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HMP Belmarsh: Evil Behind Bars (Channel 5)

HMP Belmarsh Prison

HMP Belmarsh: Evil Behind Bars is a revealing two-part series delving into the realities of HMP Belmarsh, London’s most formidable high-security prison.

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This series uncovers the lives of Category A prisoners, notorious for extreme risk, and those awaiting trial.

Retired staff, former inmates, and experts share unprecedented accounts of life in the prison’s four house blocks and the notorious High Security Unit (HSU).

They offer personal insights into the behaviours and routines of infamous inmates like Robert Napper and John Sweeney, delve into the experiences of the Hatton Garden Robbers, and share stories of Barry George, wrongfully accused of Jill Dando’s murder. The series exposes the underbelly of prison life, from violent gang conflicts to illicit staff-inmate relationships.

In the first episode, viewers are introduced to the prison’s history and its infamous residents. HMP Belmarsh, set along the Thames in South-East London, was conceived as a super-prison for Category A criminals and terrorists. Nicknamed “Hellmarsh,” it features a unique architectural design with prisoners housed in spurs rather than traditional wings.

HMP Belmarsh Prison

This episode focuses on John Sweeney, dubbed the ‘scalp hunter’, a murderer known for his disturbing artworks, which he bartered for contraband.

The episode also explores the drug trade within the prison and the dynamics of its High Security Unit, home to high-risk terrorists and other dangerous inmates. Insights into the IRA prisoners’ conduct and the challenges faced by staff, including the dangers of “conditioning”, are also featured.

Episode 2 explores the evolution of HMP Belmarsh from a terrorist holding facility to a remand prison for local men awaiting trial. Despite its origins, Category A prisoners now comprise a minor portion of the inmate population. The episode delves into the daily realities of the prison, highlighting the diverse inmate demographics, including young gang members.

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Former inmates recount experiences of overcrowded cells and the prison hierarchy. The episode also touches on the controversial ‘hit list’ of sex offenders, the struggles of the older Hatton Garden Robbers in the HSU, and the case of Barry George, who many believed was innocent of the charges against him.

HMP Belmarsh: Evil Behind Bars airs on Channel 5 on Wednesday, 10 January 2024 at 9:00PM.

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