In 1970, at the age of sixteen, Colin committed his first crime. He had been unhappy at home and at school for some time now, and he stole four pounds, planning to run away to London with the money. He was caught, however, and made the subject of a 'fit person order,' and sent to Finchton Manor School, in Kent.
"Finchton Manner had two requirements: the boy had to be above average intelligence and have 'emotional' problems. It was a fee-paying 'free expression' school. I was one of the two boys paid for by the local County Council as part of a care order. The rest were paid for by their parents,"
After some months, however, Colin was again subject to a form of bullying.
"I was sharing a room with two other boys. One of the boys would ridicule me because my parents could not afford to keep me there; he also poked fun at my accent. I decided on an extreme form of revenge and one day went into our room placed crunched up newspaper around his belongings then set fire to it. I then left the room and went down the stairs only to return to the door to listen to the crackle of the flames."
This interest in fire was apparently a recurrent one during his childhood, and continued into his adult life. In his early teens he had begun having
"A series of fire based nightmares that have plagued me as an adult. As I have said this is a recurring dream and was preceded by a less than healthy interest in fire as a child. I can remember reading on a number of occasions a book on the Fire Brigade, as it was then. This was at school and I can remember, though quite young, what equipment did what."
Before the fire brigade arrived, a member of staff managed to put out the fire before it did any substantial damage, but that evening a social worker arrived to take Colin Ireland away from Finchton Manor. No charges were brought against him.
Having left Finchton Manor Colin ran away to London, where he says,
"I became involved in the 'Playland' scene. You may or may not have heard of Playland, it was an amusement (who's amusement?) arcade where paedophiles would pick up young runaways. Again, I was on the edge of things, I was never abused though many of my friends were, often exchanging their bodies not for money, but just for a bed for the night."