HE was one of Wrexham’s most notorious characters who it could be said treated court appearances as an occupational hazard.
Then Mark Prandle, now 51, received a heartfelt letter from his estranged daughter and since he has been completely clean of drugs for almost a year and kept out of trouble, gained employment, accommodation, and is enjoying life as a grandfather.
He has thanked his family for reaching out to him, town centre police constable Dave Bates for his support, never giving up through his addiction problems, despite a lengthy criminal record racked up over more than a decade.
Wrexham born and bred, Mark served in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers on leaving school but admits he struggled after leaving the forces in the 1990s.
He said: “It all started when I came out of the army.
“I was on standby for the first Gulf War in Iraq and came home in November 1991, met a girl, now my ex-wife, and had three kids.
“We were married for eight years when I was kicked out of the family home for taking drugs, this would have been about 1999, 2000.
“I then had a nervous breakdown and that was when I really hit the drugs and became a heroin addict. Probably from about the middle of 2000 I spiralled out of control.
”I had properties in Crescent Road and Hightown, but they became crack houses and when I got evicted, I started begging on the streets of Wrexham and Chester.”
During the next decade and a half, Mark became well-known on the streets of Wrexham to members of the public and police officers for his prolific begging and anti-social behaviour.
In 2015 the police received a public backlash when Mark was given a Criminal Behaviour Order (CBO) which banned him from entering Wrexham town centre, with many feeling he should have been given support rather than being criminalised.
But Mark says he is appreciative for what the police did as it led him towards the path to recovery.
Through working with various rehabilitation agencies and with PC Dave Bates speaking on his behalf at the magistrates court, Mark has become the first person in North Wales to have a CBO revoked.
Mark credits PC Bates with being key to his rehabilitation.
He said: “Constable Dave Bates sent me to jail eight times in five years from about 2012 onwards and I had that Criminal Behaviour Order.”
“The last time he sent me to jail he did me a favour. I remember this so clearly – on
September 9, at 10.15am last year, I was sat in my cell at Altcourse in Liverpool when I received a letter from my daughter Jessica saying she has a little boy called Troy and she wanted me to see him.
“At 10.20am when I finished reading it, I just decided to refrain from taking drugs from that moment on.
“I snapped off from even taking methadone, against doctor’s advice, but I’ve been drug free ever since.”
PC Bates said Mark had looked him in the eye on numerous occasions, shook him by the hand and say he wanted to turn his life around, but only on the last occasion did he really believe him.
“I’ve known Mark for about 15 years”, PC Bates said.
“He’s always been polite and I’ve always been of the opinion when I’m working to try and do a good deed rather than a bad one, and make a positive change to someone’s life.
“Last year Mark was probably at rock bottom and we had come under a lot of fire from the public and in the press about Mark being given a CBO as he was ex-military.
“I’m ex-military too, but there is certain behaviour you cannot ignore and with Mark we had to look at enforcement.
“The belief I had in Mark though, and the belief I have in him now, is what led me to go to court and help get the order revoked.”
Mark is now living in Coedpoeth and is helping on the construction of the new homes for ex-servicemen on Croesnewydd Road, which he anticipates will lead to permanent employment.
He spoke proudly of his son Cial who has also served in the Royal Welsh and undertaken tours of Afghanistan.
And Mark also had advice for others struggling with addiction and part of Wrexham’s well-documented anti-social behaviour problems, caused by legal highs.
He said: “All my children have come back into my life now and I have grandchildren.
“You have got to make a conscious decision to stay off drugs and just do it. You’ve just got to say no.
“There’s no in-between, you can’t dabble in drugs and just take what you want when you want, you get addicted.
“I see all these kids in town now on mamba, and what it does to them, and I feel sorry for them. Mamba should be banned, it’s not as bad as heroin but it is so hard to come off.
“One of my best friends takes it and I just want to get him help.”
He added: “But that is it for me now, I will never ever take drugs again.”