“Kill Switch”, Bill Shaw, Headline, ISBN: 9780755362479

Most people believe in justice: in that wrongdoing must be punished and that good deeds should somehow be rewarded. So what happens to a person when that ‘cosmic’ law is  broken and the system collapses?

Bill Shaw’s account of his wrongful arrest is a record of his survival in three of  Afghanistan’s most notorious prisons whilst awaiting trial. What is incredible is that Shaw never even had the certainty of light at the end of the tunnel. Seemingly, never given a straight answer Shaw had little or no idea when his court case would be heard and whether it would be dealt with to anywhere near the professional standards of the British justice system.

Although Shaw had a distinguished career in the Royal Military Police (RHP) capped with an MBE, as a member of G4S he was at the mercy of the British Embassy and worse still, the prison commandant. Shaw’s story isn’t so much a tale of struggle against  authority but more against what it’s like to be permanently fluctuating between fear and
confusion. The background however, is flavoured with the diabolical and inhuman conditions under which prisoners are held in Afghanistan (many of whom without proper legal representation).

Digging deep
There’s no question that Shaw had to dig deep every single day to get through his horrific ordeal. Reflecting on his tough childhood in Salford and looking back warmly on his Military career had clearly taught him many lessons about strength and standards and about how to deal with a life led outside of the comfort zone.

Fortunately, karma wasn’t completely lacking and hundreds of people came forward from Shaw’s past to offer their support and more names to the petitioning process aimed at getting help from Downing Street. He’s also lucky to have such a close knit and plucky family that never gave up hope and never let their heads drop. Perhaps, without them and
the letters that trickled into his vermin infested cell he might have eventually lost nerve and heart.

Bill Shaw shows the kind of resilience that all of us would like to believe we would have if we ever needed it. Incarceration was not something that Shaw wanted to buy himself out of with a bribe. Knowing his innocence and proving it were two different things of course, but Shaw continued to push for a full acquittal. Sometimes pride is a strength and not a flaw. In Bill Shaw’s case it was the difference between keeping his head above water and going under.

‘Kill Switch’ is one of the best memoirs I’ve read in years. It’s a great mixture of gut  wrenching hopelessness and real courage.