Under cover

One slip-up and you're dead - a year with a secret camera masquerading as a night club bouncer taught Donald/Tony a lot about body-building, violence, drug-dealing. And naked fear - his own. By Rosie Millard

Donal McIntyre is a non-smoking, sharply dressed television journalist who has just taken an MA at City University. He is 29 years old, and a former canoeist for Ireland. But for the last 12 months, Donal McIntyre has not existed. Instead, meet Tony Hearns, 29 years old and an avid weight- lifter. Tony is a Shogun-driving, Marlboro-smoking bouncer working in the violent heart of Nottingham's drug-dealing door business. At least, he was until last week.

Everyone knew Tony. He was a mate; they called him "Toe". A bit of a daft Paddy, but all right. His hair was sufficiently short, his language convincingly bad, his reading habits reassuringly tabloid. He hated students and posh people like a proper bouncer should, and he seemed as if he was into drugs like the rest of them.

Toe trained in the gym with Nottingham's most infamous drug-dealer and doorman, 20-stone Wayne Hardy. It was his seal of approval. The only small problem with Toe was that as well as working on the doors he was working for ITV's World In Action. Under his shiny Everlast bomber jacket he was wearing a concealed camera, with which, in the last year, he has shot more than 200 hours of material: evidence sufficient to blast Wayne, his entire gang and the myth of the honest bouncer to kingdom come.

"It wasn't just a case of following these bouncers, and getting friendly with them," says McIntyre. "I had to become one of them. We chose Nottingham because it is perceived as a normal city - it hasn't got the gun culture of Liverpool or Manchester - yet the violence and drug-dealing are almost as serious."

A flat was rented for "Tony Hearns". It was carefully chosen. Not too flash, but not too down-at-heel, either. McIntyre cut his hair and abandoned all his normal clothes. He swapped his suits and Gap shirts for pounds 150 Oakley shades, black jeans, and a black jacket. "It's a uniform, like the City," he says.

The office was the gym, a place where bouncers do their day-work, and where Wayne held court. "I knew I had to befriend Wayne. He was at the centre of the ring. And it was in the gym. The whole body culture thing with bouncers is astonishing; it's outrageously heterosexual, but with an intense `body beautiful' feel to it. Everything depends on how big your muscles are."

As a former international canoeist, McIntyre was familiar with working out; he was fit, and looked the part. "But I was nothing compared to these 18-stone bouncers. They were enormous."

Slowly, with a mixture of flattery ("I told them how huge they were, made them feel good about themselves") and feigned enthusiasm for the job, McIntyre entered Wayne's world. He discovered a cash-run universe of muscle-enhancing steroids, drug-taking, theft and violence, a world where you boasted about hit-and-run jobs, and how well you beat up your girlfriends. If you were unlucky enough to have been inside for a spell, you boasted about how you beat up your fellow prisoners.

McIntyre and his camera became privy to everything, from drugs deals to tips on how to do damage to a punter in a club: "You partially strangle them. If they call the cops, you're in the clear. The bruises don't come up for two hours." McIntyre shrugs. "People think if their kids go out, the bouncers will keep an eye on everything. But they're the main offenders."

To get work on the doors, McIntyre had to be convincing. "My Irish accent was a blessing; no one could tell what area or class I was from. If anyone asked me what I did before, I'd say I'd worked in security. Bodyguarding, that kind of thing. It worked.

It was like a signpost saying I was up for dodgy business."

But the strain was enormous. Over the past 12 months McIntyre calculates he exchanged upwards of 3 million words with Wayne and his mates. "If I had got four or five of them wrong in succession, at a time when it mattered, that would have been it. I would have been very seriously hurt." His brother Tadhg, a psychologist, has helped him cope with the stress involved in undercover work. He went through intense self-assessment programmes.

"They revealed I was using what's called Formula One concentration. It's the sort of mind-set Damon Hill has in a race. Your whole mind is focused on not getting it wrong. If you mess up for one second, the consequences are dire."

He developed some useful tricks, such as drinking from dark bottles. "I could pretend I'd finished, when the bottle was still completely full. There was no way I wanted to get drunk. I also took up smoking. Smoking is a great thing; it keeps people away from your body. I think it's a kind of Neanderthal fear of fire; if you wave a fag around, people keep away from you." Useful if you are concealing a camera.

There were still some bad moments. One day someone slapped him on the back and felt the camera. "He shouted out `Hey, Toe, what the hell's that?' I just said that I'd hurt my back in the gym, and I was wearing a support. Fortunately he believed me."

McIntyre got close to Wayne. "I was his protege, and I became his best friend, even his counsellor. He used to fantasise about beating up his girlfriend, and I'd talk him round. I wasn't going to be complicit to violence, so I used to talk him out of it. We got very close."

After a year working within the gang, and six months on the doors, it was time. "When I finally walked up to Wayne, surrounded by a Granada camera crew, it was like confronting your nemesis. I could see him struggling to recognise me. I was clean-shaven; I was in a suit, I had a tie on. As far as he was concerned I could have been wearing women's clothes. He gasped, in fact he almost laughed. He put his head in his hands, but you could see the thoughts running through his head. Here was Wayne, the big-time drug dealer, tripped up by the dumb Paddy he trained with in the gym."

Since then all hell has broken loose in Nottingham. Wayne has fled town and scores of bouncers have been dismissed; McIntyre is lying low, delighted to have abandoned his alter ego, although he has opted for a couple of counselling sessions to help him cope with the aftermath of Tony Hearns. "I won't miss him, and I won't miss the people I lived with for 12 months. I never liked them. I never liked their world. They were walking chemical warheads, souped up on steroids and drugs and human growth hormones."

Yet memories of Wayne's world will probably never leave him. "It's a parallel universe from the one I was used to. People treat you like you're another species. They blank you. A punter in a club said to me once, `You're just a doorman. You'll never be anything else. You're a nobody.'" McIntyre pauses. "But the club did tell me I was the most polite doorman they'd ever employed"n

The second part of Donal McIntyre's `World in Action' investigation will be broadcast on ITV at 8pm tonight.

Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
News
peoplePamela Anderson rejects ice bucket challenge because of ALS experiments on animals
Arts and Entertainment
tvExecutive says content is not 'without any purpose'
News
A cleaner prepares the red carpet for the opening night during the 59th International Cannes Film Festival May 17, 2006 in Cannes, France.
newsPowerful vacuum cleaners to be banned under EU regulations
News
newsChester Zoo have revealed their newest members
Sport
sportLeague Managers' Association had described Malky Mackay texts as 'friendly banter'
Arts and Entertainment
tvSpielberg involved in bringing his 2002 film to the small screen
News
peopleCareer spanned 70 years, including work with Holocaust survivors
News
people
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Hydrographic Survey Manager

    £40000 - £50000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

    Structural Engineer

    Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Structural Engineer Job...

    Generalist HR Administrator, Tunbridge Wells, Kent - £28,000.

    £25000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Generalist HR Administrator - Tunbri...

    Head of IT (Not-for-Profit sector) - East Sussex

    £45000 - £50000 per annum + 5 weeks holiday & benefits: Ashdown Group: Head of...

    Day In a Page

    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
    Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

    Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

    A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
    Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

    Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

    Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
    Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

    Nick Clegg the movie

    Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
    Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

    Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

    Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
    Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

    Waxing lyrical

    Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
    Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

    Revealed (to the minute)

    The precise time when impressionism was born
    From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

    Make the most of British tomatoes

    The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
    10 best men's skincare products

    Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

    Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
    Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

    Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

    The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
    La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

    Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

    Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape