hall
Monday, 2nd November 2020, 3:45 pm

The Yooof Zone, on Lune Street, Preston, is now up for let.

Stephen Mellor gained national attention when he and Preston businessman Barry Hastewell converted a shop to have games and music recording rooms, using their own money and donations.

Stephen was 18 when he became a gang member, and was involved in the fatal stabbing of rival gang member John Dookie outside the Variety pub in 1997 in a drug dispute.

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Disappointment as pandemic forces Yooof Zone to close

Now 41, he believes early intervention, and places for youths to go, are crucial to deterring young people from gangs and knife crime.

The dad-of-four said: “ Unfortunately we have had to close with the current situation. I am in the process of setting up a new venture that involves not only the children but parents too.”

Since his prison release in 2011 he has been passionate about steering other young people away from following a similar path and has worked with young people as a support tutor, using his own experiences as inspiration.

Aged 17 he started dealing ecstasy, then heroin, undercutting other dealers.

Less than a year later was behind bars for rival heroin dealer John Dookie's bloodbath murder.

But in prison Stephen learned to read and write, and obtained several qualifications, including an Open University degree as a sports psychologist, diplomas in sports nutrition and sports science, and NVQs in engineering and personal training.

He got parole after 14-and-a-half years and has devoted his time since to trying to help young people.