Gun teacher's story: why I shot at yobs who mobbed my home

1st August 2008 at 01:00
Linda Walker's autobiography tells of her sacking by school and her 36 days in jail

A cookery teacher jailed for firing an air gun at yobs is publishing her autobiography, which includes a vivid account of her 36 days behind bars in 2005.

Linda Walker was sentenced to six months in March of that year, but was released when her sentence was quashed on appeal.

She lost her job as head of food technology at New Park special school in Salford, Greater Manchester, after being found guilty of affray and possessing a firearm with intent to cause fear. But earlier this year the General Teaching Council declared she was still fit to teach.

Her autobiography, Yobs on the Doorstep: The Manchester Gun Teacher's Story, gives 51-year-old Mrs Walker's side of events, from when youths launched a campaign of intimidation and vandalism against her family and home, to the euphoria of her release following a huge public campaign.

In one chapter, she describes the challenges of teaching children with severe behavioural difficulties. They earned street cred by setting fire to a police car.

Mrs Walker also depicts life at Styal prison in Cheshire, from the humiliation of a strip search to the support from fellow prisoners. On her arrival there, one inmate recognised her from extensive media coverage of the case, and shouted: "Linda, you should have fucking bazooka'd `em."

She received around 20 letters of support a day, many from fellow teachers, and she describes her tough prison life - the beds are hard and narrow and the mattresses stink - but she was able to learn word processing at the prison school.

After a week behind bars she declared it was "a damn sight easier than going to work".

She received the support of her three children and partner John, a college lecturer.

Mrs Walker also describes the agony of a three-day hunger strike she began after being refused bail.

Her bid to be allowed out under a tagging order also failed because she had been convicted on a firearms offence.

As she watched the media frenzy from her cell, she marvelled at how politicians tried to use it to their advantage. Michael Howard, then leader of the Conservatives, cited her experience as evidence of the breakdown of law and order in Britain. That failed to impress her.

"I thought that was rich coming from him when it was his party who systematically dismantled British industry and got rid of all the good jobs traditionally done by working class males - the ones incidentally who are now yobs."

After her hunger strike, Mrs Walker was transferred to Buckley Hall, a medium security prison at Rochdale, Lancashire, where she descended into an unstable mental state brought on by anxiety.

It has taken her three years to finish the book. Initially she wrote in ballpoint pen, and then typed it.

The children's minister Beverley Hughes, who is also Mrs Walker's MP in Stretford and Urmston, Greater Manchester, praised it, calling it "an excellent piece of work, powerful but human".

Mrs Walker, who is publishing 2,500 copies herself and making them available online, said: "When I was found guilty, I felt like a terrible person, like Myra Hindley. I thought people would be disgusted with me. But they understood, and that meant the world to me.

"The book is a response to that support, I thought people deserve to know the full story.

"I am just an ordinary person, mum first and teacher second. I think people wanted to stick up for me because that is what they saw.

"Teachers related to me because they deal with unruly youths who have no manners, who have no respect for themselves or others," she said, "They realised the pressure I was under."

She now works as a part-time cookery lecturer at Salford College.


Night of the shooting:

I was hardly dressed for a pursuit, wearing diamante flip-flops.

The idea flashed brighter. I was going to do it. Then they would know I was serious. I really didn't care any more. I walked back towards the house to get the guns.

In prison:

The mattresses are narrow and hard and no more than 1in thick. I can feel the metal strips of the bed through the mattress and notice how horrible it smells, very stale and unpleasant.

We had a tour of the rest of the `concentration camp' and went back through five locked gates in the high security fences to the reception and visiting area. Am I really that dangerous that I require to be locked up in somewhere like this?

Hunger strike:

My head is aching badly now, when I get out of bed I go dizzy and nearly fall over. What have I ever done to deserve this? Why would anyone want to separate me from my family or put us through this hell?

On release:

The boredom, the waste of precious time, the removal of free will is engraved in my consciousness forever. Life after prison is lived at a heightened state of awareness, with more appreciation of simple things that enrich a day, an hour, a minute. The relief of being out, of being free, is almost worth the incarceration.

`Yobs on the Doorstep: The Manchester Gun Teacher's Story' by Linda Walker (Guardian Angels Publications, pound;7.99). Available from August 21 at

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