Pablo Escobar’s secret son: ‘I was relieved when my drug lord father died’

He travelled in armoured cars. Bodyguards followed him wherever he went. And callers to his home included a president. Phillip Witcomb had an extraordinary childhood. But there was a bombshell secret in his past, as Megan Cawley reports.

Phillip Witcomb

Phillip Witcomb: “I don’t know whether Pablo Escobar wanted to kidnap me or murder me. I like to think he wanted me back, but I still don’t know.”  

Confused, stunned and scared are just some of the feelings Phillip Witcomb felt when finding out the shocking truth.

Now aged 53, it wasn’t until 1989 when Phillip’s adoptive father came clean about his secret family roots. But unfortunately, this story does not end in happily ever after. He isn’t normal. His father was Pablo Escobar.

It would be an understatement to say Phillip’s childhood wasn’t exactly ordinary.

His adoptive family was rich and had powerful connections, he experienced first class flights, friends looking up to him, and house visits from the president of Colombia. It is safe to say he lived a privileged life.

Phillip Witcomb as a child

Phillip Witcomb as a child in Colombia. “Bodyguards as a child were unusual,” he says. “I had questions because it wasn’t normal. I would’ve preferred a normal childhood.”

But little did Phillip know he was the heir of Colombian drug lord and the ‘King of Coke’ Pablo Escobar. Notorious for controlling over 80% of the cocaine brought into the US, Escobar was one of the richest criminals on Earth.

Phillip had bodyguards during his childhood and most of his adult life.

Phillip said: “Bodyguards as a child were unusual, I had questions because it wasn’t normal.

“I would’ve preferred a normal childhood.”

Phillip is the product of 14-year-old girl Maria Luisa Sendoya and a young Escobar, who was 16 at the time.

Phillip assumes the encounter was “brief and non-consensual” due to her young age which still upsets him today. Baptised Roberto Sendoya Escobar, Phillip was only later named after his adoptive father Patrick Phillip Witcomb. Sadly, Phillip never got the chance to meet his mum because she died just months after his birth.

After discovering he’d had an illegitimate child in his rise to power, Escobar came looking for his son. Phillip lived his life surrounded by bodyguards and travelled in armoured vehicles until 1993, when the Colombian drug baron was gunned down by Colombian police.

Phillip said: “I was relieved when he died, it was a weight off my shoulders.

“There were serious attempts where he had sent people to come for me, people that worked for him.

“I don’t know whether he wanted to kidnap me or murder me. I like to think he wanted me back, but I still don’t know.

“I am not proud of my father’s achievements, He was a mass murderer, had sex with children and caused misery for the world, nobody would be proud of that.”

Phillip Witcomb

Phillip Witcomb: “It’s made me a stronger character and after all it’s an interesting story.”

Imagine needing protection for almost 28 years of your life, living in fear around every corner from one of the world’s most notorious criminals, fear from none other than your own father. Escobar was a dangerous man, a man most would hope never to come across. But for Phillip he had no choice. No freedom. No escape from the secret and unsettling facts.

Phillip was placed in a Bogota orphanage immediately after his birth and lived in Colombia until he was around nine years old. Moving to the UK, he boarded at school in Oxfordshire before moving to Lucton School in Herefordshire at the age of 14.

Living in a rural area –  “the middle of nowhere” Phillip calls it – offered the chance to finally live a normal childhood. To be amongst children who had no idea who the famous ‘Escobar’ was. To be an ordinary boy and not the child of a vicious criminal. It was at this point when even Phillip himself was blissfully unaware of his real identity.

Phillip said: “I looked very much like him when I was younger, but nobody knew because we didn’t have internet or TVs, there was no access to the world.

“Back then we didn’t have Channel Four and Five, it was just what was on BBC news.”

Having found out he was unwell in 1989, Patrick sat Phillip down and explained who his real father was. He advised him to hire private security.

Whilst Pablo was a man of interest for Colombian authorities, being the eldest child Phillip became an asset for some, and of course a threat to others. This news was undoubtedly a hard pill for Phillip to swallow. Phillip’s adoptive father had all documents destroyed that connected Phillip to Escobar, except for his birth and adoption certificate.

“I just have to live with it,” Phillip said,

“These sorts of things change you, it’s made me a stronger character and after all it’s an interesting story.

“I’ve got to count my blessings.”

Phillip is currently writing his own book called ‘Don Felipe’, a reference to what the president of Colombia used to call him.

He said: “When I was a kid in Colombia, the president Misael Pastrana used to call me this when he came around to visit me. ‘Felipe’ is ‘Phillip’ in Spanish and the word ‘Don’ is given to a Sir.

“In the story I explain why he called me this, but in short, it was because my real father’s money was propping up the presidency.”

The book is on track to come out in the early spring. Phillip is currently in contact with an agent and thinks that it will be sold as a script to a large film production company.

“I’m writing the story,” says Phillip,

“It takes a long time to write a story, I have been researching for 15 years but I am nearly finished.

“I had to get it out of my system otherwise it would cause mental health problems.

“Obviously there is money involved but that’s not the main reason I am doing it, I can raise money for communities that are in great difficulty.”

Phillip now spends his days in Mallorca with his wife Julie, working as an artist. But being in the public eye, he will always face the fear of the unknown. The fear that he will never forget the actions of his father and the outrage that was caused. He is and always will be the heir of one of the most notorious and brutal criminals to have ever lived.

Phillip said: “I am not as safe as if I were a nobody. No celebrity is safe, there is always some moron out there.

“I’m safe but only as safe as I could be.”

Local councillor declares climate emergency

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The Extinction Rebellion Leicester protestors outside the Town Hall.

By Beatriz Ferreira and Isobel Rix

A leading Leicester City councillor has declared a climate emergency following a meeting with campaign group Extinction Rebellion Leicester at the Town Hall on Thursday night (JAN24).

The decision was made public by Councillor Adam Clarke, the Deputy City Mayor with responsibility for the Environment, on his Twitter page.

The activists’ ultimate aim is a national declaration of a climate emergency as they believe this will unlock the required policy changes and funds.

The group believes that Leicester should help by demonstrating successful climate change emergency initiatives.

After being recognised as Britain’s first Environment City, Leicester has now joined 15 other councils around the country which have already declared a climate emergency.

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The Extinction Rebellion Leicester protestors outside the Town Hall.

A member of Extinction Rebellion Leicester said: “[declaring a climate emergency will show] whether the city council will be prepared to create a citizens assembly to have an informed debate on the ecological collapse we are facing, to get to a carbon neutral future, cut pollution and waste, and attempt to rebuild our democracy to sense the interests of the population.”

He outlined the importance of getting younger generations involved: “The more students we target the better, it is their future we are talking about. This is happening now. We are staring the abyss in the face.”

Extinction Rebellion Leicester issued a statement on its Facebook page after the meeting: “The conclusion of the council’s meeting today in short was that Deputy City Mayor Councillor Clarke declared a climate emergency. These were positive words but XR Leicester will now be pursuing definite commitments from the council to recognise the urgency of our situation. A good start but more work to do. Watch this space!”

 

Leicester City Council recycling service encourages student power at DMU to reduce waste and save money

By Alexander Hodgkins-Jones

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Common items found in student accommodations such as glass bottles, aluminium bottles and cardboard can be recycled

The Orange Bag Recycling Service is reminding De Montfort University students that they can play their part to help the environment, after a recent Leicester City Council study showed that 67 per cent of Leicester’s black binbag waste could have gone somewhere better.

The study looked at the contents of black binbags from several hundred homes across the city, finding that 14 per cent could have been put in the service’s free orange bags.

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Bins aren’t all rubbish             Credit: Leicester City Council

Jodie Angold, Service Development Officer for Waste Management at Leicester City Council, said: “We give free information [regarding recycling] at the freshers fair; it can be challenging though, as we know students are bombarded with adverts and messages and bins aren’t as exciting as free food!”

Talking about bins isn’t all rubbish though as recycling can have a massive impact on both the environment and potentially on your pocket.

The Orange Bag Service provides free recycling bags to most households in Leicester, meaning students need not fork out for reams of black binbags to rid themselves of perfectly recyclable cans and bottles which are so often a staple of undergraduate life.

Students in halls can simply empty their rinsed recyclable waste directly into the orange lidded communal bins – no black bags required.

Recycling goes towards helping the environment by reducing landfill and saving energy.

If every student recycled one more drink can it would power a library for over a month, which is certainly one way to get your dissertation done.

With students leaving accommodation over the next few months, Jodie also offered sage advice regarding a problem regularly seen by the council.

She said: “Students often struggle with extra waste when they leave properties, but the council offers free bulky waste collection, where up to five items of furniture or waste can be removed.

“If these items are left on the street, students can be fined for fly tipping.”

The message is clear – reduce, reuse and recycle.

For more information on what you can recycle and how to get yourself some orange bags please go to: www.leicester.gov.uk/your-environment/recycling-and-waste/reduce-and-reuse/recycling-for-students

Meet Leicester’s new up-and-coming comedy group

By Tristan Bryant

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Pictured: Joseph Johnson (left), Luke Sterland, and Tarun Chelley (right)

A mostly-local, progressive and diverse group of comedians are raising money for five charities.

Comedy Village is a group of 12 comedians, all equal to one another, who organise their own events and donate the money they make to five charities.

They performed last night (FRI JAN25) at Blue’s Bar and Grill in Raw Dykes Road, Leicester, and were raising money for St Andrew’s Play Association and New Park’s Play Association.

Joseph Johnson, Luke Sterland and Tarun Chelley gave us their thoughts on the cause.

Joseph, “I am one of the comedians, the villagers as we like to call each other.

“We all meet up as friends, we tell our jokes… we grow together as comedians and support each other – and we all have sex.

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“It’s more of a PR builder than for profit… a word-spreader if you will.

“I’m feeling good about the whole thing, I enjoy the atmosphere… I have fun.”

Luke Sterling is looking to see how far the group can take it. He said: “I would love to give up my day job for it, I really would.”

“Comedy is a difficult circuit to try and break into… unless you’re gonna do something new.”

He believes that’s what Comedy Village is, adding: “We’ve all got different styles, focusing on issues close to the bone.”

Tarun Chelley chimed in: “I’ve done plays… I’ve written novels, I’m trying to move away… to a solo act.

“Its freer… it’s your own material and you find out quickly if it doesn’t work.

“Comedy is harsh but harsh in a good way. Be as silly as possible, that’s how we are.”

Comedy Village will be back at Blue’s Bar on February 22, tickets cost £20.

Leicester Comedy Festival returns for 26th year

By Samuel Gill

Leicester Comedy Festival is set to return for a 26th year with as usual big names aplenty descending on the month-long event known to many as a mini Edinburgh.

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Acts include Josh Widdicombe and Jason Manford as well the likes of Russell Howard, Nish Kumar and Tom Rosenthal all performing Work in Progress shows before arena dates and/or Edinburgh at the end of the year.

Also the likes of Jo Brand and Tom Allen are taking part in the annual A Conversation With.. shows which take place at Curve Theatre and attract large crowds to see the big names in comedy interviewed by Festival Director Geoff Rowe.

Shows take place at intimate venues such as The Cookie and Firebug as well as the likes of De Montfort Hall and the aforementioned Curve, giving comedy fans the chance to see stars in both an intimate and larger setting over the course of the festival.

Mr Rowe spoke to Leicestershire Press about the festival and what it means to him going into it’s 26th year.

“I think it’s the way it helps to bring the city alive,” he said.

“People tell me the buzz about Leicester during the festival, the excitement, the energy around it are all things that make it special to me after a long time.”

In terms of who to look out for this year, he spoke of how all shows are seen as big as each other.

“We don’t have headline acts, all 840 shows are as important to each other. So for some people Nish Kumar or Jason Manford will be the highlight.

“While some people will get excited about the smaller venues and the smaller acts so I think it’s important the festival doesn’t have a headline act.”