Bobby Sands recalls a forced body search in Maze Prison (1981)


Writing in One Day in My Life, Republican prisoner Bobby Sands, an inmate of Maze Prison, describes a surprised body search carried out by officers:


 

“It was beginning to grey outside as dawn approached, and the crows began to assemble themselves in the long black lines upon the snow covered barbed wire fencing. One morning I am going to wake up out of this nightmare, I thought, as I huddled in under the blankets again. Apart from the caws of the crows it was sinisterly quiet. I was sure many of the lads lay, probably just lying huddled up to get warm. The prospect of cold, tasteless porridge along with two slices of bread and half a mug of lukewarm tea for breakfast was depressing. It was simply demoralising just thinking about it.

 

The dawn broke and out of the shadows of the dead night materialised the daily nightmare. The dirt and filth, the scarred walls – the inner confines of my stinking, smelly tomb greeted me once again. I lay listening to my own gentle breathing and to the caws of the crows…

 

A key clinked against the steel. Footsteps came charging along the outside corridor breaking the silence. The crows fled in an explosion of chattering caws; my mind fought to register the meaning of the disturbing confusion. Panic gripped me as the heavy steel door rattled and flew open. A wave of black uniforms swept into my cell blotting out the door space. A gruff, intimidating voice yelled, ‘Right you, get up!’

 

I was already half way to my feet before the last syllable left his rowdy mouth, wrapping my threadbare old blue towel around my shivering waist…

 

‘Right you, out and up to the top of the wing and be quick,’ rowdy mouth snapped. I moved out of the cell, the corridor was black with uniforms, batons dangling by their sides.

 

‘Not quick enough,’ rowdy mouth snapped again again. Two strong pairs of arms gripped me from behind. My arms were wrenched up my back and my feet left the floor. A mass of black thronged around me and moved in a sudden burst of speed dragging me along with it. I came back to earth and a well polished pair of leather official issue boots ground into my feet. A screw on the perimeter of the now excited gang kneed me in the thigh. I felt like vomiting and screaming surrender, but I remained mute. A table loomed up before me where a dozen or so screws converged, gaping and inspecting me – their first intentional prey. I was left standing in the midst of the black horde who awaited their cue from the mouth piece.

 

‘Right,’ screamed the self-appointed tyrant. ‘Drop that towel, turn around. Bend down and touch your toes.’

 

I dropped my towel, turned a full circle and stood there embarrassed and naked, all eyes scrutinising my body. ‘You forgot something,’ the mouth piece grunted. ‘No I didn’t,’ I stammered in a fit of bravado… ‘I’m not bending,’ I said. Roars of forced laughter reinforced by a barrage of jibes and abuse erupted…

 

Jesus, here it comes. He stepped beside me, still laughing and hit me. Within a few seconds, in the midst of the white flashes, I fell to the floor as blows rained upon me from ever conceivable angle. I was dragged back up again to my feet and thrown like a side of bacon, face downwards on the table. Searching hands pulled at my arms and legs, spreading me like a pelt of leather. Someone had my head pulled back by the hair while some pervert began probing and poking my anus.

 

It was great fun; everyone was killing themselves laughing, except me, while all the time a barrage of punches rained down on my naked body. I was writhing in pain. They gripped me tighter as each blow found its destination. My face was smashed against the table and blood smeared the table under my face. I was dazed and hurt. Then they dragged me off the table and let me drop to the floor…

 

A cell door opened and I was flung inside. The door slammed shut and I lay there on the concrete floor, chest pounding and every nerve in my body strained. Could have been worse, I tried to tell myself as a consolation. But this didn’t convince me or my aching body one bit.”