Essexboys - Articles

??/03/96 - 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

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 cartels.

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 money was.

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.

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