Brixton boy went from life of crime to Prince Harry’s inner circle

Brixton boy went from life of crime to Prince Harry’s inner circle

They were clear from the start that their wedding would be about ‘real people’ rather than diplomats and dignitaries.

And Prince Harry and Meghan Markle couldn’t get any more ‘real’ than Karl Lokko, a former gang leader who has been shot at, stabbed and seen a friend killed – all by the age of 16.

Now a devout Christian who works as a youth community activist, Mr Lokko has forged a remarkable secret friendship with Harry which has seen him secure a coveted invitation to the wedding.

More than that, the 27-year-old is now part of the prince’s inner circle of friends and trusted advisers, although he is far too discreet to have ever commented on it.

One of the only clues to this under-the-radar friendship was when Harry interviewed Mr Lokko, of South London, as part of his guest editorship of Radio 4’s Today programme last year.

Former gang member Karl Lokko as a teenager holding the replica firearm. Mr Lokko was once  head of a 40-strong crew who called themselves MAD – ‘Mayhem And Disaster’

Former gang leader Karl Lokko with Prince Harry in October 2014. The pair are said to be in frequent contact after becoming friends 

A source said: ‘He may be a boy from Brixton but he has become a really good friend of Harry through their shared passion for youth work and music.

‘The prince trusts him implicitly and Karl is now on speed dial on Harry’s phone. They regularly text, speak and meet up. Harry thinks he is inspirational.’

Mr Lokko grew up on the gang-ridden Myatts Field estate where he saw his first shooting at the age of 12, an experience he describes as ‘traumatic’.

‘Four years on, I was heavily involved in gangs,’ he wrote in The Guardian last month.

‘By the age of 16 I had been shot at, cut on the face and stabbed in the chest, and one of my best friends had been killed, just a couple of days before our GCSE exams. I had strayed completely off the path my parents had intended for me.

‘Criminal activity was an everyday thing: I would be armed on my way to the local chicken shop with friends. The radical change in my personal identity was alarming even to me. I would sometimes reflect on how far removed I had become from my previous morals.’

Mr Lokko is open about the fact that, despite seeing one of his best friends stabbed to death in 2006, he himself became a gang leader who was ‘permanently armed’, first with knives, then guns.

He headed a 40-strong crew who called themselves MAD – ‘Mayhem And Disaster’.

He has said: ‘I believed it was kill or be killed, I believed drug-dealing was an acceptable way to make a living, I believed a council estate was my territory and the end of my world; I believed there was no hope.

‘I didn’t come into the world with the intent to join a gang. But after being attacked on several occasions, I had a stark choice to make: Either I remained a victim or took up power in my own way.’

Mr Lokko eventually joined one of the most feared and violent gangs in the Brixton area and remembers a summer in which the group ‘ran riot, mugging people for phones, selling drugs, stealing cars, joy-riding’.

He scraped through his GCSEs – passing four – but was kicked out of sixth form college on his first day and became further embroiled in gang life.

He was saved by a neighbour, pastor Mimi Asher, who was desperate to remove her son Michael from the lifestyle of crime.

Former gang leader Karl Lokko and Princess Beatrice. Mr Lokko was once a gang leader who has been stabbed but he is now a devout Christian and campaigner

She said she had been extremely wary of 6ft 5in Mr Lokko when the police warned her he and her son were both major members of a criminal gang. Remarkably, she opened her home to her son’s gangland friends and attempted to help them see the error of their ways through friendship, counselling and the Bible.

It wasn’t all plain sailing – Mr Lokko was shot at outside her home, with the bullet going through her front door – but he is now, ten years on, a changed man and an inspirational figure.

‘She… led me to denounce my gang involvement and turn my life around. I was able to claim back my true identity and strive towards excellence,’ he says.

Ex-soldier smashes bike record to get to the chapel on time

A former special forces soldier told yesterday how he raced across two continents on a push bike in world record time to make it home for the royal wedding.

Dean Stott was on day 70 of a gruelling 14,000-mile, pan-American challenge from Argentina to Alaska when wife Alana, 35, called to say an invitation had come through the post. It left the 40-year-old, who became friends with Prince Harry in the Army in 2007, needing to finish the charity ride within 32 days to make it back home in time for tomorrow’s ceremony.

Speaking after landing at Heathrow yesterday, he said: ‘You couldn’t write it. When I set off I wasn’t aware I was going to the wedding. In my head I was like, “I’ve got a bit of time if I want to have a rest on the odd day”, but that was all taken away when my wife rang and said, “we’ve been invited to the wedding”.’

The extra push helped him finish in less than 100 days – smashing the Pan-American Highway World Record by 18 days.

‘It was the pressure of finishing it in time for the wedding,’ he said. ‘My wife would probably divorce me if I didn’t do it. I was honoured to receive the invitattion. Even now I still haven’t really taken it in.’

Mr Stott is hoping his ride will raise £1million for the Heads Together campaign launched by Harry and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in a bid to end the stigma around mental health.

Mr Lokko volunteers with the charity Youth In Action and offers other young people mentoring and support. He is involved in music, recently supporting hip-hop singer Plan B, while he also describes himself as a poet and public speaker.

Mr Lokko came from a hard-working home – his father worked in security while his mother was a nurse.

His crew made headlines for posting a provocative picture on the internet of themselves posing with guns.

Former gang leader Karl Lokko outside 10 Downing Street

He later told the London Evening Standard: ‘I was apprehended at school and ordered to hand over the gun.

‘The police believed it was a real gun, but it was a replica and I got a caution. Other gangs, though, got the impression that we had a real live pump-action shotgun and suddenly we had big status.’

The community worker, who has met Princess Beatrice through the Virgin Strive fundraising challenge, says in South London he is now known as Mary Poppins, constantly popping up to help troubled youngsters.

Mr Lokko and his wife, Cassandra, whom he married in 2016, are now expecting their first child.

Heavily pregnant Cassy will be at his side tomorrow in St George’s Chapel and, afterwards, at the Queen’s reception at Windsor Castle.

Mr Lokko says: ‘I am proof that, with the right support, lives can be turned around.’ Clearly, Prince Harry agrees. 

Harry and Meghan look relaxed as they leave Windsor Castle following wedding rehearsal with the Queen – hours after bride-to-be revealed her sadness at her sick father missing the big day

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry have been pictured leaving Windsor Castle after a wedding rehearsal – just hours after the former actress was forced to confirm that her father would not walk her down the aisle.

The American actress smiled as she arrived while her royal fiance looked far more serious. She is said to be privately ‘tearful and embarrassed’ about the chaos her father Thomas Markle has caused.

The couple’s Range Rover was escorted by police as they sped past crowds of well-wishers and up the famous Long Walk to oversee the last preparations for their wedding day.

They also had tea with the Queen who travelled from Buckingham Palace to take part in the dry-run ceremony.

Harry’s brother William and his wife Kate were also seen leaving Kensington Palace for Windsor ahead of rehearsals this afternoon, which saw soldiers and an Ascot carriage parade along the planned route of the procession.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle leaving Windsor Castle on Thursday as the royals took part in wedding rehearsals 

Meghan Markle released a statement over her father’s absence from her wedding to Prince Harry on Thursday after he suffered a heart attack

Meghan’s mother Doria Ragland, who is set to give her daughter away in her father’s absence, has been taken on a 24-hour royal whirlwind, having tea with Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall yesterday and meeting the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their children, Prince George and Princess Charlotte, at Windsor today.

Buckingham Palace confirmed that Doria, 62, will meet the Queen on Friday, with Prince Harry and Ms Markle also set to attend.

MailOnline understands the tea party at Clarence House yesterday was ‘very jolly’ and Charles and Camilla got on ‘extremely well’ with Doria, who is staying at Kensington Palace until Friday.

I’ll be watching on the telly, says Theresa 

Theresa May is looking forward to watching the royal wedding, Downing Street said yesterday.

For security reasons, it is not known whether she will attend a wedding party or watch the event at home on television.

But a Downing Street spokesman said the Prime Minister would be watching Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s big day live, adding: ‘She is definitely planning to watch it.’

By contrast, Jeremy Corbyn is too busy, it has been reported.

The Labour leader, who is a lifelong republican, has wished Harry and Meghan well, but a Labour spokesman confirmed he would not watch the event live.

Instead, he will be speaking at a ‘state of the economy’ conference organised by Labour.

The spokesman said: ‘He wishes them all the best and he is a particular admirer of the work Prince Harry and Prince William have done in relation to mental health issues.’

On Wednesday, Mrs May – who has yet to meet Miss Markle – praised Prince Harry for his ‘tireless wo

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