HeadLine: SONS OF THE GUN
The Mirror, 13/01/2003
by JEFF EDWARDS Chief Crime Correspondent – Additional reporting:
Jeremy Armstrong, Paul Byrne, Rod Chaytor, Shaun Milne.
GANGS have infested Britain’s streets for more than 300 years, but
those of the 21st century have multiplied as never before.
Scotland Yard estimate that as many as 400 separate drug gangs operate
in London alone.
At the bottom of the pyramid are teenage gangs with members as young as
10 based on a housing estate.
Members “graduate” to form more serious crime gangs, becoming involved
in the theft of high-value cars, snatches of jewellery and valuables,
and attacks on wealthy suburban homes where the gang literally crash
through the front door to terrorise families and grab whatever they
Running parallel are crime groups, who sometimes have political links
in their own countries.
But at the top of the heap sit the cream of villains from several
racial backgrounds who control large-scale operations such as
drug-smuggling, and protection rackets on pubs, clubs, restaurants, and
Here, the Mirror looks at the gangs who terrorise the nation’s streets.
GANGS: Burger Bar Boys or Burgers (100-strong), Johnson Crew or Jonnies
(200). Others include the Champagne Crew, the Rally Close Crew and the
Badder Boys (Strength varies)
ACTIVITIES: Murder, drugs, protection and theft.
CRIMES: The Burgers formed in late 80s and named after a takeaway. Said
to be led by S1, alias Donald Somers, 27, currently serving three years
for drug offences.
Thought responsible for the New Year’s Day murders of Charlene Ellis
and Letisha Shakespeare, and of Johnson Crew member Christopher Clarke,
22, in March 2000.
Donald Somers was investigated in connection with murder of Corey Wayne
Allen, who was shot with his own gun in Handsworth in 2000. Case
dropped through lack of evidence. Rumoured that Allen, himself a Burger
Bar Boy and suspected killer, had turned police informer and was
executed by his own gang.
The suspected murder of Yardie gangster Whitcliffe Brissett, 33, found
dead in a Ford Sierra in Smethwick, West Midlands, in September 2000.
Girlfriend told police Brissett was playing with his gun and
accidentally shot himself. Coroner, unconvinced, recorded an open
verdict. Whitcliffe Brissett was charged with the 1995 attempted murder
of William Marr who refused to give evidence against Brissett and was
jailed for contempt of court in February 1996.
The Johnson Crew, who are now trying to wrest the drug trade from the
Burgers and invade their territory, are suspected of the murder last
year of Burger Bar Boy Yohanne Martin, 24. Two teenage girls appeared
in court in connection with his killing last week.
In 1996, Burger Boy Jason Wharton was shot dead in Handsworth. Several
Johnson Crew members jailed for terms ranging from life to five years
after witnesses gave evidence behind bullet-proof screens and in
GANGS: Chinese Triads (10,000 nationwide), Chinese Snakehead (150
nationwide), Vietnamese gangs (200), Turkish and Kurdish gangs
(500-1,000), Nigerian and Ghanaian fraud gangs (1,000), Jamaican gangs
and black posses (up to 10,000 nationwide), Balkan gangs (1,000),
former Communist Bloc gangs (1,000), Asian gangs (2,000), Irish gangs
ACTIVITIES: Triads – loan sharking, extortion, gambling, fraud;
Snakehead – smuggling illegal immigrants; Vietnamese – similar to
Chinese; Turkish and Kurdish – drugs; Nigerian and Ghanaian – fraud;
Jamaican and black posses – drugs, prostitution, theft, robbery,
organised car theft; Balkan – smuggling, particularly women for
prostitution, drugs, guns, contract killing (Serbs), smuggling illegal
immigrants; former Communist Bloc – trading in women for vice and
pornography, extortion, importing counterfeit goods, exporting stolen
luxury cars; Asian – fraud, drugs, extortion, robbery, smuggling
illegal immigrants; Irish – armed robbery, drugs, protection.
CRIMES: Snakeheads organised the smuggling of illegal immigrants in
which 58 of their “clients” died from asphyxiation in a truck stopped
at Dover docks.
Turkish syndicates, many Kurdish, have an iron grip on Britain’s
£100million per year heroin trade. About 50 rival gang members fought a
street battle with guns and knives in Stoke Newington in November,
leaving one dead and 20 seriously hurt. Police say Turkish and Jamaican
gangs are starting up partnerships in London.
Jamaican gangs and black posses are estimated to be responsible for 500
murders and 5,000 other gun attacks during the last 10 years.
Asian drug and protection gangs are linked to four murders in two years
in Southall. A pub was fire-bombed and a boy of 17 is suspected of two
contract hits. Asian gangs in east London are said to be involved in
worldwide credit frauds.
Nigerian and Ghanaian fraud gangs have an annual “take” of £500million.
A drugs war between two Irish gangs last year led to four contract
killings. Last year, Irish brothers Sean and Vincent Bradish, from
Brent, were jailed for 22 years each for more than 30 armed robberies.
GANGS: The Conroys, the Sayers or The Firm (100).
ACTIVITIES: Armed robbery, abduction, blackmail, drugs.
CRIMES: Patrick Conroy was once one of the most wanted men in Britain.
He went on the run after escaping custody and was eventually arrested
in Spain. On his return, his trial heard how one of his rivals screamed
in agony as the roots of his teeth were exposed in a torture scene
reminiscent of the hit movie Marathon Man.
Paddy Conroy, 42, was found guilty of abducting and torturing a
suspected member of another gang in Newcastle’s tough West End. He was
jailed for 11 years in 1995, but has been closely monitored by the Home
Office while behind bars because of his extensive underworld contacts
across Europe. At one time, the three Sayers brothers were serving a
total of 37 years behind bars. While they were inside, their father
John Snr was shot in the face in an apparent gangland hit.
John Henry Jnr was jailed in February 1990 for plotting the armed raid
on Pritchard’s security firm in Gateshead, when masked robbers with
shotguns and sledgehammers smashed in to steal £400,000 in wages.
Sayers has always protested his innocence but failed in an appeal to
overturn his sentence.
In 1997, younger brothers Stephen, 35, and Michael, 34, were jailed for
10 and 12 years respectively for a £50,000 plot to blackmail a local
GANGS: The Gooch – spawned from the original Gooch Close Gang, The
Doddington, The Pitt Bull Crew, The Longsight Soldiers, The Longsight
Crew. At the height of their power, there were 500 members among all
the city’s gangs.
ACTIVITIES: Drugs, murders.
CRIMES: Last year, the leader of the Pitt Bull Crew, Thomas Pitt, was
given a life sentence for murder and 20 years for three attempted
assassinations, racketeering and drugs charges.
A total of 13 members of the Pitt Bull Crew have been sentenced to more
than 170 years in jail, plus three life sentences.
They were linked to at least three murders.
Pitt, 24, headed the gang and routinely walked the streets armed with a
MAC10 submachine gun complete with silencer.
He formed the gang in memory of his dead brother Ray Pitt who was shot
dead outside a nightclub on New Year’s Eve 1995.
Pitt employed a team of enforcers to carry heroin, cocaine and cannabis
around Manchester’s infamous “gang triangle” of Longsight, Moss Side
His crew included boys as young as 14 who cruised around on mountain
Pitt gunned down rival drug dealer Marcus Greenidge, 21, as he loitered
on a grass verge in Longsight in September 2000.
A police source said: “While the gangs were originally fighting over
control of the drugs market, it is now much more about territory.”
GANGS: Curtis Warren, the Fitzgibbons, the Clarkes, the Lawlors – each
gang run by a number of family members and associates.
ACTIVITIES: Drugs, security, extortion
CRIMES: Most notorious gangster Curtis Warren is serving a 12-year
sentence in Holland for smuggling cocaine worth £125m. In addition to
the 1997 sentence, he has received four years for killing a man in
prison and an extra six years for failing to pay a multi-million pound
fine to the Dutch authorities. But Warren, 36, is still believed to
control his crime empire and is said to be worth more than £100m. He is
also thought to earn a fortune from 200 domestic properties and
Warren’s arch-rivals were the Fitzgibbons. When father-of-three David
Ungi, 36 – a Fitzgibbons relative – was gunned down on May 1, 1995 it
triggered a blood bath on the streets. It is widely believed Warren
sanctioned the murder and began a street war that saw 44 shootings in
months after his death.
Brothers Ian and Jason Fitzgibbons remained gang ringleaders, but in
May 1998 police launched Operation Black to topple them. In July 2000,
Jason and Ian, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply heroin and were
jailed for eight and seven years respectively.
In 2001, the Clarke gang, from Netherley, flexed its muscles. Stephen
Lawlor, one of Curtis Warren’s friends, died in a hail of bullets as he
left a party. Soldier Peter Clarke, 22, is serving a life sentence for
his murder. Four months later, Clarke’s brother Ian, 32, was shot as he
sat in a car outside a pub. The feud continued weeks later when Stephen
Lawlor’s brother Anthony, 45, was chased by four assassins and shot
dead in front of his mum. No one has been charged with these last two
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