Sevi Kemal recalls the night when Halloween turned out to be more frightening than first intended.
Mehmet stood there speechless. Nobody answered. There was a fear-filled silence. ‘Why you want to know what ends we’re from,’ Moe ventured to ask – the lump in his throat grew larger as he did so.
It didn’t go down well. ‘Who wants to be shot in the face?’ came the response.
Mehmet and his six friends had decided to spend Halloween Night in Epping Forest. All good fun and a little bit spooky, is what they were going for. They travelled in three cars, driving through the dark night and then into the forest itself – underneath huge trees, round a couple of bends and up the hill.
In the first car, Mehmet was in the front seated beside Ali who was driving. Ali had the heating on full blast and the and lights on full beam. The car grew steamy. Sarah and Nicole sat in the back staring out the window. Ali stopped the car, the others parked up behind them. As they climbed out of their vehicles they were hit in the face with cold air. It was pitch black; they could barely make out each other’s outline.
The friends crowded round the cars, mucking about and laughing. The girls clung onto each other complaining that it was ‘freezing’. Moe insisted that they walk around and explore: it was Halloween after all. After he egged them on, the group began trudging through the mud down the hill. Mehmet put his arm around Sarah and she clung onto him tightly. Moe shone the light on his phone, waving it around and making wolf-like sounds. ‘It’s hallo-fucking-ween,’ he howled. ‘Got to keep up.’
Rain began to pour down as they made their way through the mud. The girls were anxious and cold and insisted they turn back. Moe said no but they turned back anyway. ‘We can’t let them go alone,’ insisted Mehmet. So back up the hill they all went, with Moe trailing behind, waving his light around and making creepy cat sounds. As they reached the parked cars, they noticed there was now a fourth vehicle parked up. Almost instantly, they found themselves surrounded by four stocky black men dressed in dark clothing.
These men looked considerably older than Mehmet and his friends. Mehmet was just 17 and the oldest of the group of friends was 19-year-old Moe. These other guys looked like they were in their thirties. They were hard looking with angry eyes that peered straight into yours with no feeling.
The friends held their breath as one man stepped forward. He had on a black leather jacket, black gloves and dark tracksuit bottoms. He was around six feet tall with broad shoulders, mean eyes and thick stubble outlining his mouth. ‘What ends are u lot from?’ he asked in a rough tone. When he spoke his gold tooth shone in the darkness. But the friends were paying more attention to the gun in his gloved hand.
Moe dared to ask a question in return. ‘Who wants to be shot in the face?’, is what he got for his pains. The man was teasing them, waving the gun around with wide eyes. Then a second man, also carrying a gun, ran towards the group with his hood up: ‘what have you got for me?’ he screamed.
The friends froze, staring at each other in disbelief, searching for a sign of what to do. Now there was another, skinny man jumping around, waving a metal bar above his head, frantic and wild. ‘Give me your shit now,’ he yelled as he charged towards them.
The boys stepped back. The girls froze and clung onto each other, shaking.
Gold Tooth pointed his gun at Ali, who stepped forward slowly, pulling his phone and his car keys out of his pocket. The skinny one circled two of the girls as he waved the metal bar around them. Trembling, they handed their phones to him.
Gold Tooth turned on Ahmed and Moe. Marching forward in heavy black boots, he fixed his eyes on them: car keys, he demanded, holding out his palm. Ahmed handed his over without hesitation, and his phone for good measure.
Moe stood still with his head slightly down and his hands pinned in his pockets. ‘I will not ask you again,’ Gold Tooth said – it was a flat, calm statement.
Mr Skinny was still swinging the metal bar around. Suddenly charging towards Amy, he reached for her hair and yanked her head down beside his waist. Her high pitched scream echoed through the forest. Mehmet and the others looked at Moe with panic in their faces. ‘Hand over the keys,’ pleaded Ahmed. The crazy guy gripped Amy’s hair tighter and tugged her head back. Sweat and tears covered her pretty face. Out of nowhere a knife appeared in his hand. ‘I ain’t playing with you, man, I really ain’t playing,’ he warned. His pupils were over sized and his eyes popped out weirdly. He was swaying and panting like a dog. Leaning down, he put the knife against Amy’s slender neck, the blade touching her skin. Tears were streaming down her cheeks by now. ‘Please,’ she mumbled, as she stared at Moe in desperation. ‘Give him the keys’, echoed Mehmet. ‘Go on,’ Ahmed begged. The other girls stood back from the action, shaking and holding onto each other, not daring to say a word.
Moe screwed up his face. He took a deep breath and resentfully handed the keys over. Amy fell to the floor as the man flung her to the side.
‘Cummon,’ said one of the men – the only word exchanged between them. They moved quickly, opening their own car boot and stashing the weapons inside. Then they split up, each of them taking a different car. The stolen vehicles seemed to move off even before they’d had a chance to get behind the wheel.
Amy still had her phone. But the cars were out sight and nearly out of the forest before she got through to the police.
It took the police approximately two weeks to contact Mehmet and his friends to inform them that the four men had been arrested and were awaiting a trial date. It turned out the police had spotted the number plate of one of the stolen cars on an estate in Walthamsow, E17. There was a group of guys sitting on a wall in the estate, smoking and drinking. The police used a warrant to search their flats. None of the phones was found, but one small item led to the first arrest – Ali’s Oyster card. That was enough to start the ball rolling: the criminals were charged and later sentenced to three years in prison for robbery and possession of firearms.