Reformed killer’s youth zone to steer kids away from crime
This is the first glimpse inside the youth zone being launched by a reformed murderer who wants to steer children off the path he chose.
The Post was given a peek at the Yooof Zone site, on Lune Street, Preston, ahead of its anticipated launch next week.The bid by convicted killer Stephen Mellor to try to steer other young people away from the path he chose as a teenager has gained national attention as public concerns over knife crime intensifies.Last week he appeared on TV show This Morning as he told the nation about his ambitious plans for the centre.He says: “Holly Willoughby took me to one side and told me not be nervous, she said she thought it was a beautiful thing we are doing.“I couldn’t believe it when I was led into a side room before the show and Annie Lennox was sitting in there to promote her new album. “She seemed very positive about our plans.”
Showing off the converted shop, which is currently being plasterboarded and sectioned off, he added: “It is going to have games rooms, music recording rooms, to encourage their creativity.
“1842 bar is going to provide food for the kids.”
Five volunteers have done most of the building work in just three weeks.
Upstairs are around three rooms for gaming and music recording booths, and “big comfy chairs”
Downstairs is a bigger shared space and at the moment there are donated pinball machines, an arcade game, and a pool table, and there are also plans for new lighting.
The Yooof Zone is being partly funded by Preston businessman Barry Hastewell.
Mr Hastewell himself has a criminal past, having served four years for conspiracy to supply cocaine.
Both men have reformed themselves with Mr Hastewell running a skip business, coffee shop, bar and a lap dancing club.
They have not obtained any funding for the centre yet, but Stephen says they were desperate to press ahead and launch it as soon as they could in the light of recent gang and knife incidents in the city.
They have had to rely on their own money and generous donations from the public and other businesses.
Stephen, 39, believes early intervention, and places for youths to go, are crucial to deterring young people from gang culture and knife crime.
He 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 dispute over drug territory.
Stephen grew up on Moor Lane, Preston, the youngest of five older brothers and five older sisters, in a three-bedroom house.
He was expelled from school at 13 after getting into a fight and never got an education.
At 17 he started dealing ecstasy then heroin, undercutting other dealers.
Less than a year later he was behind bars for rival heroin dealer John Dookie’s bloodbath murder.
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. Since his 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.
He says: “My passion lies within guiding these youths off the path I chose.
Responding to critics of his ambitious plans he adds: “I am my own biggest critic.
“I live with my past every single day and if they want to think bad of what I’m trying to do, I’m going to leave it with them.
“I’m going stay positive and continue to drive forward to give everything I can to these kids.”
The dad-of-three, who is expecting his fourth child this month with partner Sammy, is holding an auction and raffle tomorrow to raise cash for the centre, including a framed Connor McGregor boxing shirt.