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.”

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