It was a sunny August Afternoon. There I was, 4 years old, fresh faced and ready to start big school in a few weeks. I was always a real mummy’s boy, attached at the hip like some kind of tiny, huge headed symbiotic being. When my ma had to head out in the car to pick my sister up from work, I was straight into the back seat.
My Sister worked in a national bookmakers in the North, this branch located on Gresham Street, Belfast’s answer to Soho. Just porn shops and tattoo parlours. My ma drove an old Nissan Bluebird that we called “The Tank”. It was a piece of shit. It had been in all sorts of crashes and hadn’t a mark on it. It stank and the doors didn’t lock half the time, but that was never an issue because it was such a shit heap that no fucker would want to steal it anyway.
My ma made her way into the City Centre and pulled up outside the bookies. The whole shop was viewable from the door, so she told me she’d just poke her head in and tell my sister we were outside. Unfortunately for Alice (the mother) in the ten seconds between leaving the car and turning back the car was gone. With me in it.
Some opportunistic fuck just happened to be walking down Gresham Street as my ma left the car. Because I was in the car, and she was only gone for 10 seconds, she left the keys. This spide fuck jumped into the front seat of our car and off he went. He obviously did not see me in the passenger seat. I think that was his major mistake.
I’ll never ever forget him. He was about 5 foot 10, black hair, shitty barcode moustache and a blue jumper. He was most undoubtedly an absolute scumbag. He had turned the corner and was driving past Smithfield when my modus operandum kicked in. As a four year old, I had a HUGE penchant for head butting and biting (my middle sister can attest to this, as I decided it would be a good idea to employ these tactics on her Communion day, in the car, on the way to the church). In my panic, I pounced. I head butt him twice, he tried to push me off, so I sunk my teeth into his nose. I actually think he was more afraid than I was. He thought he was stealing a car with a handbag in it, not with a kid in the back seat. The difference between car theft and kidnapping is huge to the Popo. He probably thought he was fucked if he was caught.
We didn’t travel far, about 1/4 of a mile to a place called John Street. He jumped out of the car without looking back with my ma’s handbag under his arm and ran towards Divis, a rather untoward estate in Belfast, also one my Da is from. I realised I was alone. I paniced even more, crying uncontrollably. I worked and worked at the doors until they locked and hid on the floor of the back seat. A couple with a pram came up to the door, rapping the window and asking me if I was ok, asking where my parents were. I said I didn’t know. They asked me to open the door but I said not until my Mummy was there.
Then our friendly RUC arrived. A female peeler came up to the window and said “Fionntán, would you open the door please”. Like any good Boy in 1990 from West Belfast, I of course told her to fuck off. When she said my mummy was in the police station and they were going to bring me to her, I ignored them. I was always told to never trust peelers. Still don’t. But then she pulled out a radio and I heard my ma’s voice. So I got out of the car.
I got put in the back of a peeler jeep (thankfully for the only time in my life) and they started our short drive to North Queen Street RUC station. They tried to be nice to me, talked to me and tried to re-assure me. I just ignored them. As I mentioned, people where I’m from have a certain mis-trust towards authority. They put the siren on thinking it would perk me up. I turned my back on them like a petulant little prick.
To be honest I don’t really remember the rest. I remember my mummy crying, my Uncle who was visiting from England was there too. The Police gave me Fanta and a mars bar and I got interviewed. Apparently I got a minor slot on local Radio news.
My whole family were in bits. It was a difficult thing for them to handle, probably because I just disappeared into thin air. They seen how easy it was to lose a child like that. At that time, I don’t think it affected me. Growing up it became a funny story I could tell people, most of whom would disbelieve it happened unless I had it verified by someone else. I mean, it’s not everyday you have someone tell you they were kidnapped when they were four years old.
It’s only recently that I really thought about it. That is my first completely clear memory. I’ve learned that, although it never had a huge conscious effect on my mind, it played havoc on my subconscious, and has apparently been one of the many reason I suffer from mental illness. Still, it’s a nice wee anecdote to tell people over dinner, that time a smick kidnapped me by accident.