Interview With A Killer
Updated: Nov 19, 2022
By Kiara Jacobs
After Brian killed his friend he was knocked to the ground. He lay in the grass, blood on his hands and clothing, and finished smoking the cigarette he lit before the attack, while people around him were screaming.
While working as a prison officer I came into contact with some of Queensland’s most despised and hated criminals. As part of the job it was expected for us to remain cautious on the outside, in our daily lives. This was to prevent possible retaliation for any confrontations they may have had with us while incarcerated, prevent any form of attack due to the nature of our role. We were advised not to use our full names on social media, not to wear our uniform in public and not to post, publicly, where we worked. Most officers who were parents had an extra level of precaution built into their routines. We would tell our families to disappear into the nearest shop if we recognised a released prisoner while we were out, and to wait there until we collected them. It happened, often, that we would see someone we had previously supervised within the walls of a correctional facility. But, sometimes, we were recognised first. On a couple of occasions, while grocery shopping, I’d hear a familiar ‘Hey Miss’ and turn to be face to face with an ex-drug dealer, gang member or thief. Female officers were referred to as Miss and male officers as Chief or Boss. It would send a chill down my spine when it happened, never knowing who it would be until I turned around.
I was lucky. Most of the time they were harmless and bore no ill will toward me. We’d exchange pleasantries and be on our way.
It hasn’t happened since I moved to the Northern Suburbs. Well, not until the other day.
At my local Coles, over an hour away from the prison I used to work in, while walking down the cereal aisle, I walked past a face that felt very familiar. Unable to place it, I kept walking.
That same shiver crept up my spine. I slowly turned around and looked at the tall, slim man in Hi-Vis clothing, with scruffy brown hair and a scar on his cheek, before me.
‘Hi. Do I know you?’
He introduced himself but saw by my blank expression that his name did not bring forward any memories in me of who he was. He explained he was incarcerated while I was working at the prison, remembered me because I had helped him during some of his time there and, in his words, ‘You was one of the good ones’.
I started to remember bits and pieces of my interactions with him. I was reassured he had no reason to wish to hurt me because of what I used to do for a living. I asked him If I could interview him about his crime, his time in prison, and what life was like now. He agreed. Totally unprepared, no idea what I was going to ask him, I rushed home to grab my IC Recorder while he finished his shopping, and we met at the café next to the supermarket.
His name, and his victims name, have been changed to protect his privacy. There is some swearing and mention of events that may be potentially upsetting to some readers.
Kiara: Thanks for agreeing to talk to me Brian, it’s good to see you looking happy and healthy. Let’s start with what your crime was and why you committed it.
Brian: I killed a man. Stabbed him with a broken bottle. Dunno how I got it broken, don’t remember. I was angry. We was at a party and he owed me like four hundred bucks. I wont tell ya what for but you can guess. I was like ‘Hey brother, do you have my money yet?’ and he just shrugged me off, said he’d give it me in a week. I was pretty pi***d [angry]. I’d been drinking a lot too, everyone was drinking a lot. Jeremy was high, on something, but he was all over the women, who weren't interested. Being a real sleaze ya know, getting drunker and louder. He touched this one chick and she musta had enough and she slapped him. That made him angry, and he grabbed her wrist and I was like ‘Nah mate, you let her f***ing go now’. I had me beer and a smoke, and just walked over to him. Somehow my bottle broke on the way, I broke it, and I just sorta cut at him a lot. Trying to get him off the chick, drunk and pi***d I didn’t have me money, just angry. I was pulled off him and knocked back, then I just lay on the grass and finished me smoke which I never let go of somehow.
Sounds like you were in a little bit of shock. How long did it take for what you’d done to sink in?
About a day, when I found out he didn’t make it. Sobered up in the watchhouse, slept on the floor, woke with a sore neck and no pillow, no smokes. Couldn’t remember much but knew I’d hurt someone. Then I was like broken hey. Been doing stupid shit me whole life but this hit different. ‘Cause of me someone wouldn’t breathe again. Made me not breathe right. Don’t think I’ve breathed the same since. Could be all the smoking though.
How did you tell your family, friends, that you’d been arrested? What were their reactions?
I rang mum straight up. She was angry hey, like she was a big a f*** up as me, been on all sorts of s**t since she was a kid, used and dealt, stole stuff, OD’d [overdosed] at least once a year, but she’d been clean for 6 months before I killed Jeremy. Was even going to church and s**t. Had this like view that she was born again or something, clean slate. Wanted me to stop stealing and using, be like her. First thing she said was ‘you ain't gonna get clean now, not in jail’. I had been arrested before, but not for nothing big, little s**t I done. Always got away with the big s**t. *laughs*
This was gonna be my first real stop in prison. Me dad wasn’t around, dunno what he was doing hadn’t talked to him for years. Had a chick I was seeing and she wanted nothing more to do with me. Mum rang her and told her what was up. Apparently she just hung up and that was it. Me mates, some sent letters saying ‘sorry man’, had a couple visits early on inside, but you lose a lot of mates when ya kill someone. And they all knew what happened, they was there that night, most of them.
What was your first thought when you received your sentence?
I was scared hey, like 8 years is a long time to f***ing not have a life, and I had been on everything and coming down hard, so I was sick and shaking. I wasn’t angry though ‘cause, like, I killed someone and I wasn’t gonna go home, but I coulda been done for murder instead of manslaughter so I coulda gone away forever. Heard stories of blokes having...that word that means when you realise something big and wanna change s**t...
Yeah them, but I was like in my head going ‘f**k, I need a hit man’
In reference to drugs?
Yeah. Wanting to change and be better didn’t come then. I just didn’t wanna be taken to jail and not be able to smoke, drink and do a line [cocaine] ya know, and not get laid.
You mentioned your mum said to you that you weren’t going to get clean in jail. Was she right?
Sorta. Got clean ish during remand but you still get that s**t in jail, you know that Miss, it's just harder to get and usually just pills and stuff like that. And they help and s**t when you’re coming down.
Yeah, the officers and nurses, counsellors and s**t. Weren't ever not using just weren’t using as much.
Did you have any contact with Jeremy's family after he died?
Nah. Saw ‘em in court, wrote ‘em a letter a couple years later saying sorry but got nothing back.
What was your life like before you killed Jeremy? From growing up until that moment you took his life?
Ah, Miss, you asking the hard ones now. S**t. It was s**t. Let me tell you that having a mum who does drugs and a dad who ain't there is really c**p and I was always gonna be a f**k up. I coulda tried harder I guess but then all me mates were into the car theft and the drugs, it was all around me growing up. I stole a car once but me mate got done for it and he actually thought it was him, he was so drug f****ed he couldn’t remember. I still feel bad for that but he was going away for other s**t too, was always gonna get time. He still don’t know it was me. I had no brothers or sisters but me mum had a sister who had kids and me cousins would stay over a lot and I’d go over there. They were younger than me and I used to look out for ‘em, make sure they never met me mates and didn’t see mum when she was coming down [off drugs].
How did you first find out your mum had a drug problem?
When I was really little I remember when I first knew mum was not right. She had this job in a servo, working late nights and s**t. She came home early one morning, like falling over and stumbling around, and me aunty was there and they got into this huge fight. Me aunty was screaming at her to ‘Stop’ and ‘Look what it’s doing to him' and ‘You’re gonna die if you don’t quit that s**t’. Dunno how old I was exactly but I remember thinking I didn’t want my mum to die, I was scared. She told me recently that I'd ask her, whenever she couldn’t walk straight, ‘are you going to die now?’. Said It used to make her cry and sometimes get angry. When I got older I started finding needles in the kitchen. She musta used to hide it all from me but then got this boyfriend who didn’t give a s**t what I saw and she really liked him so did whatever he wanted. He wasn’t mean to me or nothing but he didn’t like me, he was just like ‘hey, a kid, whatever’ didn’t spend time with me or nothing. He ended up leaving and mum never said why but I could tell she was, like, heartbroken. She didn’t get another boyfriend again while I was living at home I don't think.
What was your first crime?
We had no money and mum used to get me to hide things in my clothes when we went shopping. Said it was ok ‘cause the stores all allow for s**t to be taken sometimes and that we really needed it. I knew it was wrong but it was exciting and mum only ever went shopping sober so I really liked it, liked her not on anything. Sounds dumb but, like, the only time me mum and I had decent quality time together was when we went out lifting stuff. She’d hold my hand and act really nice and sweet. She didn’t do that at home. I’d have stolen anything for her just to get her to hold my hand.
Brian started to become a little emotional at this point so I switched the recorder off so he could compose himself. He sniffed a few times and said that he was messed up and apologised. I offered to terminate the interview there if he wished but he said “Nah Miss, we gotta finish this coffee’.
Thank you for sharing that with me. How is your relationship with your mum now?
Oh its good now *Brian smiled*. Shes still clean, well she’s slipped up a few times, but she has a fella and she's working. She’s real happy. We got Christmas coming up together, me misses and mum, her fella and me aunty and cousins.
How does your girlfriend feel about your checkered past?
She ain’t happy I done what I done, but she’s done some s**t too. We are both fighting demons. She had problems with pills and the drink but ain't done pills for 3 years. I ain’t done coke or nothing hard for about the same. We still smoke pot a bit, and drink a bit. Gotta have something right?
Do you think your time in prison was good for you overall?
*Thinks for a bit and drums his fingers on his coffee mug*
When you grow up like I did you hate anyone who tries to tell ya what to do and what not to do, the cops, teachers, your parents. That’s what prison was, a whole bunch of people telling ya what to do, when to do it. And then you got the other d**kheads [prisoners] thinking they’re in charge and you gotta do what they say too. You was more scared of the crims than the officers. I never liked being told what to do growing up but weren't much consequences when I ignored it, got away with a lot. Inside, you ignore it you get bashed. I got a broken rib once, black eyes and scars all over me body. I learnt to be quiet, do my time without causing trouble. Can’t trust no one inside and I came out not trusting no one. I don’t ever wanna go back to jail so that’s good. Yeah it was good for me. F***ing hard and load of bulls**t, the system.
Aside from not being able to use drugs or smoke cigarettes, what was the hardest adjustment you had to make to life inside prison?
Sex. Missed that. And then sharing ya sleeping space. There was 2 other blokes in the cell most of the time. Never quiet either, snoring and s**t, nightmares and one bloke once was coming off hard from ice. He’d see s**t and fight with ghosts and things that weren’t there. Scratch his skin so hard he’d bleed. And again, being told when to wake up, go to bed, didn’t like that.
Hardest thing was you was never alone. Ever. On the outside you get to go for a walk, drive somewhere, by yourself. When I first got out I went to a park and found this area where there was no one. I sat alone for hours and it was quiet. So quiet, but, like, too quiet. I was used to noise. Me girlfriend, Rachel, she lives with me and sometimes I gotta sleep on the couch. Ain’t nothing she’s done wrong just sometimes need the room I sleep in to just have my body in it and no one elses. Does that make sense?
Yeah it absolutely does. You spend almost 8 years sharing a tiny cell with 2 or 3 other men, never having your own space, never being truly alone, I can see how wanting the odd night alone at home would be important to you. What else about your life now has changed, or been impacted by your time inside?
I still get mad cravings hey [referring to drugs], and I always did a line with me mates when we were drinking so booze triggers me. I choose me mates carefully now, I don’t wanna get back on it. I drink only when im eating, it helps avoid my body wanting something else to go with the beer. I moved here [northern suburbs] to get away from all that hey, it was a good move. When I get angry now I remember the prison and don’t lash out cause I don’t wanna go back. I go to the gym and hit a bag [punching bag], do weights and s**t to calm down. They give ya a lot of help inside if you want it, like people to talk to. Teach you how to deal with ya mental rubbish.
Do you think about Jeremy often?
Yeah man, I get real sad sometimes when I think about what he might be doing now if it wasn’t for me. Like he was a rough bloke, ladies man, liked to think he was, and had issues but he weren’t all bad and he coulda done something ya know, like maybe he coulda been something more or turned his life around. I used to be so angry hey, not all the time but it was so easy to get me mad. Prison taught me that gets you nothing and nowhere. There's always someone bigger and madder waiting to take you down.
You said you moved to the Northern suburbs to get away from bad influences and the life you used to lead, but do you still speak to any of your old friends, or anyone you were In jail with?
Nah, I mean I did when I first got out. I got out a week before this other bloke did that I got on well with inside. We caught up once or twice but he weren’t keen to leave his old life behind. He was in for burglary, dealing and s**t too. He was ok inside, shy and quiet, but outside, in with his buddies again, he was a real a**. Me other mates, from before, they tried getting me using again like I used to but I just had that epiphany word thing, and knew it wasn’t the way forward for me. Just lost a s**t load of years of me life, weren't ready to chuck more years away.
Where are you going in life now, what do you hope for?
Happy doing this now. Working as a traffic controller, living with a sexy lady. I don’t want no kids. Nor does Rach, well so she says. Life is pretty good considering I coulda been in jail still.
Our coffee cups were empty so I thanked Brian for talking to me, answering my questions. We got up to leave and he gave me an awkward side hug, his right arm around my shoulders. He grabbed his keys and wallet from the table and started to walk away, but turned around before he reached the door.
"You know, it ain’t just what Jeremy may be doing right now what I think about when I think of what I done. What would I be doing right now if I ain’t killed him? I’d be doing the same s**t, or I’d be dead. I ain’t glad I done it, i'd go back and do it different if I could. But I’d hate to think about where I’d be now if I didn’t kill him. Sometimes feels like it was him or me."