Minister talks about his criminal past

Darrell Tunningley

Darrell Tunningley

First published in News Runcorn and Widnes World: Photograph of the Author by , Entertainment Reporter

A CONVICTED armed robber has transformed his life in prison.

Darrell Tunningley went from being a violent criminal, addict and drug dealer to becoming a Runcorn church minister.

The 35-year-old says if God can reach him, he can reach anybody.

He told youngsters in Knutsford last week: “I wasn’t quite the Antichrist but I wasn’t far off.”

Darrell founded Hope Corner Academy, in Clifton Road, Runcorn, the first church run special educational needs school in Halton.

It’s a long way from his own turbulent childhood.

At 11, growing up in Yorkshire, he stole cars, smoked cannabis and drank heavily.

The father-of-two said: “One high would lead to the next and whatever drug we were taking we were selling. Ecstasy, cocaine, LSD, amphetamine.”

Darrell graduated to heroine and earned thousands, importing drugs.

He said: “When somebody came to me and said do you want to be involved in an armed robbery, it was purely through my own greed that I said yes.”

Jailed for the robbery in 1997, he recalled: “I thought I don’t care if I live or die so I went looking for trouble.”

He assaulted a prison officer but an introduction course to Christianity made him question his life.

When Darrell went back to his cell and prayed.

He told God: ‘I need you to take away the violence, the anger, the bitterness, the hate, the resentment, the guilt, the addiction, everything that’s ripping me apart inside.”

The next morning he ditched his drugs and said he felt an overwhelming sense of joy.

He added: “The chaplain said the man who went to bed last night is not the same man who is standing here this morning. You’re a new creation. As soon as he said it I started crying.”

Darrell has shared his inspirational story on BBC’s Inside Out, addressed 4,500 people in the Royal Albert Hall and gives talks at prisons and churches.

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