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22 May 2007
LIViNG ON A KNIFE EDGE.
 

IT'S BLOODY, it's random and it's spreading like a disease.

Knife crime in Scotland is escalating - and so is the devastation and suffering it leaves behind.

Today, the media want to open your eyes to the harrowing reality of Scotland's blade culture.

Photographer David Gillanders spent a year in Glasgow capturing images.

He was shocked by what he saw, saying: "I think these pictures tell the story of what is a well publicised - yet still unrecognised - problem in Scotland.

"There are men, women and children as young as 13 in the west of Scotland standing face to face stabbing each other in a sustained and brutal way.

"I despair at how we arrived at this point."

One person a week is killed with a knife in Scotland. Glasgow is the murder capital of western Europe.

We have no idea exactly how many people are wounded by knives each year. Two-thirds of attacks are never reported.

Assaults costs the NHS in Scotland £545million a year.

Rudy Crawford, an accident and emergency consultant at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, believes it is now one of Scotland's greatest "public health problems".

In his 22 years in A&E at the Royal he has witnessed "a relentless, gradual increase" in the number of stabbings.

He said: "It is awful. At times it is carnage. It is such a terrible waste and devastation of people's lives.

"The suffering and the consequences are unbelievable. What gets me is the relentless nature of it. It goes on and on. Much of it is just random and gratuitous.

"It is a public health issue. We see people day in day out, patch them up and send them out again. That doesn't solve the problem. We need to treat the social factors and the underlying causes."

David is an award-winning photographer from Glasgow who has travelled extensively covering social issues and crime, from street children in Ukraine to the Mafia in Russia.

But he has never seen the level of violence he had witnessed in his home city.

He said: "Glasgow is without question the scariest place I have ever worked. I have never felt so threatened.

"Trivial things are allowed to progress into life-changing violence, which is horrific."

A high-profile blitz on knife crime has failed to cut the number of people carrying lethal weapons on Scotland's streets.

The Safer Scotland anti-violence campaign was launched in March last year.

At its centre was the country's first national knife amnesty, which saw almost 13,000 weapons handed in over five weeks last summer.

Yet it made no impact on the number of people caught carrying a blade.

The huge array of weapons surrendered included lock knives, machetes, swords, meat cleavers, bayonets and axes.

It included 7403 domestic knives, 2982 other knives and 474 swords.

Karyn McCluskey, deputy head of the Strathclyde Police Violence Reduction Unit, says the west of Scotland suffers from a "booze and blades" problem.

She said: "Young men think it's acceptable to carry and use a knife. They say they are carrying it for protection but a knife is not a weapon of protection, it is an offensive weapon.

"Which family ends up visiting a grave and which family visits their son in prison is sheer chance.

"We should be concerned about all of them. They are all someone's son."

She said it would take generations to turn around attitudes.

And in the meantime, generations of Scotland's young men will bear the scars. Cracking down on knife crime has been part of the strategy from the Executive.

Young men caught carrying a knife are now twice as likely to be locked up until their trial.

Numbers in custody for possessing knives in public have more than doubled since the regulations were introduced.

In June last year, 93 people were in custody for such offences - but by October that had increased to 225.

Last night, justice minister Kenny MacAskill said there was a strong consensus for tougher laws on knife crime and measures aimed at taking weapons off our streets.

He said: "We support those but enforcement alone cannot solve Scotland's knife culture. We also need to change attitudes.

"We will be discussing in the coming weeks how we can work to make more young people think twice about carrying a weapon, a decision that all too often leaves youngsters in jail, in hospital or in the morgue."


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Why this gang of yobs must now be called a 'group'...

gangs

Watch your language: Teenager resent the word 'gang'...

Anyone who has been a victim of their contempt for the law or menacing behaviour might find it a little difficult to swallow.

But on the orders of a government agency, gangs of teenage criminals should no longer be called "gangs" because it might offend them.

Instead they should be referred to as "groups" and their crimes described as "group-related".

The instruction comes from the Youth Justice Board, which organises probation, training and detention for under 18s.

It echoes the decision by the Metropolitan Police three years ago to drop the phrase "gang rape" and replace it with "group rape".

Officers reasoned then that the word gang can wrongly suggest clearly defined membership.

The YJB sets out its case in a 200-page report on "gangs" and how teenagers are drawn into them.

It states: "Many young people interviewed for this study resented the way in which the term had come to be used to describe any group of young people involved in anti-social behaviour.

They felt adults attached the label to them simply on the basis that they were young and met in a group, assuming that crime was their main purpose for meeting.

"In fact, the label conjured up an image with which they might not want to be associated, even where they were involved in offending - not least because in some cases they knew from their own local experience what real gangs were and several of the young women in particular had suffered at their hands."

The report said that some youngsters could find the idea of a gang seductive because of crime films and TV programmes and black "gangsta" music.

It added: "There has been a noticeable trend toward referring to groups of young people indiscriminately as gangs.

"This is not appropriate and it could exacerbate the extent and seriousness of group-related offending or create problems where none previously existed.

"Juvenile gangs do exist in some urban areas, but most young people involved in group offending do not belong to gangs - even if others label them in this way."

Examining the broader issues behind youth crime, the agency said that chaotic family lives and the lack of role models were frequently to blame.

It found that youngsters drawn into gangs overwhelmingly come from family backgrounds characterised by disruption, conflict and single parenthood.

Young men follow brothers or more distant adult relatives into crime as they look for someone to emulate.

For many from the worst backgrounds, a gang provides a home life better than their "chaotic and unstable" families, it added.

The findings are further evidence linking broken family life with crime.

Children of single parents are far more likely to do badly at school and drift towards vandalism and crime. In particular, boys who grow up without fathers are at risk of falling into criminal behaviour.

The report said: "Teenagers could gravitate toward gangs and group violence as a result of poor family relationships, exclusion from school, absence of positive role models and a lack of youth facilities."

It found that among 25 girl gang members interviewed, only two lived with both parents.

• The Oxford English Dictionary says a gang is "any band or company of persons who go about together or act in concert (chiefly in a bad or deprecatory sense, or associated with criminal societies)".


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Youth gang
A group? but not a gang.
 
 
Labelling groups of youths as gangs risks pushing them towards a life of crime, a report warns. So what constitutes a gang?

A dozen teenagers loiter under a street lamp, their hoodies pulled low over their brows - many might consider them a nuisance, but a new study warns us not to label them as a gang.

A Youth Justice Board report suggests that the term puts loose ragtags of youths who may be involved in petty crime on the same footing as hardened racketeers.

The police consider a gang to be a group of professional criminals involved in extortion, drug dealing, robbery and dealing stolen or counterfeit goods. A report by the Metropolitan Police in February identified 169 separate gangs in London, a quarter of whom had been involved in murders.

 
Professor Gus John, who has studied gangs in Manchester and London, says gangs generally have about 20 members who abide by a code of loyalty and behaviour. New members will often carry out acts of violence against their own families to demonstrate their commitment to the gang.

"Gangs don't hang around street corners where you can see them - they're much more sophisticated that that. When you pin that label on groups of young people, you're giving them a profile that they then have to live up to."

Youth worker Shaun Bailey says as a teenager in London's North Kensington he belonged to "clicks" - informal groups of youngsters hanging around together, who may live in the same area or share an interest in football or music.

 
"As far as the street is concerned, a gang is made up of gangsters - organised criminals," says Mr Bailey, who is now the prospective Conservative candidate for Hammersmith. He worries that labelling every bunch of hoodies a gang is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

"But boisterous behaviour does not equal criminal activity. By contrast, gangs have a higher level of organisation. They have ranks, they have hierarchies, they have initiation ceremonies."

The report says young people themselves resent the way in which any group behaving anti-socially is labelled a gang.

Shadow Home Secretary David Davis says the label matters not. "The public are not bothered about what people who commit crime and anti-social behaviour are called." But Professor John is certain that a line must be drawn to counter the appeal of gang culture.


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A 26-year-old Asian man is recovering in hospital after being shot in the stomach during an incident involving two gangs of men in Greater Manchester.

The man, whose identity has not been released but who comes from Oldham, was shot shortly after midnight.

Police were called to Lees Road in the Clarksfield area of Oldham following what is believed to be a disturbance between two groups of Asian youths.

The injured man is in a stable condition in hospital.

However, for security reasons, police are not releasing the location of the hospital where he is being treated.

Lees Road was closed from its junctions with Goss Hill Street and Cranbrook Street while searches of the area were carried out and police patrols have been stepped up in the area.


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Vandals can avoid a spot fine by saying they'll be good.

 

vandal

Anthony Hickingbotham says he has ignored at least 11 fines.

Shoplifters, drunks and vandals will escape paying on-the-spot fines if they promise to behave for a few months, it emerged last night.

Thousands of yobs will be let off with "deferred" fixed-penalty notices each year.

Where once they would have been hauled into court, criminals will have their £80 fines suspended if they sign an Acceptable Behaviour Contract.

If the offender behaves for the duration of the agreement - which could be as little as three months - police will cancel the fine.

Separate plans will allow first-time shoplifters to escape any police action if they return their stolen items and say sorry to the shopkeeper.

Ministers admit the deferred fines plan - which applies to more than a dozen offences including theft, criminal damage, wasting police time and drunkenness - is "non-punitive".

But they say the carrot and stick approach will encourage criminals to change their ways.

Retailers, who lose more than £800 million a year to shoplifting, reacted with fury.

They said there was now little or no chance that shoplifters would be properly punished.

The British Retail Consortium said the suspended fine "risks further undermining an already dangerously eroded system of penalties for shoplifting".

Director general Kevin Hawkins said: "Treating shoplifters in the same way as people caught littering or swearing in public is ludicrous.

"Shoplifting is a crime, pure and simple, and it should be treated that way.

"On average, shoplifters make off with £150 of goods each time, so a slap on the wrist and black mark against the thief's name is no deterrent.

"We're all under an Acceptable Behaviour Contract, that's what being a law-abiding citizen means.

"Letting thieves off if they don't steal again is rewarding them for what they should be doing anyway.

"What we need from the Home Office is a firm line on retail crime. Would-be thieves need to know that if they choose to steal they're going to be dealt with like criminals, not naughty schoolboys."

Shopowners said they objected to the plans during a consultation period, but the Home Office has ignored them.

Half the 37,500 fines handed out to shoplifters each year are not paid. Figures for other crimes covered by Penalty Notices for Disorder (PND) are similar.

Last year, they included 42,300 incidents of being drunk and disorderly, 19,600 cases of criminal damage and 664 of throwing fireworks.

Shadow Home Secretary David Davis said: "It is bad enough such serious crimes are effectively being punished with a glorified parking ticket.

"Now we learn that the Government won't even bother to collect the fines.

"Recent figures show that only half of all PNDs are being paid. The Government's response is to give up enforcing them.

"Despite their tough talk, this is yet another example of Labour watering down our criminal justice system."

The new scheme, which does not require a change to the law and will be introduced within months, applies to any offender who could be punished with an on-the-spot fine.

The good behaviour contract will set out a list of requirements - such as a shoplifter promising not to steal.

Last night, it was unclear what would happen if the person committed an offence not covered by the contract.

Ministers also confirmed plans to evict people - even if they own their homes - for persistently playing loud music or other yobbish behaviour.

A closure order would ban them from returning for up to six months, with the threat of six months in jail. The Home Office said it would be used only as a last resort.

But plans to give the police powers to force youngsters causing trouble to disperse were shelved after protests from children's charities.

It's a laugh... I just don't bother paying.

Anthony Hickingbotham has ignored at least 11 on-the-spot fines.

The prolific thief should have been jailed - but the last time he appeared in court police failed to tell the judge about his record.

That let the 26-year-old heroin addict claim the charge of stealing from a shop was "a blip" and he was sentenced to take a drug treatment course.

But the court in Hull later discovered that Hickingbotham, who has a record of more than 40 offences, had been handed nine fines in the previous year, including eight for stealing. Four offences took place in the same pharmacy.

The case is now being investigated by senior judges and a letter of complaint has been sent to police.

It said Hickingbotham would almost certainly have been jailed if the full facts had been disclosed.

Hickingbotham himself said of spot fines: "When I was first given one I thought it was a laugh.

"I would rather get an £80 fine than be locked up for shoplifting. I have 11 of them now and I haven't paid them."

As he smoked a cannabis joint before leaving for his drug treatment course, he added: "They do it to keep the costs down of taking you to court. It's only shoplifting and the prisons are full."


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A hitman who gunned down two men in Nottinghamshire on the orders of a criminal gang has been jailed for life.

Patrick Marshall, 46, was shot dead outside the Park Tavern in Basford in February 2004. Derrick Senior was shot on his driveway but survived.

John McSally of Plaza Gardens, Basford, was convicted of murder and attempted murder at Leicester Crown Court.

He was ordered to serve a minimum of 35 years. Mr Justice Pitchers told McSally he was an "incredibly dangerous" man.

Mr Marshall was gunned down in the car park of the Park Tavern pub on 8 February 2004 - three months before Mr Senior was shot.

Mr Justice Pitchers, said: "Even by the warped standards of those who enforce their will by violence these were evil offences.

"Patrick Marshall has done nothing to deserve any sort of attack, let alone to be summarily executed by you with a firearm.

"Derrick Senior is a thoroughly decent, law-abiding member of the community who had done nothing more than wish to see justice done in a case where he had been subjected to a racial attack."

McSally, who did not react to the verdict told the judge the sentence would be "no problem".

Craig McKay, 33, of Derby Road, Stapleford, was cleared of Mr Marshall's murder on Friday.

McKay's girlfriend Sally Weetman, 37, also of Derby Road, Stapleford, was also cleared of perverting the course of justice.


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'Gangsters ran our estate better than the police'...

 

 Gun Crime neighbourhood

Gun law: Gangsters ruled the Bestwood estate in Nottingham - and kept crime levels down...

When the Mafia-style thugs who ran this estate were jailed,a strange thing happened...crime actually went UP!The depressing truth is they deterred crime more effectively than the police

Forty yards from the front door of Peter Brown's home stands a tall pole topped with a battery of CCTV cameras.

These are a crime prevention system designed to monitor the privet hedge-lined thoroughfare 24 hours a day.

Three weeks ago, early in the day, there was a knock on Mr Brown's door. A youth asked him if he wanted to buy some fencing.

Mr Brown (his name has been changed to protect his identity) refused the offer, but noticed another youth peering through his front window.

The duo returned a little later and asked him the same question. In hindsight, it was clear they were attempting to find out if someone was still in the house.

Mr Brown said: "I went to work and didn't think anything more of it.

"But at about 6pm, while I was away, the front door was kicked in, which must have taken some force in itself, and they helped themselves to a laptop, mobile phone and other small items.

"They tried to take away more, but were disturbed and ran off."

Mr Brown called the police, expecting that the incident would have been caught on film by the CCTV cameras.

But, astonishingly, a policeman told him that the CCTV tower had not picked up the brazen, illegal entry.

The officer couldn't explain why the surveillance system had failed.

"Sorry. It's just one of those things," he said, nonchalantly.

This news surprised Mr Brown. In fact, it surprised him far more than the burglary itself.

After all, for him and his neighbours in Raymede Drive, Bestwood, Nottingham, being the victims of housebreakers is a regular occurrence, and one that neither the police nor the latest technology seem capable of reducing.

According to statistics published last week, Nottingham is the most burgled city in Britain.

And, according to another study, Britain is the most burgled country in Europe.

In Nottingham-itself, Bestwood, according to figures, is the city's burglary "hot spot" - making the careworn square mile which is home to 3,300 people Europe's break-in capital.

Certainly, the statistics tell a depressing story.

In April, out of 688 burglaries reported in the city, 141 were in Bestwood and neighbouring Sherwood.

However, only eight of these crimes have been solved - a pathetic detection rate.

In the same month, there were 84 burglaries reported in the same area - a year-on-year increase of 67 per cent.

So if 360-degree CCTV cameras can't prevent Bestwood being the European burglary capital, what on earth will?

The answer is a shocking indictment of law and order in this country and a deep embarrassment for the police.

For many householders in the area say that the greatest deterrent to the casual burglar used to be the presence on the estate of one of Britain's most ruthless crime families.

 Gun Crime neighbourhood

In April, out of 688 burglaries reported in the city, 141 were in Bestwood and neighbouring Sherwood...

It was from Bestwood, that this family - who cannot be named for legal reasons - ran a murderous, multi-million pound international operation involving drugs, high-level informants and myriad other offences.

They were ruthless mafia-style operators. For example, if a "foot soldier" in this gang stepped out of line, he would be executed.

In one instance, they allegedly fed a man's body to pigs on a nearby farm.

But a major police effort in the past 18 months has seen two of the main figures in the organisation - both of whom lived in Bestwood - jailed for murder and drugs offences.

And while justice may have been done, the shocking truth is that burglary statistics in Bestwood have gone through the roof since the two were put away - whereas they had been falling.

Locals say it was the absence of the police that enabled the family to take control of the estate, after the uniformed presence was reduced from regular bobbies on the beat to the occasional patrol car.

The family was shown respect - but it was a respect brought about by fear.

For example, when one of the family entered a local shop, the queues at the tills would part to let him through.

In exchange, the family would "look after" the community.

A few years ago, they even spent thousands of pounds on a Guy Fawkes firework display for the estate.

Such an arrangement brings to mind obvious parallels with the Kray twins who ruled over the East End of London during the Fifties and Sixties. As one 56-year-old female Bestwood resident told the Mail: "We were burgled a few years back and didn't get anywhere with the police.

"Then a man from the crime family came around to see us.

"He took his shoes off at the door, came in and sat down and listened to what had happened.

"He said he was very sorry to hear about the break-in and would do everything he could to find those responsible.

"Within a week, I had all my jewellery back and most of the rest of what had been taken."

A 50-year-old resident said of the firework display: "It must have cost a bit and the show gave the area a sense of community which the council never did.

"The council treat us like scum but the family have respect. They have always treated us properly.

"If there was ever a problem on the estate, it was them who you went to see to sort it out."

A 36-year-old said: "There's an old lady down the road in her 90s.

"Every birthday she gets a card from 'the boys' with a bit of cash in it. She thinks they are angels."

Another local said of the rise in the number of break-ins since the crime family was smashed: "There is now an element on the estate causing trouble.

"There are things going on which would have been sorted out by them - they would pull people into line when people were acting out of order in the community."

And yet, at the same time, this was a brutally ruthless crime family who would execute their enemies for a £200 drugs debt with a single shot to the head.

There is no doubt that the family was deeply mired in a considerable amount of violent local crime.

In September 2003, a bungled jewellery robbery in the city centre saw a woman assistant shot dead in a crime that was linked to the family.

Although the man who pulled the trigger was never found, it is said that he was murdered within 48 hours by his gangland bosses and his dismembered body fed to pigs because they feared that, if arrested, he would betray them to the police.

In another example of the family's ruthlessness - and one which ultimately led to their downfall - a man called Michael O'Brien was convicted of murdering the best friend of one of the family's relatives.

The Bestwood family exacted revenge by tracking down and executing O'Brien's mother and stepfather, who had gone into hiding.

The police eventually linked the family to their murders, and one of the senior family members was sentenced to life in jail.

A few months later, the other top boss was also convicted of a serious drugs offence and jailed for nine years.

The news that the family's key criminals were in jail was welcomed by local MP Graham Allen, who said: "This is the last hurrah of the remnants of people who know their time has gone."

However, everyone knows the family's most notorious members won't be in jail for ever.

In any case, there are still small-time members of the family's operation working on the estate.

One resident told the Mail: "A guy came up to me in the street recently and said that I had been causing problems and, if I continued, I would get a bullet in the head."

A senior police officer said: "What happened on the Bestwood estate was unprecedented and certainly something that I have never seen in all my years as a police officer.

"There was an organised crime network which was effectively controlling the entire estate. The police didn't have a look-in.

"This criminal network had a small army behind them, carrying out everything from burglary and robbery to selling drugs on a large scale to extortion, punishment beatings, shootings and ultimately murder against those who stood in their way.

"Clearly the network could not have flourished unless some parts of the community weren't aware of the full scale of their criminality.

"To an extent, they were seen as Robin Hoods by many on the estate."

One of the locals even commented: "There are people who say that the crime family ran the estate better than the police."

Of course, the police strongly refute this view and are working hard to try to make Bestwood's streets safer.

They accept that, for years, Nottingham has been at the top of the crime league tables for gun, car and knife offences and burglary.

In 2005, Nottinghamshire Chief Constable Steve Green controversially admitted that his force was "struggling to cope" with the number of murders, particularly gunrelated.

Nottingham had the unwanted soubriquets "Shottingham" and "Assassination City".

But they claim they have managed to bring down the overall crime statistics - even in Bestwood - for some offences.

And they are rightly proud of the way they successfully tackled the leaders of Bestwood's infamous crime family.

As local councillor Brian Grocock says: "It is important that the estate moves forward now.

"The climate of fear that existed 18 months ago meant that people would not report things that were happening, but now they are gradually beginning to report crimes to the police."

Yet while certain crimes may have fallen, burglaries in the absence of the family gang's law have done exactly the opposite.

And councillor Grocock's words are sadly small consolation to the latest Bestwood victims, such as Ian Petter (whose name has also been changed) whose home has been attacked three times recently.

Or to his neighbour, a 26-year-old ex-soldier who works as a personal trainer and has a wife and young baby, who told me a youth had attempted to burgle his home a month ago.

He said: "One of the forensic officers said that he had been to eight other similar burglaries in the area that day."

It seems that the residents of Bestwood are left with a terrible choice - one not worthy of a civilised society.

Either they accept being continually burgled - or they live in fear of one of Britain's most ruthless and violent crime families.


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Murder suspect held in armed raid...
 
Billy Cox
Billy Cox was shot in his home...
Armed police have arrested a man over the murder of 15-year-old Billy Cox.

The 20-year-old was targeted by officers during a raid at a property near Clapham High Street, south London, on Wednesday.

Four other people were arrested on suspicion of possession of controlled drugs with intent to supply during the planned operation.

Billy was shot in the chest at his family home in Clapham North, south London, on 14 February.

He was found dying by his sister who rushed inside the maisonette in Fenwick Place after hearing a "loud bang" just after 3.30 AM.

The suspect is understood to be the first to be arrested in connection with the inquiry.

Billy was the third teenager killed in south London during a two-week spate of shootings.


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Murder 'was ruthless execution'...
 
Brian McGlynn
Brian McGlynn worked as a nightclub doorman in the city...
People who were nearby when a nightclub doorman was murdered in his bed have been urged by police to come forward.

Brian McGlynn, 28, was shot at his house in the Fountain Hill area of the Waterside in Londonderry last Sunday.

DCI Frankie Taylor said a number of lines of inquiry were being looked at but no definite motive had yet emerged.

"We have had some assistance from the community but we need more - this was a ruthless execution of a man in his bed," he said.

The detectives said there were quite a few people in the area at the time of the murder, "despite the un-social hour".

"We know this from studying CCTV footage and talking to some witnesses but what we really need is for everyone who was in that area between 3am and 3.45am to come forward and talk to us," he said.

Forensic scientists at murder scene
Detectives are still working to establish a motive...
"Brian McGlynn was asleep in bed with his girlfriend when he was wakened by the sound of his front door being smashed in.

"As he started to get out of bed and get dressed, a gunman burst into the bedroom and shot him dead."

Police have been handing out leaflets in the area in an attempt to jog people's memories.

Mr McGlynn, who was originally from Strabane, was buried following a service at Leckpatrick Parish Church in Ballymagorry on Friday morning.

He had been working as a doorman at the Red Rooms nightclub and another pub in the city.


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Manchester Shooting.

Police are looking for a man they believe may be an essential witness to a drive-by shooting which left one person dead and another injured.

Shots were fired into a red Renault Megane travelling down Anson Road in the Victoria Park area of Manchester.

Two men from the Megane were taken to hospital with gunshot wounds, but one died later. Police are trying to trace a third man who was was in the car.

The shots were fired from another car on Friday.

Police believe it was a light-coloured or possibly silver saloon car, with at least four people inside.

The Renault Megane was between the junctions of Dickenson Road and Denison Road when the other vehicle pulled alongside.

The 24-year-old driver and a 21-year-old passenger were hit and the vehicle mounted the pavement and collided with railings.

The light-coloured car was then driven off at speed.

Police believe a third person in the Renault made off after the shootings.

The wounded men were taken to Manchester Royal Infirmary where the 24-year-old was pronounced dead.

The 21-year-old suffered a wound to his right hand.


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Britain's most notorious drugs trafficker, and the only one to feature on The Sunday Times Rich List, has returned to the country a free man.

Curtis "Cocky" Warren amassed a £85m fortune from the drugs trade before he was jailed in Holland in 1996. Last week, he was released after a successful court appeal.

On Thursday evening, Warren, 44, stepped off the ferry at Harwich, in Essex, looking fit and well and every bit as "cocky" as his nickname suggests. He was met by two men. After a 245-mile drive back to Liverpool, Warren popped in to see his mother, who has been unwell, then checked into a city-centre hotel at 3am.

But his journey home had not been plain sailing: Warren had attempted to book on an easyJet flight from Amsterdam to Liverpool, but the budget airline refused to carry him.

Warren had been expected to remain in prison until 2012, for organising a £125m drug-smuggling operation. Jailed for 12 years, "Cocky" had an extra four years added to his sentenced for manslaughter after he killed a fellow inmate in a prison yard brawl.

"Head-butting Curtis is a bit like head-butting a brick wall," his solicitor Keith Dyson observed dryly at the time. Warren, brought up in Liverpool's notorious Toxteth area, pleaded self-defence, but was found to have used excessive force in the fight. He appealed against the extra sentence.

Mr Dyson said yesterday: "The grounds for the appeal was that the evidence that was available didn't really support the charges." After speaking to his client as he arrived at Harwich, Mr Dyson said Warren wants to "get on with his life in a positive way".

Peter Walsh, co-author of Warren's biography, Cocky, said: "News of Warren's freedom will bring a new and very unwanted headache to a police force already involved in keeping the lid on a highly-volatile situation. Everyone knows how significant Merseyside and its criminals are in not only the national, but the international drugs trade, and here you have one of the most significant narcotics figures of the past 20 years coming home."

Warren, who moved to the Netherlands in 1995 after a year on remand in Leeds until a drugs case was dropped, invested his ill-gotten gains in many countries in banks, property and casinos, a total believed to be about £85m. He apparently has a photographic memory and can memorise bank account numbers.

He was said at one point to own almost 300 properties in Liverpool, hotels and petrol stations in Turkey, mansions in Merseyside and Holland and a Bulgarian winery.

British financial investigators were able to identify only a small part of his hidden wealth. In 2004, a High Court judge ordered a record £3.5m of drug-smuggling money, which Warren claimed belonged to him, must be confiscated.

A former Customs chief, David Raynes, said: "This is one where you would think the Serious Organised Crime Agency, Inland Revenue and Customs will see what more they can do. Accountants and other people around Warren should be aware that if they sell property or investments on his behalf they may be open to criminal proceedings."


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Street life.
 
Youngsters on an estate

Criminal gangs have been around for centuries but police believe they have become more organised in recent years. So how do they operate?

A prior engagement one night 21 years ago prevented Shaun Bailey from a life of crime.

"I can place to the day the point I missed out on becoming an idiot," he recalls. "A group of friends was going to burgle a factory near where I live. I missed it because I was at the cadets and they were all arrested."

Of the group of 12, three are now dead of gun or knife wounds, and others have been involved in "madness" or suffered mental health problems, says Shaun, 35.

He credits his uncle for making him join the Army cadets, which not only saved him that fateful night but taught him to listen to his mother and grandmother's values and less to the "street".

After getting a degree, he returned to the west London estates where he grew up and for more than a decade has helped prevent youngsters drifting into gangs and crime, in the knowledge that the line separating a life of purpose and one of violence is a thin one.

But not everyone escapes. Last week the Metropolitan Police identified 169 gangs in London, a quarter of which have been involved in murder.

A gang led by the men who murdered City lawyer Tom ap Rhys Pryce committed at least 150 robberies, and compiled a robbery guide to Underground stations which rated areas according to police presence and victims.

"The nature of gangs in London is changing and we are starting to see more clearly definable gangs - only a couple or a handful at the moment," says Met Police assistant commissioner Steve Round.  

Getting into a gang depends on a recommendation, a family connection or a big reputation, says Shaun, and initiation could mean receiving a beating or stabbing someone. The more organised gangs have tattoos and use websites to spread their message.

"It's a loose association and you might see the others every night or once or twice a week. Now and then someone will plan something or say you need to meet.

"There's a real power in it, especially if someone has a problem and you deal with it. The camaraderie is unbelievable and is a bit like the Army. People are dependent on you and you have a role. There's the safety, the friendship and there's the purpose."  

A role could be keeping the gun, cutting up the drugs or even fixing the mopeds, he says.

 

"You're getting affirmation from alpha males. Another man telling you that you are good or worthwhile is very, very important."

Gangs are nothing new, of course. In Victorian times, there were the Scuttlers in Manchester and the Peaky Blinders in Birmingham at a time when, not unlike today, there was a panic about yobbery and hooliganism. But methods have changed.In my time robbing adults was a big step and people were very rarely prepared to do that," says Shaun. "Now it's stabbing people to death. My friends waited until they were 20 before they got shot. Now there are more guns and knives."

Professor Gus John, who has studied gang culture in Manchester and London and advised the Home Office on policy, says that in recent years those using guns are getting younger. They are more likely to take the law into their own hands, and geography is playing more of a part in gang warfare, which used to be defined more by conflict over business deals.

 

Young people in Bristol
When is a gang a gang?

 

Some gangs demand a loyalty test on joining, which in extreme cases could mean committing an act of violence against a family member.

"It's a brutalising environment that seeks to transform the individual from what could be a reasonable, well-adjusted social being into a complete and utter monster."

Gangs are usually between 20 to 30 in number and members aged between 15 and 25, he says, but their activities are hidden and many communities like Moss Side which have gangs are otherwise well-balanced, vibrant places to live.

"It's not as if the community would be intimidated by seeing 30 or 40 people together, necessarily. It's the way in which they operate within sub-cultures that are on the margins of what the rest of the community is seeing."
There are three common means of income - drugs, robbery and handling stolen goods. The leaders are clearly identified in the more organised gangs, says Professor John, and when one is killed or imprisoned, others vie for top spot. And despite the brutality, there is a "moral" code which means younger and elderly relatives are usually off-limits.

"Even within the madness there are certain codes and principles that they ascribe to. But they might not respect the grandparent enough not to hide a gun in their house."

People apply the term "gangs" too liberally and should be careful doing that, he believes, because it confers a status which is worn as a badge of honour.

Shaun Bailey believes government plans for tougher sentences for gangs will glamorise and encourage them, and the notion of what defines a gang is not clear.

"Children hanging around in large groups is the most natural thing in the world," he says. "But whether they are a gang is about what they're doing."

He says the estates in North Kensington where he lives and works have "clicks", groups lacking the loyalty, names and codes of violence associated with the gangs which reside a few miles away in White City and Shepherds Bush.

For instance, if a gang member was attacked then the rest are obliged to exact revenge, but in a click they would not - although they may well do anyway, he says.

Clicks can be formed and dissolved instantly, coming together for an event like the Notting Hill Carnival, and may or may not be involved in crime. But the distinctions may be irrelevant anyway. In Nottingham, even those not members of gangs imitate the behaviour of those who are, says Karl White, who has 24 years experience working with young people in parts of the city where gangs are rife.

 

"They may not be a gang member but they become dangerous because they do dangerous things because they want to be gangsters."




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Police have linked two shooting incidents in the south of Glasgow over the weekend.

Two men in a silver Mercedes fired a gun at a 46-year-old man who was walking his dog in Haughburn Road, Pollok on Saturday.

The second incident occurred on Sunday when a gun was fired through a house window in Newmilns Street, South Park Village, Darnley.

Police said that no-one was injured in either of the attacks.

The 46-year-old man's dog sustained a wound to its leg and was treated by a local vet.

A 40-year-old woman and her 15-year-old daughter were within the house at the time of the second attack but were not harmed.

A silver Mercedes car was seen leaving the scene of the second shooting. Police found an unoccupied, fire-damaged, silver coloured Mercedes car near Newmilns Street.

The suspects are described as white, early 30s, 5ft 6ins, with thin build and dirty fair hair.

The other man is white, in his early 30s with receding hair.

Detective Inspector John McDonald at Pollok CID said: "Our enquiries are at any early stage however we believe that both of these incidents were carried out by the same two men and luckily no-one was injured in either occasion."


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POLICE are hunting two gunmen who opened fire in drive-by attacks...

Shots were fired at Gillian Boyd, 40, and her teenage daughter through the window of their home in Newmilns Street in Darnley, Glasgow, at around 10:50pm on Sunday.

Her brother-in-law, Eddie Boyd, 46, was targeted as he walked his dog in Haughburn Park in Pollok, at about 11am on Saturday. None of the victims was injured, but Mr Boyd's puppy was hit in the leg.

A silver Mercedes which was seen speeding out of the street and is believed to be linked to the attacks was later found burned out nearby.

Mr Boyd's brother, Hugh, was the victim of three failed drive-by shootings in 2003.


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Reply with quote  #90 

An old workmate of mine who is also retired knows the boys father, he has had enough of a carry on when his lad died in Spain. By all accounts the lad was a very tough nut and I am sure if he was alive today those very same birdbrains would not be shooting up a poor lasses home with a wee baby inside! Bloody disgraceful no matter what is going on. I also heard the news about SEVERAL attempts on his other sons lives too. Dangerous and very amateurish at the same time, gone are the days of men sorting out problems without going near innocent women and children!


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