Badminton and ‘Lobster Dinners’: What Prison Life Is Like When You’re Filthy RichPosted: December 19, 2015
Matt Shea writes: Google image search “Edward Davenport” and you’ll see a mosaic of celebrity selfies featuring everyone from the Prince of Monaco to 50 Cent. “Welcome to the website of Edward Davenport,” the website of Edward Davenport proclaims, “one of London’s most flamboyant and best-known entrepreneurs, as well as a true English gentleman from an established British family.”
But this public persona—that of the aristocratic socialite—is Eddie’s trick. It’s how, in the past, he gained people’s trust and got what he wanted. The man behind that selfie smile—the subject of the new VICE documentary Wolf of the West End—has bankrupted business partners and made an estimated £34.5 million [$51.5 million] through fraudulent activity, according to the Serious Fraud Office (Davenport says the figure wasn’t anywhere near that much).
The 2000s were good to Eddie. After buying Sierra Leone’s London embassy—the Central London mansion, 33 Portland Place—for just £50,000 [$75,000] in 1999, he turned it into an arena for decadent sex parties, spending the next ten years entertaining celebrities and aristocracy. However, in 2011, “Fast Eddie” was convicted of engineering a multi-million pound fraud and sentenced to nearly eight years in prison, before being released in 2014 as an “act of mercy” because of ill health due to one of his kidneys failing.
So what was it like to go from a life of luxury to a South London cell? How would a serial partier cope with life between the sexless walls of Wandsworth Prison? What’s life in jail like for a wealthy white-collar criminal? I spent a fair amount of time with Eddie during the filming of Wolf of the West End, so I got back in touch to find out.
VICE: What’s your worst memory from prison?
Edward Davenport: There were occasions where there was a staff shortage or things would get canceled. So when you normally play badminton on, you know, a Saturday afternoon or something, and then suddenly it gets canceled due to staff shortages, it’s not like you’ve got a lot of other things you can arrange at short notice.
So your worst memory from being in prison was having to reschedule badminton?
[Laughs] I’ve been raided in the middle of the night before.
Why did they raid you?
I think they were looking for illegal contraband items.
What about, like, the solitary nature of it—the boredom and the lack of intimate company. Did that not get to you?
Well, it was a bit like being a virgin again when I got out. I think I had plenty of women before I went in. I mean, maybe if you’ve been into prison and you haven’t done anything before with your life, but I had a bloody busy 45 years where I had had, you know, I suppose you could say, more than anyone could ever dream of and ever want. I had been out most nights—I’d done everything, you know.
The staff are almost up to the standards of politeness and friendliness and professional-ness as hotels. They call you by your name, you know.
OK, but there must have been some bad bits about prison.
Well, having a kidney transplant wasn’t exactly ideal. This is supposed to be a very civilized country, a very sophisticated country, yet here I am for a white-collar crime being taken to do dialysis and, during the whole of the dialysis, left in handcuffs
The kidney story does sound quite bad, but what about the rest of it? I mean, prison can really get to some people. Are you telling me you experienced none of that?
I’ve seen none of that. I think you might have been doing articles on prisons in different countries.
OK. In that case, what was good about prison?
Well, I became quite good at badminton. There wasn’t much else there except playing badminton that was quite good.
Is the rumor true that you used to somehow get the prison guards to give you lobster for dinner?
Well, of course I’d have my own food, yeah.
How did you manage to sort that out?
This is a very official conversation, and I know it’s being recorded. You’re right about the rumor, you’re right about that being publicized somewhere, but I’m just giving you a kind of slightly tongue-in-cheek answer for it, if you like. Between your door, you get a menu every week. And I don’t know why, but on my menu they used to have lobster on it. Regularly. So I would just tick the box.
[The Ministry of Justice does not comment on the cases of individual inmates, but a spokesperson said lobster has never been served to prisoners at HMP Wandsworth.]
I see. What was your social circle like in prison?
When I was in prison in London it was like a celebrity hangout. People would take a picture of somebody like Chris Huhne [the former Lib Dem MP who served a 62-day sentence for perverting the course of justice] and then use the prison payphone to try and sell it to The Sun. I think there was one picture that some crazy lifer took of me with the Credit Suisse rogue trader, Kweku Adoboli. Even I was like, “You’ve gotta delete that.” You’ve got two high profile prisoners, an illegal mobile phone in a prison, I was on a laptop… I mean, it was just a crazy picture. And so I think that got deleted…(read more)