BB Darnell: Mum feared for his life

GALLERY Big Brother housemate Darnell Swallow's mother today told of her fears that her only son would kill himself when he was deported to the UK.

BIG Brother housemate Darnell Swallow's mother today told of her fears that her only son would kill himself when he was deported to the UK.

Ipswich-born Darnell was kicked out of the US after he was convicted of drugs offences and mum Bernadette Mathis was terrified that a forced return to England would be too much for him to handle.

“When he got deported I was seriously wondering if he was going to get over there and just jump off a bridge because he didn't have anywhere to stay or know anyone,” she said.

“I just didn't think he was going to make it.”

Mrs Mathis, an intensive care unit nurse who lives five miles outside of St Louis, Missouri, spoke of her pride that her son had made a new life for himself in the UK and had been reunited with his friends in Ipswich.

But she hit out at the US authorities for “overreacting” by deporting him, insisting he was not a "gangster".

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She said: “They treated him like he was Bin Laden.

“He did wrong but deporting him was still overkill.

“Yeah he was deported but what they don't look at is that he is my only son, I've got two girls and him. It doesn't matter what happens to me, he can never come over.

“My daughter just had a baby, he'll probably never see it.

“I've got kids in college, you can't just drop a couple of thou (thousand dollars) to go and see him."

Darnell, a 26-year-old albino who works as a songwriter and youth mentor, arrived back in the UK just before Christmas 2006 after the US revoked his green card when he broke his probation linked to the drugs conviction.

He left behind his mum and two sisters, Sharice, 19, and Patrice, 17, to return to the country he had left as a six-year-old.

He settled in London but returned to Ipswich to stay with friends from his childhood when he was a student at Ranelagh Primary School.

He had only been back to the town a couple of times since his mum met and married her first husband, a US serviceman, and the family moved to Italy for four years before being posted back to the US.

They first settled in North Dakota - where Darnell was later arrested on drugs offences - before relocating to St Louis.

In the house Darnell admitted to housemates about his chequered past.

He told them: “Damn, I have a past that none of you know. I've been to jail, man.”

Despite his rocky past few years, Ipswich-born Mrs Mathis said she had been filled with pride in watching her son's progress in the BB house over the internet.

“It's cool that he's in the house but it's kind of hard when people say nasty things about your kid,” the 43-year-old said.

“He's going good. I'm proud of him.

“When I go to work I put it on the internet for all my friends.

“His sisters are tickled pink but they get annoyed too when people say nasty things about their brother.

“He's over there, he's been doing his little things at the studio and making songs and he's real happy. He just keeps getting stronger."

Mrs Mathis, a former Stoke Park High School pupil, now lives with her second husband, Ryan Mathis, but constantly battles with being separated from her only son.

She harbours harsh criticism for the US government's decision to deport Darnell.

She said he was originally arrested for possession of marijuana in North Dakota but got into trouble again when he failed to complete a 200-hour community sentence after moving to Minneapolis.

"How do you go from getting 200 hours community service, which is a slap on the wrist, to being deported for life?," she said.

"The only reason that happened was because he was a British citizen and because he had turned 18 and his green card had expired.

"If I had made him an American citizen when I got over there it would never have been an issue.

"He's not a gangster - he only got community service. It's not like he molested kids. Not that drugs aren't bad, but they acted like he was done for attempted murder."

Mrs Mathis, who speaks with a strong American accent despite her English upbringing, fondly remembers her days in Ipswich and still has friends in the town.

“I was born in Hayes, Middlesex where my dad lived but when we were kids, me, my mum and my sisters moved to Ipswich.

“We used to live in Hood Road in Greenwich. Then my mum got a townhouse in Stoke Park, then when I was 16 I had Darnell.

“I was about 23 or 24 when I got married.”

She also spoke of Darnell's fighting spirit - a character trait she believes will help him in the house - which she said he has had throughout his life.

She told how he spent the first few months of his life in Ipswich Hospital after being born premature.

Mrs Mathis recalled: “He was a little bitty baby. He was in the hospital for a couple of months but they got him through.”

DARNELL Swallow had no intention of going on Big Brother when he was plucked out of obscurity to appear on the reality TV show.

The 26-year-old singleton, who was this week fourth favourite to win according to one online bookie, was actually going to the BB studios to support a friend who desperately wanted to be on the show and was then spotted in the crowd because of his unusual looks and 6ft stature.

His proud mum Bernadette Mathis said: “A friend said 'Darnell come with me and stand outside the studio', then they saw Darnell and they called him to come in and interview.

“He would call me and say 'they've called me again'. Then they called me too to let me know he was in the house.”

And rather than being eager for his shot at celebrity, the house's very own rapper was actually apprehensive about how his fellow housemates and the general public would react to him as an albino.

“He said 'I don't want the whole world to know I can't see',” Mrs Mathis said.

Earlier this month The Evening Star revealed Darnell is related to former Ipswich Town star Jason Dozzell.

Dozzell, a former England under 21 international, is the half-brother of Darnell's dad Tony Swallow.

Speaking to the Star after Darnell's June 5 entry into the house, the 40-year-old former football ace, said: “He's a lovely lad. He's very intelligent and smart and he's friendly. We wish him the best and we're all hoping he's going to win."

And Darnell's friends in the UK have also been impressed with his talent in the studio.

Tammy Kersey, one of Darnell's mum's best friends who lives in Romney Road, Ipswich, said: "He's got a lovely voice. I'm well impressed with him as a person as well.

"I don't think people realise what a struggle everything has been for him."

ONE of Ipswich's brightest karate stars has revealed that her success is partially down to Big Brother housemate Darnell Swallow.

Former European karate champion Leonie Kersey took up the sport after her close friend Darnell started taking classes.

Now she's a former European champ and runner-up and a well-known full-time karate teacher with a 3rd Dan black belt.

Miss Kersey, who juggles her career with being a mum of two small children, said: “I started karate because of him. He used to go and his mum used to baby-sit me.

“Then because he started to go I thought I'd give it a try. He gave up but now I'm a karate instructor.”

The 25-year-old, who was European champ at just 19, is now one of Darnell's biggest supporters and she even helped him to readjust to life in England after he was kicked out of the US.

“My mum and his mum were in a close group of friends and they were best friends really," she said.

“They were all single mums so we used to spend a lot of time together. We probably spent near enough every day together before he went to America to live.

“When he came back we invited him to Ipswich. It was very weird to see him. He stayed at my mum's house for a little while and we took him out to see people who would have known him when he was younger.

“He looks exactly the same but grown up.

“It's nice to see him in the house because we've been apart for so long we don't really know him anymore. You don't really know his personality, what he likes and what he doesn't. So we're learning all that through the show.”

Miss Kersey, who lives with her boys Kharnae, who has just turned five, and three-year-old Tayron, in Loganberry Road, Ravenswood, said she was pleased Darnell was doing so well in the house after his trouble in the US.

“He did have a lot on his mind when he came here but to be fair Darnell has dealt with it really, really well. He is really focussed, he has come over here with a clean slate and he's going to make something of himself.

“I was quite nervous about the Big Brother thing to start with because of how they can single people out. Particularly Darnell being an albino, I was worried that was going to happen but it hasn't.

“He seems to just want everyone to be happy and be friends.”

And his friends are hopeful that approach will win him favour with the viewers.

“I think he's doing well enough at the moment,” Miss Kersey said.

“Hopefully he'll do well.”

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