A former gang leader left his criminal life behind after finding faith and becoming a pastor.

Onyeka Power Onyekwulu, 24, who joined a gang aged 15 and shortly became notorious in his community in south London as a leader, has taken a radically different approach in Tottenham as he wishes to now lead people away from the knife-crime riddled life he lived.

Since becoming a pastor at 18, the ex-gang leader has been using his story to motivate youths to stay away from knife crime.

Thinking back to when it all started, he said: “Where I grew up, it was the area. Everybody would play football together and know each other and from that some people strayed away and joined a path of a gang.

“My mum was a single parent, and I just wanted something more – for her and for me. I always wanted to be a leader, I used that to give myself satisfaction.”

It was the influence of some of his friends who idealised the street-life culture which made him become affiliated in a gang. He worked his way up the hierarchy quickly and became more than just a member – and instead a leader.

Crimes including drug dealing, postcode-wars and wielding knives became a standard in Mr Onyekwulu’s life. Getting arrested was not even enough to deter him at the time, as he would often be found not guilty which allowed him to continue that lifestyle.

Mr Onyekwulu admitted: “When I was at that age, there was no hope. I didn’t know I’d become influenced by God or become a pastor, that wasn’t part of my plan.”

Then he regularly attended church at 16 despite not having a religious interest in the past. While he learnt more about Christianity he still continued his hustle as a gang leader.

By 18-years-old, Mr Onyekwulu had a moment of self-realisation. He noticed that the sense of fulfilment he once found as a teenager was beginning to fade away, and his excitement became fear. With this, he realised he did not want to carry a knife anymore.

“I’d be in jail and in prison if I didn’t change. Had I not left then it would have gotten more intense. I probably would have either killed someone or been killed myself.”

While he may have felt a sense of fulfilment at the time, his past isn’t something he looks back fondly on – particularly after an altercation where he left one person fatally injured. Instead he recognises the brotherhood he felt at the time is now “false respect”.

He said: “It is a fake ideology and false respect. How can you respect someone for doing something that’s wrong?

“Being in a gang, it’s an insecurity – you should find your gift, work on your craft, study hard – don’t get distracted by false crazes.”

While Mr Onyekwulu’s transformation was mainly religious based, he doesn’t see his role to motivate other youths to be just because he is a pastor. Instead he sees himself as a mentor, where he approaches groups in the streets regularly to help support them. As well as this, he also preaches at a youth ministry every Wednesday.

His past grievances – including having a friend die from being stabbed and another being deliberately ran over - isn’t something he feels he can easily forget, but Mr Onyekwulu still believes his experiences can help change other lives.

Other than using his word to help others currently being influenced by gang culture, he is also calling for more support from the government to tackle knife crime, by introducing more jobs catered to youths, financial support to struggling families so people aren’t influenced to sell drugs and also encouraging people to find a creative outlet through youth groups and studios.