- Karl Lokko will attend Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's wedding on Saturday
- The former gang leader from south London is a firm friend of Prince Harry
- The 27-year-old is believed to be part of Prince Harry's 'inner circle' as an advisor
By Rebecca English
Published: 17:35 EDT, 17 May 2018 | Updated: 19:53 EDT, 17 May 2018
They were clear from the start that their wedding would be about ‘real people’ rather than diplomats and dignitaries.
And Prince Harry and Meghan Markle couldn’t get any more ‘real’ than Karl Lokko, a former gang leader who has been shot at, stabbed and seen a friend killed – all by the age of 16.
Now a devout Christian who works as a youth community activist, Mr Lokko has forged a remarkable secret friendship with Harry which has seen him secure a coveted invitation to the wedding.
More than that, the 27-year-old is now part of the prince’s inner circle of friends and trusted advisers, although he is far too discreet to have ever commented on it.
One of the only clues to this under-the-radar friendship was when Harry interviewed Mr Lokko, of South London, as part of his guest editorship of Radio 4’s Today programme last year.
Former gang member Karl Lokko as a teenager holding the replica firearm. Mr Lokko was once head of a 40-strong crew who called themselves MAD – ‘Mayhem And Disaster’
Former gang leader Karl Lokko with Prince Harry in October 2014. The pair are said to be in frequent contact after becoming friends
A source said: ‘He may be a boy from Brixton but he has become a really good friend of Harry through their shared passion for youth work and music.
‘The prince trusts him implicitly and Karl is now on speed dial on Harry’s phone. They regularly text, speak and meet up. Harry thinks he is inspirational.’
Mr Lokko grew up on the gang-ridden Myatts Field estate where he saw his first shooting at the age of 12, an experience he describes as ‘traumatic’.
‘Four years on, I was heavily involved in gangs,’ he wrote in The Guardian last month.
‘By the age of 16 I had been shot at, cut on the face and stabbed in the chest, and one of my best friends had been killed, just a couple of days before our GCSE exams. I had strayed completely off the path my parents had intended for me.
‘Criminal activity was an everyday thing: I would be armed on my way to the local chicken shop with friends. The radical change in my personal identity was alarming even to me. I would sometimes reflect on how far removed I had become from my previous morals.’
Mr Lokko is open about the fact that, despite seeing one of his best friends stabbed to death in 2006, he himself became a gang leader who was ‘permanently armed’, first with knives, then guns.
He headed a 40-strong crew who called themselves MAD – ‘Mayhem And Disaster’.
He has said: ‘I believed it was kill or be killed, I believed drug-dealing was an acceptable way to make a living, I believed a council estate was my territory and the end of my world; I believed there was no hope.
‘I didn’t come into the world with the intent to join a gang. But after being attacked on several occasions, I had a stark choice to make: Either I remained a victim or took up power in my own way.’
Mr Lokko eventually joined one of the most feared and violent gangs in the Brixton area and remembers a summer in which the group ‘ran riot, mugging people for phones, selling drugs, stealing cars, joy-riding’.
He scraped through his GCSEs – passing four – but was kicked out of sixth form college on his first day and became further embroiled in gang life.
He was saved by a neighbour, pastor Mimi Asher, who was desperate to remove her son Michael from the lifestyle of crime.
Former gang leader Karl Lokko and Princess Beatrice. Mr Lokko was once a gang leader who has been stabbed but he is now a devout Christian and campaigner
She said she had been extremely wary of 6ft 5in Mr Lokko when the police warned her he and her son were both major members of a criminal gang. Remarkably, she opened her home to her son’s gangland friends and attempted to help them see the error of their ways through friendship, counselling and the Bible.
It wasn’t all plain sailing – Mr Lokko was shot at outside her home, with the bullet going through her front door – but he is now, ten years on, a changed man and an inspirational figure.
‘She… led me to denounce my gang involvement and turn my life around. I was able to claim back my true identity and strive towards excellence,’ he says.
Ex-soldier smashes bike record to get to the chapel on time
A former special forces soldier told yesterday how he raced across two continents on a push bike in world record time to make it home for the royal wedding.
Dean Stott was on day 70 of a gruelling 14,000-mile, pan-American challenge from Argentina to Alaska when wife Alana, 35, called to say an invitation had come through the post. It left the 40-year-old, who became friends with Prince Harry in the Army in 2007, needing to finish the charity ride within 32 days to make it back home in time for tomorrow’s ceremony.
Speaking after landing at Heathrow yesterday, he said: ‘You couldn’t write it. When I set off I wasn’t aware I was going to the wedding. In my head I was like, “I’ve got a bit of time if I want to have a rest on the odd day”, but that was all taken away when my wife rang and said, “we’ve been invited to the wedding”.’
The extra push helped him finish in less than 100 days – smashing the Pan-American Highway World Record by 18 days.
‘It was the pressure of finishing it in time for the wedding,’ he said. ‘My wife would probably divorce me if I didn’t do it. I was honoured to receive the invitattion. Even now I still haven’t really taken it in.’
Mr Stott is hoping his ride will raise £1million for the Heads Together campaign launched by Harry and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in a bid to end the stigma around mental health.
Mr Lokko volunteers with the charity Youth In Action and offers other young people mentoring and support. He is involved in music, recently supporting hip-hop singer Plan B, while he also describes himself as a poet and public speaker.
Mr Lokko came from a hard-working home – his father worked in security while his mother was a nurse.
His crew made headlines for posting a provocative picture on the internet of themselves posing with guns.
Former gang leader Karl Lokko outside 10 Downing Street
He later told the London Evening Standard: ‘I was apprehended at school and ordered to hand over the gun.
‘The police believed it was a real gun, but it was a replica and I got a caution. Other gangs, though, got the impression that we had a real live pump-action shotgun and suddenly we had big status.’
The community worker, who has met Princess Beatrice through the Virgin Strive fundraising challenge, says in South London he is now known as Mary Poppins, constantly popping up to help troubled youngsters.
Mr Lokko and his wife, Cassandra, whom he married in 2016, are now expecting their first child.
Heavily pregnant Cassy will be at his side tomorrow in St George’s Chapel and, afterwards, at the Queen’s reception at Windsor Castle.
Mr Lokko says: ‘I am proof that, with the right support, lives can be turned around.’ Clearly, Prince Harry agrees.
Harry and Meghan look relaxed as they leave Windsor Castle following wedding rehearsal with the Queen - hours after bride-to-be revealed her sadness at her sick father missing the big day
Meghan Markle and Prince Harry have been pictured leaving Windsor Castle after a wedding rehearsal - just hours after the former actress was forced to confirm that her father would not walk her down the aisle.
The American actress smiled as she arrived while her royal fiance looked far more serious. She is said to be privately 'tearful and embarrassed' about the chaos her father Thomas Markle has caused.
The couple's Range Rover was escorted by police as they sped past crowds of well-wishers and up the famous Long Walk to oversee the last preparations for their wedding day.
They also had tea with the Queen who travelled from Buckingham Palace to take part in the dry-run ceremony.
Harry's brother William and his wife Kate were also seen leaving Kensington Palace for Windsor ahead of rehearsals this afternoon, which saw soldiers and an Ascot carriage parade along the planned route of the procession.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle leaving Windsor Castle on Thursday as the royals took part in wedding rehearsals
Meghan Markle released a statement over her father's absence from her wedding to Prince Harry on Thursday after he suffered a heart attack
Meghan's mother Doria Ragland, who is set to give her daughter away in her father's absence, has been taken on a 24-hour royal whirlwind, having tea with Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall yesterday and meeting the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their children, Prince George and Princess Charlotte, at Windsor today.
Buckingham Palace confirmed that Doria, 62, will meet the Queen on Friday, with Prince Harry and Ms Markle also set to attend.
MailOnline understands the tea party at Clarence House yesterday was ‘very jolly’ and Charles and Camilla got on ‘extremely well’ with Doria, who is staying at Kensington Palace until Friday.
I'll be watching on the telly, says Theresa
Theresa May is looking forward to watching the royal wedding, Downing Street said yesterday.
For security reasons, it is not known whether she will attend a wedding party or watch the event at home on television.
But a Downing Street spokesman said the Prime Minister would be watching Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s big day live, adding: ‘She is definitely planning to watch it.’
By contrast, Jeremy Corbyn is too busy, it has been reported.
The Labour leader, who is a lifelong republican, has wished Harry and Meghan well, but a Labour spokesman confirmed he would not watch the event live.
Instead, he will be speaking at a ‘state of the economy’ conference organised by Labour.
The spokesman said: ‘He wishes them all the best and he is a particular admirer of the work Prince Harry and Prince William have done in relation to mental health issues.’
On Wednesday, Mrs May – who has yet to meet Miss Markle – praised Prince Harry for his ‘tireless work’ on issues concerning mental health and veterans.
Elton 'to sing for couple'
Sir Elton John is said to be performing at Prince Harry’s wedding – more than two decades after the star sang at his mother’s funeral.
The 71-year-old will entertain guests at Windsor Castle tomorrow, according to the US website TMZ – although it is unclear whether he will play in church or at the reception later.
It comes 21 years after Sir Elton sang Candle In The Wind at Princess Diana’s funeral in 1997. Sir Elton, a friend of Diana, attended Prince William’s wedding in 2011.
Last summer, he spent time with Harry in Sicily and revealed later that the prince was smitten with Miss Markle. ‘I could tell that he was totally in love,’ he later told TV presenter Lorraine Kelly. ‘He said, “I’m in love” and I thought, “Good for you”.’
M&S rebrand adds sparkle
Marks & Spencer stores around Britain are to become Markle & Sparkle for the weekend.
Its Windsor branch will be the focus of the re-brand, featuring a twinkly Markle & Sparkle fascia with windows decked out in the colours of the Union flag.
Customers are being urged to use Markle & Sparkle selfie booths in the 14 re-branded stores, which will be used in a ‘virtual wedding album’ to be sent to Kensington Palace.
The retailer said the move was its way of capturing the excitement of ‘receiving a Hollywood princess into our Royal Family’.
Her ex-husband Mr Markle is in hospital today following heart surgery days after he embarrassed his daughter with a series of 'staged' paparazzi photographs.
After days of silence Meghan was forced to make an extraordinary and moving statement confirming he will no longer walk her down the aisle at St George's Chapel on Saturday.
She said: 'Sadly my father will not be attending our wedding. I have always cared for my father and hope he can be given the space he needs to focus on his health.'
The former Suits star, 36, added: 'I would like to thank everyone who has offered generous messages of support. Please know how much Harry and I look forward to sharing our special day with you on Saturday'.
Thomas Markle, Maghan's father, makes a late night trip to the pharmacy and picks up some Chinese food on Wednesday night in Rosarito, Mexico
Outside the castle today thousands watched wedding rehearsals where soldiers including Harry's former regiment, the Household Cavalry, marched through the streets.
An Ascot Landau carriage of the type set to carry the couple was also paraded past the castle.
Preparations for the wedding have been thrown into chaos after Meghan's father repeatedly changed his mind about attending the event until his ill health made the trip the UK impossible.
Prince Harry's bride-to-be has still only shared texts with Thomas Markle but has told him she loves him and forgives him for the scandal he caused on the eve of the biggest day of her life.
Her father is said to be 'alone and upset' in hospital after having three stents put in his heart.
The 73-year-old has spoken to TMZ journalist Sean Mandell from his bed, who said: 'Meghan was embarrassed and tearful in private. She is holding up, from what I've been told. It has been a tearful and a trying time for her.'
When asked if their relationship can recover he said: 'I do get the sense he [Thomas] does want to be reunited with Meghan. She's no stranger to having to deal with hard moments in her life'.
Mr Markle may not be discharged before his daughter's wedding after he had three stents implanted in arteries following a heart attack at home in Mexico eight days ago.
He said: 'It will take a long time to heal. I'm okay. Staying in the hospital a few more days. Not allowed to get excited'.
Mr Mandell told Good Morning Britain: 'She [Meghan] called him Monday when the story first broke. But he did not have his phone on him and then she text him saying she loved him, that she was concerned over his health and bore him no ill will over the controversy of the fake photos.
Armed police walk on the high street ahead of the dress rehearsal for the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle
'He [Thomas] told us we wanted to be there and had a change of heart on Tuesday after speaking with Meghan over text and he felt he had pulled out prematurely.
'He had originally felt it would be better for him not to be at the wedding because it would cause further embarrassment, he thought, for the royal family, and for Meghan, which is the last thing he wanted.
'He realised, I'm a father, and I want to be there for my daughter, and I want to be part of history.Ultimately his health prevented him from being able to do that.
'But ultimately his health prevented him from doing that'.
He added: 'Meghan is by all accounts is a very strong woman. From what Thomas has told me there's just love being conveyed there and a gentle approach between them when they speak.'
Armchair guide to the royal wedding as timings for the big day are revealed for TV viewers
Millions of people across the country will be tuning in to watch the royal wedding live on TV.
Live coverage of the day’s events at Windsor Castle by the BBC will be presented by Kirsty Young, Huw Edwards and Dermot O’Leary among others.
Julie Etchingham and Phillip Schofield will lead ITV’s coverage.
Sky News is screening the proceedings in ultra high definition with Kay Burley presenting from a special studio on the Long Walk.
Here MailOnline provides an armchair guide to the royal wedding on Saturday...
Members of the public who have been invited to watch the wedding day from the grounds of Windsor Castle begin to arrive.
Wedding guests begin arriving at the castle’s famous Round Tower by coach. They will enter St George’s Chapel through the South Door and take their seats.
Guests will be arriving at the Round Tower at Windsor Castle by coach and will be seen walking to the South Door of St George's Chapel from 9.30am. The tower was closed to visitors in 1975 for major construction work and was under-pinned to prevent subsidence, but instead of reopening to visitors, it was later converted into office space for the Royal Archives in 2011
Members of the Royal Family begin arriving, entering via the Galilee Porch, some on foot and others by car.
Harry and his brother the Duke of Cambridge are expected to appear at the Chapel’s West Steps, probably on foot, walking past the thousands of spectators invited into the grounds of the castle.
This will give Harry an opportunity to acknowledge the 200 representatives from charities he is associated with gathered in the Horseshoe Cloister at the bottom of the steps.
Following protocol, the Queen will be the last member of the Royal Family to arrive.
Following protocol, the Queen will be the last member of the Royal Family to arrive at around 11.55am. The service will start at noon and everyone will already know most of what to expect as the order of service is being released at midnight on Friday. Her Majesty is pictured left at garden party on Tuesday and right attending the first day of the Royal Windsor Horse Show
With a minute to go, Meghan Markle is expected to turn up at the Chapel’s West Steps by car, from her overnight accommodation, with some of her bridesmaids and pageboys.
She will start her journey, which will take her past some of the crowds in the Long Walk, with her mother Doria Ragland - but when the car stops at the castle her mother will exchange places with her bridesmaids and pageboys, including Princess Charlotte and Prince George. Ms Ragland will enter the chapel by the Galilee Porch.
The service starts. Everyone will already know most of what to expect as the order of service is being released at midnight on Friday.
The newlyweds will emerge about an hour later at the West Steps of the Chapel. They will be waved off on their carriage procession through Windsor by members of both families.
The congregation will file out of the chapel to see the newlyweds leave before heading to St George’s Hall for the lunchtime reception hosted by the Queen.
The carriage procession through the streets of Windsor is expected to take about 25 minutes.
The congregation will file out of the chapel to see the newlyweds leave before heading to St George’s Hall for the lunchtime reception hosted by the Queen
The reception is not being televised and neither is the evening reception at Frogmore House, but viewers will get another glimpse of the royal couple when they leave Windsor Castle at 7pm for the evening do, which is hosted by the Prince of Wales.
The Queen travelled from Buckingham Palace to Windsor Castle today to take part in the wedding rehearsal. Prince Philip has been recuperating there permanently since his hip operation last month so is also likely to have been there.
Her Majesty was set to host a traditional afternoon tea for Harry, Meghan and other guests, which she likes to take at 4pm.
Former staff have said she often drinks a cup of Earl Grey with no milk in her favourite bone china cup and saucer.
This is served with a selection of crustless finger sandwiches such as cucumber, egg mayonnaise and ham and English mustard.
She also likes 'jam pennies' - small white sandwiches containing raspberry jam cut into the shape and size of an old English penny and staff are also asked to serve a selection of biscuits - including her favourites, Rich Tea - as well as scones and a sponge cake.
Meghan's mother Doria was given VIP treatment when she landed at Heathrow yesterday and is expected to give her daughter away in her father's absence.
Mr Markle said his doctors needed to 'go in and clear blockage, repair damage, and put a stent where it is needed' during the operation.
His daughter Samantha, who has a poor relationship with Meghan, claims her father is 'upset and alone' following his surgery.
But there is some confusion over his care as sources close to the Markle family told the Mail yesterday that Mr Markle had already been diagnosed with a heart condition and was due to undergo planned surgery to fit a stent, the same operation Prince Philip underwent in 2011, early next week – on his return from London.
Doria flew into the UK on an overnight flight from Los Angeles yesterday.
Dressed casually in a T-shirt, linen trousers and canvas pumps, and carrying a suit bag containing what is believed to be her Burberry wedding outfit, she was picked up from the steps of the aircraft by a royal fleet Jaguar.
She was driven to Heathrow's VIP Windsor suite, where Harry's assistant private secretary Amy Pickerill was waiting with an immigration officer. A member of staff from the private office carried her bags.
Miss Ragland, described as a 'free spirit' by her daughter and 'amazing' by Harry, was taken to Kensington Palace where she will stay until Friday.
On the night before the wedding she and her daughter will move with the bridal party to historic Cliveden, a 25-minute drive from Windsor Castle.
Britain's Prince Harry and US actress Meghan Markle will marry on May 19 at St George's Chapel in Windsor Castle. Police officers have been called in from around the UK
Royals fans line the streets with some attempting to camp out in Berkshire to secure good spots for Saturday'a wedding
Royal well-wisher Anne Daly holds a photograph of Prince Harry and his US fiancee Meghan Markle with her dog Camilla in Windsor on May 17
It is widely thought that now her former husband, with whom she is said to be 'barely on speaking terms', will fail to show, it will be Miss Ragland who has the task of walking her daughter down the aisle. Some royal insiders have also suggested that Prince Charles might step in to do the honours.
Senior royal sources dismissed reports that the ongoing family 'soap opera' had caused opprobrium in the Royal Family.
'Let's just say that this is a family well used to personal dramas and everyone feels desperately sorry for Meghan, particularly as it has all happened just days before her wedding day,' said one.
'At the end of the day, her father is his own man and she cannot control him.
'Everyone could not be more supportive of her. Everything is going ahead as planned.'
Meghan Markle's estranged half-brother is the latest relative to turn up in the UK uninvited and called her a 'perfect princess' weeks after advising Prince Harry to dump her.
Thomas Markle Jr, 51, also said his father will be heartbroken to miss Saturday's wedding as he posed outside Windsor Castle last night.
He recently penned an 'open letter' and told Harry: 'As more time passes to your royal wedding, it became very clear that this is the biggest mistake in royal wedding history.'
He also described Meghan elsewhere as 'acting phoney' and claimed she was 'trying to reinvent herself as the new Princess Diana'.
But as he arrived in the UK despite not getting a wedding invite he appears to have changed his tune about his half-sister.
He told the Daily Mirror: 'My sister's going to be one of the best things ever to have happened to the royal family. She will be the perfect modern princess. I wish Meg and Harry nothing but a happy and healthy future together.'
He added: 'My dad will be heartbroken that he cannot be with Meg in Windsor to walk her down the aisle. He would have moved heaven and earth to be there'.
He also blamed the royal family for failing to give him 'guidance' as he embarrassed his sister.
He said: 'My letter wasn't intended to cause hurt or upset. I'd hoped my letter might shame the palace, I guess, into getting in touch.
'I was wrong. It wasn't designed to humiliate Meg into inviting me, but more hoping we could get the help we needed. Ever since her relationship with Harry emerged two years ago, our lives have been changed forever.
'We needed guidance from the royals but didn't get it.'
Police officers patrol on the Long Walk in front of Windsor Castle in Windsor on May 17. The security bill for the wedding is expected to hit £30,000
Meanwhile, with no members of either side of Miss Markle's family – apart from her mother – apparently attending Saturday's ceremony, the bride-to-be's more distant relatives were popping up to cash in on their 15 minutes of fame.
Miss Markle's half-brother's ex-wife, Tracey Dooley, who has not spoken to the actress for 20 years, was enjoying a sightseeing tour of London with her two sons yesterday.
They were due to appear as wedding 'pundits' on ITV's Good Morning Britain, but last night a GMB spokesman said they had been pulled.
One of Miss Markle's nephews, Tyler, 25, who lives in Oregon, runs a legal cannabis farm and has created a royal wedding strain called Markle's Sparkle. The family are staying in a £70-a-night hotel in Waterloo, central London.
Meghan Markle looked happy after her wedding rehearsals at Windsor Castle on Thursday despite her family appearing in the news and calling for invites
Meghan's best friend Jessica Mulroney has arrived with her three children – Ivy, Brian and John – who were yesterday announced as being among the couple's ten bridesmaids and pageboys.
Her Suits co-stars have also started arriving in London, ahead of her wedding, set to take place at Windsor Castle on Saturday.
Gabriel Macht and Rick Hoffman, who shoot their series in Toronto, each took to their Instagram accounts this week to share images of themselves both enjoying the English capital.
Crowds observe the rehearsal for the wedding procession on the Long Walk, Windsor Castle
46-year-old Gabriel, who plays formidable star Harvey Specter on the show, uploaded a romantic snapshot of himself nuzzling his wife smiling Jacinda Barrett as they relaxed by the water in Hyde Park.
The actor's wife of 14 years also shared some images of her own from their leisurely excursion at the central London park - which is just a stone's throw away from Meghan and Harry's residence at Kensington Palace.
Harry and Meghan's rumoured matchmaker Misha Nonoo has also touched down in London ahead of the royal wedding on Saturday.
The designer, 31, shared a black-and-white snap of herself in the capital, along with the caption '#womanonthego', in reference to her fashion label.
Wearing a double-breasted blazer and pleated midi skirt, Misha looked typically chic as she posed for the Instagram picture.