Pubdate: Sun, 29 Aug 2004
Source: Observer, The (UK)
Copyright: 2004 The Observer
Author: Tony Thompson, The Observer
Bookmark: (Cocaine)
Bookmark: (Heroin)


Tony Thompson Reports On The Spiralling Violence Between Rival Drug Lords 
Which Has Left Three Men Dead and Liverpool Families In Terror

In the balmy sunshine of an August afternoon, the Grizedale estate in 
Everton, north Liverpool, comes across as a perfectly pleasant place to 
live. The neat rows of terraced two-storey houses are painted in pretty 
pastel colours, the small gardens are beautifully manicured, there is 
little graffiti and expensive cars sit in many of the driveways.

But appearances can be deceptive. The estate, which sits in one of the most 
deprived areas in Britain, is at the heart of a vicious gang war which has 
left at least three men dead and seen dozens of others wounded. At the last 
count more than 250 of Grizedale's residents - around one in eight of the 
estate's population - have been arrested for drugs, weapons or violence. 
Hundreds of weapons have been recovered from the estate including a 
powerful sniper rifle complete with telescopic sight and ammunition. 
Despite this the shootings and car bombings have continued, leading local 
politicians to criticise police tactics and declare the situation to be 
'out of control'. With police resources stretched to cover two massive 
festivals in the city this bank holiday weekend, many residents of north 
Liverpool fear a new wave of violence over the trade in heroin and crack 

The feud between drugs gangs based in Everton and their rivals in nearby 
Kirkdale had been simmering for years but hit the headlines last September 
when the home of former salesman Tony Richardson was sprayed with gunfire 
during a drive-by shooting. Richardson, whose fiancee is actress Jennifer 
Ellison, recent winner of ITV's Hell's Kitchen reality programme, is 
something of a local legend. Wrongly accused of taking part in a gun attack 
on a prominent local family linked to the Kirkdale gang (he was arrested 
and held in custody for four months before the case was dropped), he has 
been inadvertently caught up in the violence and targeted by the drugs 
gangs ever since. There is said to be a UKP50,000 contract on his head 
though there is no suggestion he is anything other than a victim of the feud.

A few days after the attack on Richardson's home a massive car bomb blew up 
outside Club 051 in Liverpool's city centre, shattering windows in nearby 
hotels, shops and offices. Miraculously no one was hurt. There was another 
lucky escape six days later when a nailbomb was thrown into the middle of 
the packed Dickie Lewis pub in Kirkdale. The device, which skidded across 
the pub's dancefloor, had been lit but failed to detonate. Police have 
little doubt that if the bomb, filled with razor-sharp shards of metal, had 
exploded it would have cost lives.

In January 19-year-old Danny McDonald, supposedly responsible for the 
Dickie Lewis attack, was shot dead in the Royal Oak pub. Four months later 
on 6 April Craig Barker, also 19, died on the edge of the Grizedale. He and 
three friends were driving out of the estate when a gunman sprayed their 
car with 18 bullets. Barker was hit repeatedly in the chest, the driver was 
hit several times in the legs and another passenger, Mark Richardson - 
younger brother of Tony - was struck in the back. The third passenger 
escaped without injury.

Revenge was swift. On 11 April 19-year-old Michael Singleton was gunned 
down in Kirkdale after several men burst through the back door of his house 
and shot him in the head and chest. He bled to death on the kitchen floor. 
A month later father-of-three David Regan was gunned down in broad daylight 
on the forecourt of the car-wash he owned in the Old Swan area of 
Liverpool. Masked gunmen shot him in the back four times. His brother, 
Michael, was also injured in the attack and has been moved away from the 
area for his own safety.

Police responded with a massive show of force, setting up a mobile police 
station in the centre of Grizedale to co-ordinate raids, removing graffiti 
and handing out personal attack alarms to residents. They quickly 
identified 18 key figures behind the dispute and set about arresting them 
and their associates. They include five brothers from the estate who cannot 
be named for legal reasons but are believed to be major figures in the 
local underworld. The eldest, just 26, is now awaiting trial for unlawful 
wounding after allegedly slashing a police officer with a knife during a 
drugs raid. Three of the brothers face separate trials for making threats 
to kill while the final member of the family is a co-defendant in an 
upcoming case of alleged kidnap and wounding.

By the end of July it seemed that police had the situation under control 
and the mobile police station was taken away. But then came the shooting of 
26-year-old Anthony Wright. He and his girlfriend were getting out of their 
car close to his Kirkdale home when a masked gunman ran towards him and 
fired four shots into his chest at point blank range. Wright, a 
semi-professional footballer with no criminal connections, is believed to 
have been targeted because his cousin is on an attempted murder charge. He 
remains in a serious condition. Then on 12 August a massive car bomb 
exploded outside the police station in Walton Lane, strewing wreckage more 
than 100 metres.

Despite hundreds of arrests all three gangland murders and most of the 
shooting incidents remain unsolved and police are reluctant to confirm 
links between them for fear of jeopardising future legal proceedings. 
Questioned over recent events Chief Superintendent Mike Langdon, area 
commander for Liverpool North, told The Observer: 'Major investigations are 
ongoing in respect of the incidents that you have referred to. In respect 
of each matter a significant line of investigation is underway to identify 
any potential links to a small number of key criminal players.'

But Peter Kilfoyle, MP for Liverpool Walton, believes the current tactics 
provide only a short-term solution. 'Nothing that has happened so far is 
going to cure the problem,' he said. 'The people who have been arrested 
will eventually return and the problems will start again. There are several 
areas in the north of Liverpool which used to be decent but are rapidly 
going down the pan. There is an ingrained culture which says the worst 
possible thing you can do is become a grass and that is not being addressed.'

Since the clampdown, recorded crime on the Grizedale has actually started 
to rise. This, say police, is a sign that their campaign has been 
successful. In the past residents rarely reported crimes because they were 
too scared of reprisals; the fact the figures are rising is proof of 
growing confidence.

But for many residents the improvement in the quality of life is not 
expected to last. 'The kids round here, they're only young but they don't 
believe there is anything for them except selling drugs,' said one 
mother-of-three speaking on condition of anonymity. 'And so long as there's 
a demand, there's always going to be someone who wants to make money by 
providing the supply.'
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