The Story of ‘Stuart’

Michelle Thornber-Dunwell tells the story of a boy she took into her home.

By Patrick Cash

‘Stuart’ (name changed) was slamming Tina, and some older guy got hold of him, he’d lost all his money, he lost everything, and this older guy made him escort. He was doing 90 ml of G a day, but that didn’t touch the sides, so to come off the Tina he was injecting heroin, and he was doing G again and mephedrone.


I’d been chasing after him for quite a while but he kept running past the shop. I told everyone in Vauxhall, at all the chillouts I was looking for him, because I was  scared he could end up like Josh, being left out by the bins to die. And he’d lost 8 teeth by then as well, they’d rotted away.

So I got this call, he’d been up for 9 days, and they were freaking out at the chillout because he was so odd, and they were like: ‘we’re at this chillout, we have got get rid of him.’ I told them: ‘put him into a cab, bring him down to me’. 24 days of him hallucinating, climbing the walls, screaming, howling, tearing at his skin. He was determined he had something in his eye, he kept trying to gouge his whole eyeball out.

I couldn’t sleep for four days. I kept him going for those four days with old familiar stories, silliness, reminiscing about old times, he just needed a familiar voice at times and I got him through that. I just didn’t have the heart to send him off. Then he was alright, he was really grateful. I brought him down from 90 ml of G to 10 ml within four days – they sent him with a bottle of G from the chillout because they knew he would go funny without it.

He was quite happy; my daughter was away so it was just me and him and my dogs in the house and I think for the first time in four years this boy had actually had a break in a normal house where there weren’t people constantly coming and going, no noise, where he could have a bath in peace.

I did take him to Jenny’s, my favourite greasy spoon, and without even thinking we were sitting there amongst all the old people and families with kids around, waiting for our food, and I saw this patch on his arm where the hairs had been shaved and, me being stupid, I said to him ‘Stuart, what happened, have you got alopecia on your forearm?’ and he said ‘oh no, babes, that’s where I’ve been injecting’.

Tables were pulled, people grabbed their kids and fled. Then I was in the shower, and the little bastard ran off. I had to put it on Facebook and of course within a few hours people knew. Michelle’s looking for somebody, that must be important. I was thinking if he goes and does what he did before, he’s going to die. Because he’s cleaned up and his tolerance has gone down.

He was in Essex injecting. He’d also taken LSD, so I found him, bundled him into the car. And I said ‘I can’t take him home’ because David had said to me ‘you can’t take this risk, if he dies you’re going to lose your family and you’re going to get done for manslaughter.’

So I took him to Cambridge to his Mum’s and she said: ‘can’t you just put him a hospital somewhere? I’ve got things to do, my dog has just had a litter of 14 puppies’. She was selling them for £900 a puppy, labradoodles.

And I said: ‘do you understand the seriousness of this?’ She said ‘no’. I said ‘he’s on drugs’ and she said ‘he’s been on drugs since he was 16 – with Stuart, you can leave him anywhere and he’ll come back home’.

I said: ‘do you know how your son feels, how alone and vulnerable he is? What has he ever done to you for you to despise him so much? Where is your motherly love? Do you think he’s doing this for fun?’

And she wouldn’t take him in the house because her boyfriend and the neighbours and all her horsey people would all look down on him. So I said: ‘okay, I’ll take him home, I’ll have him.’

But for him to get a G substitute he had to speak to the doctor, and the doctor didn’t understand the problem. ‘G? What’s G?’ and he started looking on the internet. Crystal meth – never heard of it. So I said: ‘okay, he needs this prescription.’

Got him sorted out and I brought him to mine, and he came to CODE. His mother moaned and whined like ‘I’ve got to do this?’ and I said ‘listen, it’s not my son, I have looked after him for days and days, financially, in every way, I have given up everything to look after him, all I ask from you is a few hours.’

She came, she sat there, she moaned about parking spaces and I said ‘if you’re that concerned I’ll give you a fiver, just wait’. And she went in and David spoke to her and explained to her what Stuart had been doing and the seriousness of the situation, and we walk out and she says in the waiting room: ‘oh, so is that how he got AIDS then?’

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