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From Violence to Peace.

The story of Toko Kopu.

I was born and bred in Otara, my mum was a godly woman and did her best to raise me and my 7 brothers and sisters in church, but my Dad was a heavy-handed man and would beat me and my siblings often. One time when I was 8, he beat me over the head with a piece of wood, and when I was 12 he beat me with a hammer to my head. His violence conditioned me for a life in the gangs and I headed to the Mongrel Mob as soon as I could.

I followed my brothers into the Mob when I was 15 in 1976. I took on 5 grown men to win my patch. Just like many other young men, I joined the gang because of the bad treatment or neglect from my Dad.

I worked my way to the top and became Mob President. Life in the gang involved perversion in all it’s forms, violence, drugs, and alcohol and crime. Barking like a Bulldog was a sign of gang loyalty. It was all about who could bark the loudest and bite the hardest. I was one of the best. I used to bark in my sleep, my wife would tell me, “Heel, dog, heel”

Because I had left school so early, my school was the NZ justice system and jail. From the age of 12 I had been raised in Boy’s homes or Youth Detention Centers. Intimidation, violence and abuse was the normal treatment and I was used to it.

As a patched member of the MMM, it was important for me to be the toughest and strongest, weakness wasn’t an option. My anger would come out unchecked after I had been drinking. I was a chronic thief and spent my time pinching cars, shop lifting, committing armed robbery of businesses or banks.

Prison was my normal, I was in and out for 34 years. Doing crime, getting caught and doing the time. As soon as I got out, I was a looking for the next opportunity to get back into prison. There was no teaching for me in jail as to how to improve myself; I was stuck in the mindset of how to make money through the gangs. I’ve been on Police ‘dangerous threat’ watch lists and spent over 40 years of my life in the justice system.

I was working as a security guard at a local pub in Mangere in 1982 when I met my wife, she was the younger sister to my brother’s partner. I won her over through my confidence and charm but after initial happiness together, my ugly came out in full force, I was under pressure in the gangs and was drinking heavily.

On the drink I became very violent and would beat my wife for no reason at all other than she was there.

She would fight back and threaten to leave me, but I would always find her and made her swear that she wouldn’t tell anyone. I threatened to hurt her family or to burn down her family home. It was really a Once were Warriors type of life. I was Jake the Muss and craved the reputation, not even my brothers in the gang could stop me when I was in a rage.