FORMER COP-TURNED-CROOK REVEALS HOW GOD ROCKED HIS WORLD
Simon Pinchbeck was a rising star in the Met Police, but slipped into a life of crime and hit the rocks when he lost his job after being found guilty of assault. After switching to a criminal life, he then had an incredible encounter with God
After 23 years in the police force, Simon Pinchbeck turned to a life of organised crime, chasing money with no limit. But it was only when his life was radically transformed by Jesus that he found true satisfaction.
Father-of-two Pinchbeck, 57, went from enforcing the law to breaking it and had murder on his heart when God stepped in and rescued him.
“I never knew my biological father growing up, my mum married when I was four, but to be honest, I didn’t get a lot of love from my parents,” Simon tells New Life.
“It wasn’t their fault. I’m pretty sure they did love me, but it was a generational thing, they didn’t know how to show it. That made me grow up with a hard heart. I grew up very selfish, not worrying about anyone but me.”
At 18 Pinchbeck left his hometown Burton and joined the Metropolitan Police in the summer of 1976.
“I did all sorts of things in the police,” he recalls. “I started in Holloway, North London, worked on the buses, drove the fast cars and I was the police boxing champion.
“It was a macho sort of time for me. We were a real force to be reckoned with. Through all of that I was the farthest away from God I had ever been.
“I would swear on the Bible many times in court, but it meant nothing. It might as well have been a copy of FHM or the Woman’s Weekly.
“I did a lot of football duty in the police, that was one of my main things and I had a big moustache in those days… the fans all called me ‘The Walrus’.
I would swear on the Bible many times in court, but it meant nothing. It might as well have been a copy of FHM or the Woman’s Weekly.
“I did ten years policing at the Arsenal. I had many battles with football fans. I was the first into all the fights and thought the blue uniform made me invincible.”
Despite thriving from the adrenaline rush of Saturday afternoons, there was one incident that hit Pinchbeck more than ever.
“It was three weeks before I was due to get married in 1982. Arsenal played West Ham United, who at the time had the most organised group of hooligans, the Inter City Firm.
“They came into the North Bank of the Arsenal stadium and like a military operation attacked from the top, bottom, left and right and let off a red smoke bomb. I was the first officer into the middle and they all descended on me and I was lucky to escape with no injuries, but in the fighting an Arsenal fan was stabbed to death, all for a game. I realised I wasn’t invincible.”
Pinchbeck went on to marry his wife Linda, but the hard heart developed from childhood struggled to love.
“Did I love my wife? No. I just didn’t know how,” Pinchbeck admits. “My heart was hard. Linda would say, ‘I love you’, and ‘me too’ was about all she would get back.
“We went on to have two boys, Tom and Jamie. I cared for them, but I don’t think I loved them; I was simply macho.
“I joined a set of young single officers and adopted their lifestyle and neglected my wife and children. It got so bad that I started wanting to get out every night and Linda never knew when I was going to come home.
“I started messing about with steroids. I experimented with recreational drugs despite still being in the force. I thought I was having a great time, thinking I was ‘Billy Big Bananas’, but my life was spiralling away. I left my wife – I’m ashamed to say – when her mum was terminally ill and I left her with two young boys, a full-time job and a very ill mother.”
After leaving the marital home, Pinchbeck continued to seek satisfaction from many sources, but gradually slipped further and further into trouble.
“I was starting to get a little bit uncontrollable,” he says. “I ended up in a nightclub and had a fight with an off-duty police officer, knocked his teeth out and was arrested, suspended from the force and was charged with serious assault.
“I had gone from the top of my game to being arrested and 15 months later I stood trial at Woolwich Crown Court. If I had been found guilty I was surely going down and prison would not have been a great place for a copper.
“I had a whole week on trial and managed to get a not guilty verdict due to post-traumatic stress from the death of that football fan.”
As soon as the opportunity arose, Pinchbeck left the Metropolitan Police after 23 years of service and a pursuit of happiness ensued.
“I had a hole in my life,” he reflects. “I thought all sorts of things would fill it. I played rugby to a very high standard, I’d drink, there was camaraderie and training, but nothing ever worked.
“I was training in a local gym in Chigwell two or three times a day. I saw a few fellas in there who always had money, nice cars, but never worked. I wasn’t silly, I knew these guys were into a bit of criminality. I thought I deserved a bit of easy money. I was enjoying the company of these villains and I started off with a bit of debt collecting that wasn’t governed by the Office of Fair Trading, if you know what I mean.
“We smashed into places and took more cash in a night than I could earn in three years. It was a lot of money and I had a bit of fun with that.
“None of that stuff ever satisfied me. I felt empty. I always wanted more. I went out and bought a Grand Cherokee Jeep and got the registration ‘WAR’ on there. I thought I was all that and a bag of chips.
“I moved into a tougher firm of guys and the money was good. It was my dream, work was becoming a dirty word and I had what I was looking for, but there is no honour among thieves.
“Some guys took all my money and I realised there was no way I was going to get it back. I cut ties with the guys and it left me with no money, humiliated and it was the lowest point of my life.”
I was on the edge of the pit of destruction. I could have either ended up with a very heavy prison sentence or in a shallow grave in Epping Forest.
The split left Pinchbeck in limbo as his former police colleagues were following him and the gangs he was part of were wary of his former connections with the law.
“I was on a battle from both sides,” he remembers. “I was on the edge of the pit of destruction. I could have either ended up with a very heavy prison sentence or in a shallow grave in Epping Forest. That was where I was. I didn’t know where to turn.
“But that is when God threw me a lifeline. I was in the gym, the people knew what had happened to me, and I was so angry, so revengeful, all sense of reason had gone and I was planning murder.
“As I walked out of the gym one Saturday afternoon I saw a fella, I knew him to be a very nasty and vicious man, but he had changed. He had become a Christian and completely turned his life around. I saw the peace coming from his life and I thought if God can change a man like this, there was hope for me.
“He remembered me as The Walrus from his days as a hooligan. Anyway, he told me to stop blaming everyone and take a long look at myself.
“Church was so far from my radar. I thought Christians were guys who wore sandals and socks.
“But he persuaded me to go to his church with him, it was called Holy Trinity Brompton in Knightsbridge.
“I went there in February 10, 2002, as an angry man, but the peace that hit me was like no other feeling I had felt. I listened to the service and said a prayer that night with Rev Nicky Gumbel. Now I know he is the front of the Alpha Course, and I invited Jesus into my life.”
After giving his life to Jesus, Pinchbeck went on to study the Alpha Course, an introduction to the Christian faith, and is now sharing his testimony through his role as regional director of Christian Vision for Men in the East of England.
“I made a lot of bad choices in my life, but the Alpha Course was the best choice of my life,” he insists.
“I went back to the marital home and asked my wife if she saw a difference and she said I was different from the very first night. In 2010 we renewed our wedding vows.
“I didn’t find religion on the course. I learnt someone who had been a scumbag could find forgiveness if they were truly sorry. Of all the people in the world, God wanted to have a relationship with me through his son Jesus Christ.
“I tried everything. Crime. Money. Horoscopes. Mediums.
“But nothing satisfied me like the love of Jesus Christ in my life. It had made me a stronger person, I have a friend who is with me 24/7, 365 and never judges me and he loves me because he made me. That is a message to everyone.”