The large-screen television was on in the Springcroft bar in Ballieston, Scotland had not long kicked off against Wales at Murrayfield, the football results were coming in – Celtic had beaten Rangers 1-0 in the Old Firm clash – when a young man in a grey hoodie and jeans walked in.
One account had him with a crumpled black plastic bin bag on his head, although his face was plainly visible. He made straight to the stockily-built man on a stool watching the screen, pulled out a long-bladed knife and stabbed him repeatedly.
Billy McPhee fell from his chair and, despite customers trying to give him first aid, bled out on the floor of the Brewers' Fayre.
When the news reached Tam McGraw, at home in his heavily-fortified bungalow in Carrick Drive, Mount Vernon, he realised his time was running out. His right-hand man, who had survived being shot in the face a month earlier, was dead and his enemies were on the war path.Tam 'The Licensee' McGraw (Image: Media Scotland)
He had lost three key men in a year. Thirty-two-year old Trevor Lawson died after being hit by a car near his home in Denny, Stirlingshire, after fleeing from a fight. Then Gordon Ross was knifed to death after being lured from a pub in Shettleston.
It was time to do one, heading out to Spain where he had an extensive property portfolio, apartments, a holiday park, bars and restaurants. It was March 8, 2003 and for the next four years McGraw, known as the Licensee, would spend much of his time moving from his safe houses and guarded properties, often to Ireland, where again he had interests, but never venturing out in Glasgow after dark.
McGraw's moniker was given to him either because he owned the Caravel bar in Barlanark (rapidly demolished in the wake of the Hanlon-Glover murders) or because, it was claimed, of the freedom he was given by Strathclyde police in exchange for informing on his underworld pals. Take your pick. The police have always denied there was a deal but McGraw did seem to lead a charmed gangster life amassing a fortune and going more than 20 years without a conviction.Tam McGraw aka The Licensee carries the coffin of murder victim Joe Hanlon (Image: Media Scotland)
His was a normal route to crime. After the usual ins and outs to approved schools as a teenager he joined the Barlanark Team which specialised in armed robberies of post offices, off-licences and mail vans. After one raid and a police chase in which his van overturned he was charged, but released the next day. In 1978 he was tried and acquitted of the attempted murder of a police officer.
It was in the 1980s that he made his real money from the ruins of Old Arthur Thompson's empire, in cannabis and heroin, flooding the city, and laundering the proceeds through his private hire company, Mac Cabs. As the saying goes, the dugs in the street knew he was doing it, but Strathclyde's finest either didn't know or couldn't nail him. He was also investing legitimately in property.Arthur Thompson (Image: Media Scotland)
After more than a decade on lucrative 'licence' he was finally arrested and charged in 1998, accused of bankrolling drug smuggling. The modus operandi was to take underprivileged kids from the schemes and the East End on minibus holidays to Morocco and Spain. The bus, however, was specially-adapted, with a raised floor, so that drugs could be stored below it and under the kids' seats. Police acting on a tip intercepted the Mercedes bus on a return and 220lbs of cling-film wrapped cannabis was found. But again, after a 55-day trial at the High Court in Edinburgh, McGraw walked on a majority not proven verdict. However his brother-in-law John Healy who was caught with the van wasn't as fortunate, he went down for 10 years. He smelled a rat and a rift between them became unbridgeable.
But what is really malodorous is McGraw's connection to one of the most horrific mass murders and miscarriages of justice in Scottish history, where six members of the Doyle family were burned to death in their top-floor flat in Ruchazie. The Ice Cream Wars. McGraw was selling drugs through ice-cream vans which toured the city schemes and muscling in on other vans.Members of the Doyle family sit in an ambulance with a fireman (left) in the wake of the arson attack that claimed the lives of six people (Image: Media Scotland)
Eighteen-year-old Andrew Doyle, known as Fat Boy, drove for the Marchetti firm and had resisted intimidation to be a drug vendor, even despite a shotgun blast through the window of his van. On April 16, 1984 the family's front door was doused with petrol and set alight. Three Doyles and three guests died in the fire which was meant to be a frightener, including Andrew.
Two innocent men well-known to the cops, Thomas 'TC' Campbell and Joseph Steele, were convicted of the murders in what can only be judged a conspiracy by Strathclyde police, a conspiracy which took 18 years from their lives and during which they always protested their innocence, before the convictions were ultimately quashed. Despite this there has been no re-investigation of the 'unsolved' Doyle murders. But TC knows who did it. Tam McGraw, he said, from the first day to this.The Caravel Bar (Image: Media Scotland)
It had to come to violence between them and it did. In April 2002 when TC was still out on licence and fighting to clear his name McGraw spotted him in Barlanark picking up a prescription for his daughter. Billy McPhee was in the passenger seat and he immediately jumped out wielding a knife and attacked TC, who suffered two stab wounds to his buttocks. But he was a noted street fighter and was getting the better of McPhee until McGraw stepped in with a seven-iron golf club retrieved from the boot of his green 4x4.
There had been a similar 'golfing incident' three days earlier. McGraw was driving, this time alone, when he was stopped in Barlanark on a narrow road with speed bumps by a car with two men in it. One was Paul Ferris, the other was his young crony Mark Clinton. Again violence erupted and McGraw weighed in with his club but in the fight suffered 14 stabs wounds to arms and shoulders – he wore a bullet-proof waistcoat - inflicted by Clinton's thin-bladed knife. This scrap was to send Ferris, then out on licence on a gun-running charge, back to jail to serve the remainder of his sentence.Paul Ferris in 2013 (Image: Danny Lawson/PA Wire)
McGraw's reign as Glasgow's crime kingpin was coming to a close. Increasingly he spent his time either in Spain, in Ireland, or in his heavily-fortified bungalow in Mount Vernon watching countless repeats of Star Trek. On July 30, 2007 death claimed him in the most unexpected way. Naturally. By heart attack. The minister at his funeral noted his filmic interest quipping, bizarrely, over the coffin, “Beam me up Scotty.”
A year later his widow and former business partner Margaret – aka The Jeweller, for her love of bling - was exposed dealing cocaine door-to-door from a high-end car, his only son Billy, 'Winky', was found dead in his home in Uddingston in 2003 and his junkie brother Francis was knifed to death in October, three months later.
No one has been convicted of Billy McPhee's murder. Five weeks after the Brewers' Fayre slaughter Paul Ferris's handyman, Tam McGraw's assailant, Mark Clinton, was arrested and charged with it. Just over a year later it came to trial, but the prosecution threw in the towel after one day. The evidence of the two crucial witnesses to the murder had somehow become unreliable and unsafe.
And so it goes.