Sunday, 12 May 2013

The Gangs of Britain

This new and interesting documentary series hosted by brothers Gary & Martin Kemp looks at the old and new takes on criminal gangs.  Gary covers the historical and Martin the new.  Four episodes on, they have looked at Glasgow, with the Billy Boys, lead by Billy Fullerton, and their rivals, the Norman Conks, whilst in the modern era, a feud between two families that resulted in a brutal murder.  Then Liverpool dealt with the Cornermen, and the horrific murder of a man simply because he would not hand over sixpence when demanded.  This happened in 1874, when a man and his wife, and his brother, were returning from a day trip.  They were walking down Tithebarn Street, when some young men demanded money.  These were known as the Cornermen, groups of thugs and criminals who basically hung around the street corners, where inevitably, there was a pub.  They would demand money from passers-by.  He refused and was viciously attacked by the gang.  People poured out into the street to watch, but did nothing.  There were even women screaming encouragement to the gang.  The victim was literally kicked all over the street and died from his injuries.  The new era was represented by Curtis Warren, and the drug empire he built, but is now doing another stretch in prison for drug smuggling.  He did not need to get involved in anything ever again, but certainly could not resist putting together another importation.  No doubt he needed the adrenalin rush of completing another deal.

    Episode three dealt with Manchester with the Scuttlers and the Gooch Gang.  The Scuttlers, who were probably the first youth cult in the country, ran amok throughout Manchester and Salford.  Gangs operated not only on areas but streets.  Weapons usually carried were knives, the clog boots, and belts with heavy buckles that inflicted terrible head injuries.  Scuttler gang ages ran from around fourteen to twenty, and many of these young men were tough and up for any kind of a battle.  Surprisingly, there were very few fatalities, no doubt due to the ever presence of the gallows.  The Gooch mob were taken down in a high profile court case that saw leaders Colin Joyce & Lee Amos go down for very long sentences.  The Gooch were battling with their rivals The Doddington, Longsight, and a couple of other mobs.  There were murders, gun fights, innocent people shot dead and wounded, so the Police went ahead to take them down, which they did.

    The latest episode dealt with Birmingham, with the Brummagen Hammers, and the war between the Burger Boys and the Johnson Crew.  The Brummagen mob was led by Billy Kimber, and just after WW1, the popularity of horse racing was immense, and Kimbers` mob started extorting money from bookmakers.  This spread around the Northern racecourses, but the southern racecourses were controlled by the gang led by Italian Charles "Darby" Sabini.  The attempts to take over in the south did lead to huge fights on the racecourses between the Sabinis and not just Birmingham, but Leeds and Uttoxeter.  The New Year shootings in Birmingham a few years back left two young women dead, and another woman and man wounded.  This was an attack with a Mac-10 and two handguns, where the gunmen drew alongside a small crowd of people and then opened fire at point blank range.    This was a continuation of the war between the Burger Boys & The Johnson Crew, in which members of one side were seen and so were fired upon.  A huge Police investigation resulted in two of the gunmen receiving thirty five years prison and the other shooter, twenty seven years. 

    It has taken a very long time but now cold-blooded killers are finally receiving sentences that their crimes demand.  When a minimum sentence is handed down, it does not automatically mean that they will be released on completion.  Some may never be set free.  Hopefully sentences like these will start having an effect on people thinking that killing somebody is a trivial offence.