- MURDER INC.
The world's most vicious gangs are waging a turf war on our doorsteps.
Torture, extortion and death are the weapons. Control of a £3
billion drugs empire is the prize
WORDS JULIAN KOSSOFF
CRAIG ROLFE, PATRICK TATE AND ANTHONY TUCKER thought they were
taking the fast route to easy money when they turned in to a lonely,
country track blanketed with snow, just off the main A130 road
in Essex. Little did they know it would be a dead end. The trio,
well known local villains with a string of convictions for armed
robbery, car theft and burglary were trying to step up into the
crime big league by moving into drug dealing. Rolfe, 26, Tate,
37, and Tucker, 38, are believed by police to have been lured
to the fatal rendezvous hoping to set up an Ecstasy deal which
would have made them a financial killing in the run-up to Christmas.
But as their metallic-blue Range Rover drew to a halt on the isolated
lane, their fate was sealed. Who they were supposed to be meeting
is still a mystery, but their intentions soon became clear. Each
man was killed by a single shotgun blast to the head. There was
no struggle, no mess; it was a classic gangland hit. When a local
farmer discovered them still sitting upright in the car, he thought
they were taking a nap. In the case of Britain's criminal underworld,
most people never get to see the whole picture.
As with this execution-style killing in Essex, every now and then
the blood-soaked tip of the criminal iceberg pops to the surface
and the public are allowed a glimpse of a world that they have
only ever seen in countless films and TV cop series; their imagination
fills the gaps, while the day-to-day reality remains hidden. But
it affects our lives in countless ways. For example, when the
desperate heroin or crack addict burgles your house or mugs you,
he is doing it to pay for a fix supplied by - albeit indirectly
- a major international drugs syndicate. Drug addicts are estimated
to be responsible for £2 billion worth of property crime
annually, half the national total.
Indeed, the cold-blooded murder of Rolfe, Tucker and Tate was
initially linked to the same drug-dealing ring that supplied the
Ecstasy tablet which killed teenager Leah Betts; she lived four
miles from the murder site. While police dismissed the link as
"pure speculation", it remains true that the crime,
drugs and money equation, underpinned by violence, is well entrenched
in most of Britain's cities and towns. Meanwhile, the underworld,
over the last decade, has changed out of all recognition. The
Sixties-style family firms, like the Krays and the Richardsons,
still rule in many parts of the country, but today the lure of
big drug money involving billions of pounds has attracted international
criminals, many of whom are linked to organised syndicates and
Intelligent, business-wise, in some cases semi-respectable, today's
criminals are also more ruthless than ever before. In fact, long
before Ronnie Kray was laid to rest last year, the old ways had
died, swept out by the incoming tide of drugs, high finance and
computer-based fraud. The Krays, who ruled by virtue of their
brawn rather than their brains, would have found it impossible
to reclaim their empire had they been released. The real similarity
between the Krays and the heirs to their underworld empire is
that family ties can be the only thing that counts in the treacherous
business of crime.
For example, north London is currently 'owned' by a trio of brothers
who boast considerable business acumen, as well as a willingness
to solve major problems with violence. Thanks to a wide circle
of associates, the Adams firm has access to its own armoury, hitmen
and enforcers, all waiting on the end of a telephone and ready
to respond at a moment's notice. In south London, there are the
Walkers, the Brindles and, in Bermondsey, the remnants of the
armed robbery specialists the Arifs - names which mean little
to most, but which, in the right circles, evoke the same fear
reserved for the Krays.
While not everyone subscribes to the image of the Krays as the
ultimate gents, the escalation of the drugs trade has changed
everything. Whereas it once took years to develop a reputation
as a good operator with a bit of class, today a single shipment
can catapult the most inept into the ranks of the top villains.
On the other hand, as Rolfe, Tate and Tucker found out, one wrong
move and you're dead.
LONDON IS THE HUB OF ALL THIS ACTIVITY, AND police surveillance
teams regularly spot well known Geordie, Liverpudlian and Scottish
'faces' fraternising with their counterparts in the capital. (At
the end of 1994, two men from Salford were caught in London, allegedly
with more than 100kg of Ecstasy intended to supply the northern
club circuit.) The English and Scottish crime families have also
invested in various entertainment interests, useful for absorbing
the vast quantities of cash generated by the drugs business.
They have branched out into counterfeit currency, and own nightclubs
both here and in Spain, where drugs are easy to push to party
crowds. With a burgeoning drug subculture which has brought widespread
use of Ecstasy, cocaine, speed, crack and heroin by a new generation
of recreational drug users - Londoners alone spend around £1.1
billion on illegal drugs every year - the stakes are ever higher.
Criminals from around the world are arriving at Heathrow all the
time to exploit the rich pickings, or launder the drug money they
have amassed in other parts of the world.
As a result, the level of violence has rocketed and heralded the
arrival of gun law on Britain's streets. According to Scotland
Yard, M15 and the National Criminal Intelligence Service, every
major international gang, from the Italian Mafia to the Japanese
Yakuza, now has a UK subsidiary: Pakistani and Turkish gangs importing
heroin, Colombians working with West Africans to supply the nation's
coke habit, Jamaicans adding crack to the traditional ganja trade.
Many come from societies where guns are freely available and frequently
used. In the UK, the quickest to the draw are the Jamaican criminals,
the so-called Yardies.
For them, guns are not just a tool of the trade but a fashion
accessory to go with big, gold chains, the BMW and the wad of
cash. The Yardie myth was as much created by a hysterical popular
press, who at the end of the 1980s became obsessed by the image
of a stream of dangerous men from Jamaica selling crack to our
children and building a mafia-style crime organisation in the
UK. But in reality the Jamaican criminals were small-time gangsters
incapable of mounting a society-threatening conspiracy. Instead,
most Yardies embrace a philosophy of life that revolves around
stealing people's money, taking their drugs by force, shooting
first, asking questions later, and sleeping with a loaded automatic
under the pillow.
The man a Yardie fears most is another Yardie. Since 1986, there
have been at least 57 Yardie-linked murders along with countless
woundings, serious assaults and rapes, and bar the odd policeman
who has got in the way -the violence is almost always internecine.
It is their absolute ruthlessness. combined with an insatiable,
reckless greed and a total disregard for life, which has led the
Yardies, in the space of ten years, to become one of the most
feared criminal syndicates, despite being the smallest, least
organised and least sophisticated.
When Ronnie Kray died, the quote-hunting pack of reporters who
descended on Bethnal Green for the funeral heard the old cliche
that Ronnie was an honourable villain who only hurt his own. Such
quaint etiquette never bothered a Yard-man or, indeed, woman.
The successful Jamaican jewellery trader Nellie Alien had nothing
to do with the drugs business, but had the misfortune of being
related to someone who did.
Her nephew, Frederick Dawson, had ripped off Fat Pam, girlfriend
of leading London-based Yardie William Young, and ruthless drug
and gun dealer in her own right, in a £10,000 cocaine deal.
Having failed to track down Frederick. Pam sent for Nellie who,
completely unaware of what her nephew had done, found herself
being escorted at gunpoint to a flat on the notorious Holly St
in Dalston, East London. Fat Pam immediately launched into a vicious
assault, kicking Nellie repeatedly in the head, face and stomach
while demanding to know where Frederick was hiding and where her
She was pistol-whipped, stabbed in the leg with a kitchen knife
and beaten again until Pam and her two male cohorts went to bed.
The next day, they upped the pace of the torture. While Pam held
a gun to Nellie's head, her younger brother forced her to give
him oral sex. They then made her swallow bullets, threatened to
kneecap her and would have gang raped her had she not been in
the middle of her period. Pam repeatedly stomped her 14 stone
on Nellie's back several times, clubbed her with a bottle and
pushed a wire coat-hanger into the flesh of her upper arm until,
desperate to stop the nightmare, Nellie gave them the name of
a hotel where she knew her nephew had once stayed.
Pain and the others left and Nellie tired to escape out of a window,
falling four floors and sustaining multiple injuries. Fat Pam
was eventually jailed for ten years. In Yardie circles, the notion
of honour among thieves would just be a crude joke. Within the
Chinese Triad fraternity - the oldest established criminal conspiracy
in the world - concepts like honour and respect have been turned
into a pseudo-religious fetish. While the Triads have ready access
to guns, chopping their victims with meat cleavers or machetes
is considered particularly symbolic as this relates to the death
by a 'myriad of swords' that features in the Triad oath of allegiance.
Such attacks are rarely fatal but the hideously scarred amputees
who survive serve as a warning to others. Once a secret of the
Chinese community based in London's Soho and Manchester's Chinatown,
the Triads' membership, at the lower levels at least, is now much
less exclusive. A new generation of 'enforcers' has been recruited
from the new Far Eastern communities living in Britain, such as
the Vietnamese. The Triads like to get them young and have now
begun targeting certain schools in London for new members.
INTERNATIONAL, ORGANISED CRIME MIGHT HAVE forged a bridgehead
in the UK. but the murderous violence occurring on our streets
remains episodic, and its influence containable unlike other countries,
where crime is even bigger business. In places like Italy, Japan,
Colombia and Hong Kong, crime is so enmeshed into the fabric of
economic activity that only a social revolution could change things.
In contemporary Russia, their mafia now represents a shadow government.
Meanwhile, despite the internationalisation of British crime,
no major criminal activity can take place without the approval
of the traditional English, Irish and Scottish firms, and certain
individual criminals. As a result, they have uneasy alliances
with most major foreign gangs who use them as UK representatives.
The relationship has been educational for the English villains
of the Nineties and they have become more sophisticated. But they
are not quite the Mafia. Yet.