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.

Alan Bennett has criticised the “repellent” reality shows which dominate our screens
tvBut he does like Stewart Lee
Life and Style
The Google Doodle celebrating the start of the first day of autumn, 2014.
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
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
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, left, with her daughter, Bristol
newsShe's 'proud' of eldest daughter, who 'punched host in the face'
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Life and Style
food + drink
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Pharmaceutical Computer System Validation Specialist

    £300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...

    High Level Teaching Assistant (HTLA)

    £70 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Higher Level Teaching Assist...

    Teaching Assistant

    £50 - £80 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Randstad Education is the UK...

    Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

    £400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

    Day In a Page

    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits