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“Everyone makes mistakes. Not everyone has to share those mistakes with the readership of the Daily Mail.”
SHOOTING TIGER tells the eclectic and colourful life story of Ben Pickering, film director, father and now convicted fraudster.
At 16 he produced his very first feature film for just £6,000. Twelve months later he had his heart broken by a Hollywood A-lister.
By 20 he looked all set to become the youngest Member of Parliament this century. By the time he turned 21 his political career lay in tatters, never to recover.
At 34 his little boy held his directorial debut THE SMOKE in the DVD aisle in the local Tesco supermarket. Eight weeks later Ben was behind bars beginning a six-year prison sentence for mortgage fraud.
The Roman scholar Cicero once said that the ‘causes of events are more important than the events themselves’.
This is the story of how an ambitious working-class boy from a law-abiding Swansea family, able and loyal but stubborn and too eager to please, became engulfed in a £5.5 million mortgage swindle.
What would you do if someone owed you fifteen grand?
It’s not the end of the world.
But £15,000 is still a lot of money. It’s what some people work very hard to earn in a year.
And when I was eighteen years old, it’s what Mark Cainen conned my family out of.
All because of me.
I’d been introduced to Mark just a few months into my university life. He presented himself as a successful businessman, an entrepreneur, a man about town, someone in the know and someone to know.
Someone who could make my childhood dream of directing movies a reality.
He turned out to be none of those things.
He was a conman.
I was the first member of my family to go to university, earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Swansea University before getting halfway towards a PhD.
So I’m not unintelligent.
But I was stupid, stubborn, full of pride and overtaken by a strong sense of injustice.
Taking Mark to the County Court, sending around the bailiffs, calling the police even; all of that would have been pointless, throwing good money after bad.
For Mark owed money left, right, centre and some.
Just before meeting me, he had “borrowed” a few thousand pounds from a prominent local businessman in Swansea, our hometown. When he didn’t pay it back, the baron made sure everyone knew about it.
Mark’s name was mud.
And mud sticks.
If Mark was prepared to take that kind of hit to his reputation over a few thousand pounds, I had no chance of getting my family’s life savings back by using stick.
So instead of cutting Mark loose, writing the money off and chalking it all up to experience, I became a real-life Captain Ahab in unrelenting pursuit of my very own Moby Dick.
With a similar outcome.
By keeping my friends close and my enemy closer still, I supped with the Devil from the shortest of spoons.
And many years later it landed me in a prison cell four doors down from his.
In December 2014, I entered my very own Big Brother house.
You know, the kind the government runs.
And everything changed.