His jailbird escapes earned him the nickname the Saughton Harrier.
However to those that knew him, William “Sonny” Leitch grew to become “the insurgent who discovered a trigger” earlier than his loss of life this 12 months.
Folks in Craigneuk, Wishaw, knew the 85-year-old because the reformed prisoner who used his lifetime of crime to attempt to deter native children from the identical destiny.
Leitch was born right into a revered household and he favored to inform individuals he earned his nickname throughout World Conflict II when the village was being shelled.
The teenager was curious and needed to be coaxed away from the dwell explosives with calls of “Sonny, sonny” by Lord Belhaven, whose ancestral seat was as soon as within the village.
In complete Leitch spent 34 years “on a tour” of Scottish prisons for convictions starting from automotive theft and severe assault to armed theft.
He’s gone down in historical past at Edinburgh’s Saughton jail as the person who scaled a wall and broke out of the seemingly inescapable fortress.
It was 1967 and Leitch was going by way of a divorce. He was determined to see his youngsters so he hatched a plan that was as ingenious because it was daring.
He found a bunch of runners, the Saughton Harriers, often skilled close to the jail and thought he might time his escape to once they handed exterior.
He scaled the 50ft wall in his prison-issue boilersuit, peeled it off to disclose monitor gear beneath and joined the Harriers.
His freedom didn’t final lengthy as he was quickly recaptured however his new title caught – he was now the Saughton Harrier.
His subsequent daring escape got here in 1981 when, upon listening to his father was significantly sick, he determined he was going to depart Craiginches jail in Aberdeen.
The one approach he might try this was by utilizing two planks of wooden to scale the wall however he didn’t financial institution on the 40ft drop on the opposite aspect.
Fortunately for him, his fall was cushioned by a rhubarb patch.
Different cons dubbed him Hazard Man for his escapades.
Maybe his thrill of escapes got here from his teenage previous when he determined to abandon the Royal Navy at 16 whereas his ship HMS Consort was docked in Sandakan, Borneo, so he might have a good time Hogmanay with the crewmates already ashore.
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He as soon as mentioned: “It was 1953, Hogmanay, and the remainder of the crew have been kind of ashore, and I believed, ‘Effectively, I’m not having it’, so I dived into the Sandakan river and swam to the alternative financial institution.’’
For six months, he lived with the Dayak tribe of northern Borneo, the place he lived on a weight loss program of monkey and snake earlier than he was captured and despatched to a navy jail in Kuala Lumpur.
There, deep within the jungle, Leitch got here up with a plan with 5 different inmates to flee.
He recalled how he was the primary to go over: “I pulled the grills off and received out into the camp. I used to be on the perimeter wire when the floodlights and every thing went on and the wire received shook about like a child’s rattle with Sten gun fireplace.
“They’d been tipped off there was an escape in progress.
“I wasn’t injured however I used to be like a spider caught to the fence. When there are bullets rattling about your ankles and there’s no place to go, you freeze.
“In order that was that, they put me right into a concrete bunker and left me there for 90 days. Wanting again, the concrete bunker is akin to a cell in Peterhead.”
When he lastly got here again to Scotland on the age of 21, his freedom was transient.
Allegations of automotive theft noticed him banged up in Barlinnie for 90 days.
He later mentioned: “After I went into Barlinnie you weren’t allowed to speak, you needed to converse out of the aspect of your mouth when on train and there have been screws at the moment saying, ‘Ah, you’re on the highway, you’re on the highway’.’’
That highway lasted till Leitch was 50, and a stint doing unlawful bare-knuckle preventing in Edinburgh to lift cash for soccer strips for youths and a day tea for pensioners confirmed him his future.
He realised his lifetime of crime might be put to good use and he devoted his time to volunteering at a youth centre in Craigneuk.
Leitch didn’t pull his punches with the youngsters who got here by way of the doorways and informed them about his jail life within the hope they’d see that the trail he had chosen was the mistaken one.
“At 50, I believed if I can do one thing with the filth of my life, then I can do one thing for these children,” he mentioned.
In April this 12 months, the Saughton Harrier and Hazard Man “crossed the bar” for the ultimate time, however he left his mark on jail historical past and, in his personal phrases, the “angels with soiled faces” he mentored over time.