I decided emergency vehicle insurance would be a good idea, so I phoned IPC’s risk management man. He’s used to Loaded’s behaviour, and calmly asked for the vehicle’s details.’I’m in a 2.7ltr Range Rover Sport right now,’I slurred. ‘Registration is L-O-U-T, something. It belongs to Lotto winner Michael Carroll, and I’m currently racing it against his limousine across Swaffham.’
He went very quiet. ‘I’m also drunk.”
Either I lost signal or he hung up. Regardless, I was racing at 80mph towards ‘Miss-Be-Haven,’Carroll’s villa. I’d finally made contact with him and won his trust over six breakfast Stellas in a local cafe. I gave him a Lotto Lout action figure we’d had specially made; in return he handed me the keys to one of his fleet and growled, ‘If you can keep up you can come in the house.”
It was the breakthrough I’d been waiting on for months, so I simply floored it. I’d so far endured a terrible experience with Loaded’s Andy Sherwood, when we met local gangsters in a pub car park who tried to extort cash from us in exchange for time with Carroll. They were like his PR firm, only armed to the teeth and fraudulent. Staking out his properties in fear of ball-bearing attacks also bore no fruit.
I needed a new way in and bunged a journalist from a local rag £20 for the address of Carroll’s auntie, with whom he sometimes lived. Aunt Kelly was a lovely woman who we convinced we were friend and not foe.
Through Kelly, we struck a deal and I rang Loaded editor Martin Daubney to tell him we had our excusive, but needed £2,000 in cash by the morning. A dyed-in-the-wool tabloid hack, Daubs conjured the readies in minutes.
What happened next is men’s magazine history. Michael and I got on like one of his famous house fires. The interview became ‘a day in the life”, as we raced bangers round his back garden and drank until the early hours. We photographed Carroll with his frightening weapons collection, while the Halifax threatened legal action over shots taken in its branch. The Sun and Mirror nicked the quotes, while we made The Star’s front page.
The article won an armful of awards, including MJA Feature Writer of the Year, and became one big lout-like middle finger to those other mens’ magazines, whose writers sit chained to desks concocting list features.