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Prisoner: Gift for Pope a milestone moment’

Carving a new path: Dwayne Signor with the cedar Bible carving he was commissioned to make by Michael Dunkley as a gift for the Pope

A prisoner rarely, if ever, receives a request from a Premier.

But for Dwayne Signor an invitation from Michael Dunkley to carve a cedar gift for the Pope has proved to be a “milestone moment” in his life, and one that he hopes to build on as he prepares to be released.

But just as important for Mr Signor is that the project has made his 13-year-old son, Dante, extremely proud of him, and even prompted his mother, Olive, to shed tears of pride.

“My mom cried when I told her what I had been asked to do,” Mr Signor said. “It’s a milestone I never thought I would accomplish.

“It’s hard to explain just how much it means to me. I have friends and family in Brazil and Singapore that contacted my family when they saw it on the news.

“My son was so excited saying “look what my dad has done”. He has put me on a pedestal. I sit up and I think about it all the time.

“It feels good to make my son proud. It’s really important now that I have been granted parole to build on this and move forward.”

Mr Signor had just five days to create the engraved cedar Bible after Mr Dunkley proposed the idea to corrections staff last month. Principal Officer Sandra Gomes turned immediately to Mr Signor, knowing his talent for carpentry.

Mr Signor then spent the next three evenings in the woodwork stall at The Farm, after returning from charity work in the community, working on the cedar Bible. The following weekend he racked up a further 16 hours on the project to get it finished in time.

The 35-year-old carpenter, who was jailed for ten years in 2010 for opening fire at the Royal Artillery Association Club, presented the completed cedar piece to Mr Dunkley exactly a week after the request had been made.

Earlier this month Mr Dunkley passed on the carved cedar Bible to Pope Francis during a general audience with the pontiff at the Vatican.

“It did not really hit me what I was doing until I went up to see the Premier,” Mr Signor said. “Then my heart was really beating.

“I have done lots of cedar pieces while I have been in prison, especially since I came here to The Farm a year and four months ago. Cedar has kept me busy while I have been inside and I intend to continue my work with it.”

Mr Signor now plans to carve a cedar Arsenal emblem to hang up at the RAA club, which he says is a notorious stronghold for Gunners supporters.