Reformed Harlesden gangster now making millions the legal way pens a rags-to-riches memoir
PUBLISHED: 10:23 22 May 2019 | UPDATED: 10:23 22 May 2019
By the time he was 11, PJ Murray had a conviction for possessing a firearm.
Now 53, he has become a multi-millionaire entrepreneur - again - who has penned and published Self-Made, an honest and incredibly raw memoir of his experiences.
He hopes the book reaches youngsters and shows them a "bigger, brighter, better way" of making money than through crime - something he knows about only too well.
His rags-to-riches rollercoaster of a tale charts his underprivileged childhood in Harlesden and the decade-long cycle of criminality and incarceration that followed.
It chronicles abuse in the care system, police brutality, racism, and the heartbreaking consequences of becoming a dad at 14.
The youngest of five children, PJ was given the biblical names Peter and John by nurses at the Central Middlesex Hospital.
He hero-worshipped his older brother and by the age of seven made a conscious decision to become a juvenile gangster.
Following his conviction for firearm possession he was placed into state care where he "experienced all sorts of abuse - racial, physical, psyschological, sexual abuse".
He went on to pick up conviction after conviction for theft and robbery, moving from care home to correction unit to prison.
He was stabbed, almost dying, but in his book he tells readers even that was a revenge attack for slashing another boy's cheek.
"I didn't care," he remembers.
By the age of 21 he had turned his back on crime, using his time in prison to read and do courses, having seen a friend make a conscious decision to lead a law abiding life.
PJ had become a "self-confessed yuppie" with a talent selling financial services.
He was "making a mint" by his 21st birthday - as reported by the Willesden and Brent Chronicle, a sister title of this paper, in 1987 - three years after his release from prison.
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"That transformation was almost overnight," he said, "but it was because I was prepared to abandon criminality and burn my bridges and invest all of me into a new way of life."
But later, he admits, he "fell from grace": he became caught up as a chief suspect in a murder investigation, fell foul of "black magic" on a trip to Jamaica and went on a "demonic" pursuit of fire-arms on his return.
In the last decade, however, he has founded a new, successful company helping clients with insolvency and legal issues, and has set up a charity so he can "give back" some of his undisclosed profits.
PJM Trust was set up in 2009 and supports a number of charities including Stonebridge-based Brent Family Support Project, providing families with counselling services, befriending, hospital and prison visits and social evenings.
He has physically removed himself from his criminal past to a £2m home in Buckinghamshire, his children have been privately educated - a stark contrast to his lack of schooling - and he owns a fleet of luxury cars.
The bill for his 50th birthday celebrations came to more than £100,000.
"Coming from where I'm coming from, if you think of my childhood, it's always looking for areas to exploit and make something from nothing," he said. "I've developed a knack of making something from nothing.
"I can see a business model and I can copy it and make it better."
He believes the same skills needed to pickpocket are what he has transferred to a life "no longer looking over my shoulder".
"The book is being read by a lot of women between 35 and 50 who then get their sons, nephews and neighbours to read it," he said.
"I really want to speak to the young generation, young black men in particular. Young people today are missing a trick. They can be so enterprising.
"The entrepreneurial ability, skill and prowess that they've got - [if they] employ that for a legitimate purpose in a legitimate way, they will be tremendously successful.
"And the younger you start, the better it is."
He added: "I always wanted to share my life with others because I'm absolutely certain they will be touched, uplifted and hopefully redirected to bigger, brighter and better things.
"That's what books did to me growing up."
PJ Murray was recently interviewed on Chalkhill Community Radio by Let's Talk Show host Patricia Wharton. To listen, visit soundcloud.com/user-762461622