Exclusive: Jailed Norwich boxer Herbie Hide tells of his regrets after drugs sting
PUBLISHED: 11:08 30 November 2013 | UPDATED: 11:38 30 November 2013
Former world heavyweight boxing champion Herbie Hide said he “regrets” getting involved in a national newspaper “sting” but has vowed he will “come through” his prison sentence after he admitted conspiracy to supply class A drugs.
‘How other people see me’ – Herbie Hide
Hide said: “It’s been hard for me. It’s not been easy. I would go to press conferences and be told to say things and do things. I did these things to sell tickets but it was taken the wrong way.
“People never understood that all that was just an act –people always take things the wrong way.
“From day one, being a young black kid coming up here having all that money and doing things... people had that image of me and views all wrong of me.
“People say, if they get to meet me, they say ‘you’re not what I thought you were’ but from them I realised what other people’s views about me were.”
He added: “I do get people say you’re not as bad as I thought. They are all nice to me. “No-one would come up to me and tell me what they think of me – they say nice things about me.”
Hide added he has been misunderstood in the past – particularly when making a name for himself in the city as well as the ring.
He said: “I never had a girlfriend until I was 18 – I was quite shy and quite naive. When you guys saw me at 19/20 I was a kid living my youth.
“The difference was I had £2 to £3m in the bank and was in the public eye.
“Everyone gets to have their youth, I was having my youth.”
The 42-year-old former two-time heavyweight champion of the world had denied the offence, which happened between January 29 and February 2 last year, but dramatically changed his plea at the start of his trial last month.
Hide had been arrested after being filmed by undercover Sun newspaper reporters, including Mazher Mahmood, dubbed the “Fake Sheik”, who were seeking to expose that he was prepared to fix fights for money. He was yesterday sentenced to 22 months imprisonment at Cambridge Crown Court.
But the former fighter, who admitted the offence on the basis he was “entrapped” and pressured into providing a number for his co-defendant Ben Sharman who supplied the drugs, has vowed to take his punishment on the chin.
Speaking ahead of yesterday’s sentencing from his Bawburgh mansion, Hide said he regretted what happened but would serve his punishment and come through it.
He said: “Of course I regret it, I’ve never been involved in that kind of thing before and never will be again. Its not really what I do. Never again.
“From day one I realised what I faced. I’m going to come through, it doesn’t make any difference – I’m not going to die.
“I spoke to my promoter and he said ‘take it on the chin like a man, you’ve got your legacy’.”
The Norwich boxer maintained he thought the deal being offered by the men who appeared at his door – and turned out to be undercover reporters for the Sun – was legitimate and said he only gave out the number because he was under pressure.
He said: “They came to me pretending to be something else and spent time with me just to get a number.
“All through my life I was brought up, coming to England, being a professional boxer with smart white men with suits so have been guided by that. I felt secure by them. If ever I had thought they were dodgy – if they were hoodies – they wouldn’t have been allowed through my gate.
“These people came up to me with this image and spent two weeks here to get me to do things I wouldn’t normally do.
“But they spent two-and-a-half weeks here offering me things, driving me around in a limo, pressuring me just to get a number of where they could buy cocaine.
“How they made it to me, it was like they set up a business idea for me. They put it in a way that was perfect; it was going through but in the meantime they said ‘could you get me a number for people who does this’. I said ‘I don’t really do these things’ and they said ‘try hard’.
“I believed they were doing the right thing – that they were doing the positive thing. That’s why I let them in and they used it all the way through. I still don’t believe it. I was calling them on the phone saying ‘what’s going on?’”
The court heard yesterday from Adam Budworth, mitigating, that Hide was a “Jekyll and Hyde” character whose public persona was very different to the “shy”, “vulnerable” man who was “entrapped” by the Sun and its employees who pursued him in a “relentless fashion”.
He said: “I’m not here to criticise the paper for its conduct but it has to be said this is not a case where the Sun or its associates have in any way unearthed a massive conspiracy.”
Mr Budworth said the cocaine supplied was just 0.1498gms and had less than 10pc purity.
He said: “This is not a case of crime fighting or exposing a criminal, this was a case of selling newspapers and nothing else.”
He added: “Mr Hide was entrapped into this offence. He did not instigate it. The first person to use the word cocaine was Mr Mahmood. It was not a case of Mr Hide saying ‘would you like some cocaine?’.”
Hide, who appeared in a blue shirt and had been in custody since Thursday after breaching his bail conditions, broke down in the dock as his adoptive father Alan Hide was called as a character witness and described how close Hide had been to his brother Alan Junior, who lost his battle with leukaemia, and how he was a “wonderful young man” who would “give his last penny to people if he thought it would help”.
Earlier Chris Youell, prosecuting, said: “The whole thing comes about because of the interest shown by journalists in Mr Hide, in particular because of his local, and to some extent, his national celebrity because of his success in the sporting arena.”
Mr Youell said a meeting was set up between Hide, undercover reporter Mr Mahmood, who was dressed as an Arab, and an associate at Sprowston Manor hotel on January 31. The meeting, which lasted about an hour was covertly recorded and towards the end, featured discussion about cocaine.
Mr Youell said Mr Mahmood was talking about the “lack of availability of good quality cocaine in the Norwich area”.
But Hide, Mr Youell said, offered that there “was cocaine available and he could get some”.
The court heard that Hide made contact with Sharman who later took the drugs to the hotel.
Mr Youell said Mr Mahmood took pictures of texts he received from Hide and Sharman.
Sentencing Hide, who has eight previous convictions for other offences, Judge Mark Lucraft said he had played a “significant role” motivated by “financial advantage” and but for the “sting” element could have been looking at a starting point of three years. Hide’s co-defendant, Sharman, 22, of Howe Lane, Poringland, had previously admitted conspiracy to supply class A drugs, offering to supply class A drugs and offering to supply a class B drug.
Sharman, who also admitted a burglary at the UEA and asked for seven other matters to be taken into consideration, was jailed for a total of 20 months.
John Farmer, mitigating, said his client, who had entered guilty pleas to the offences, played a “lesser role” adding that the drugs offences were “not of his own initiative”.
In terms of the burglary at the UEA lab Mr Farmer said it was “not specifically targeted”, adding the items taken were not particularly high value.