Hoods: The Gangs of Nottingham, A Study in Organised Crime (2012)


ne of the first targets of Operation Starburst was not the Gunns but a group of cocaine smugglers operating between Jamaica and the St Ann’s estate. The gang was led by Lindford Shepherd and Karl Guthrie, who used female mules to bring cocaine into the city in bulk from the West Indies. Guthrie, who was jobless and lived on the St Ann’s estate, and Shepherd had extensive links to Jamaica, were pouring millions of pounds worth of cocaine into the region. Operation Conduit was set up to target them and within a few months dealers working for them were being taken out – the base of the business pyramid was being chipped away. By the time the team got to Guthrie and Shepherd, they had taken out sixty-two of their foot soldiers and seized more than £3 million of coke. One twenty-nine-year-old smuggler, Sandra Cooke, who lived in Sneinton and worked as a cleaner at the Nottingham Evening Post, had made a number of mule runs to and from Jamaica, but was also ripping off local dealers. In February 2004, she made another trip, under the guise of visiting her ‘sick mother’ in Montego Bay. She was met off the plane, driven to a sugar cane field and executed with one shot to the back of the head.

Eventually Shepherd and Guthrie, having run out of workers, were forced to get hands-on. Shepherd, the senior of the two, used his son Jonathan Levine to ferry coke into the UK. He was caught and jailed for ten years. On 11 January 2005, Pamela Fogo, a fifty-one-year-old mother-of-three from the St Ann’s estate, was met by Guthrie at Gatwick Airport. She had already been searched once after sniffer dogs marked her out but Customs officers had failed to find the coolbag stitched into the lining of her rucksack, containing uncut cocaine worth £320,000 on the street. Officers from Operation Conduit, who knew she was carrying cocaine somewhere, followed the two as they took a taxi back to Nottingham, stopping the car on the A453 coming into the city. Fogo received a six-and-half year prison sentence for her mule work and Guthrie received ten years for conspiracy to supply Class A drugs. Shepherd, who had by now amassed substantial wealth including properties all over Jamaica, received a five-year sentence.

It was a successful operation by any standards. Now the Starburst team was ready to take on the white gangs – starting first with the Dawes family.

IN JANUARY 2004, Nottinghamshire Police arrested a young man on suspicion of burglary. Detective Sergeant Darren Mee began interviewing him at Oxclose Lane Police Station over a suspected break-in, but soon the youth, Peter Williams, stopped the interview and said he wanted to talk to a senior officer. He said he had some information about a murder which would interest them. The senior officer on duty, Detective Inspector Tony Webster, was called out to handle the matter. Gradually a story began to emerge.

‘I know something about the Marian Bates murder,’ Williams told him. ‘Those involved were Craig Moran, a lad called Betton or Bretton, and another lad I don’t know. Craig had the car, which was a dinger, to use on the job. There was also a scooter. I think they bought that. The lad – I don’t know his name – was the rider of the scooter and it’s him that did the shooting.’

‘So how do you know all this, Peter?’ Webster asked the young man.

‘I was there,’ the teenager told him. ‘I went into the jewellers with the other lad and I forced the lock off the cupboard with a crowbar and the next thing I heard was a shot. I didn’t know he was going to shoot anybody. And another thing...I also know who set the job up and where the gun came from – it was all Gunnie’s job, Colin Gunn. He said nobody should be shot.’

Peter Williams was charged with the robbery at the Time Centre and the murder of Marian Bates, but crucially DI Webster working under a heavy load at the time, neglected to write up notes in his pocket book until two days after the event. A judge would later cite this as one reason for ruling Williams’s confession inadmissible in a court of law. DI Webster was also apparently unaware at the time of the arrest of police intelligence logs which stated that Williams was ‘strongly suspected’ of involvement in Marian Bates’s murder. .

It was later also discovered that Williams had been on an electronic tag and, on the day of the killing, should have been being monitored by a private security company, Premier, but had removed his tag a week before after being released on licence from Olney Young Offender Institution three weeks earlier. He also missed seven out of eleven scheduled meetings with Nottingham Youth Offending Team. This breach of bail conditions was not picked up by the company, which should have checked that Williams was at his home address under curfew.

Later, at the trial of Williams, Dean Betton and Craig Moran, DI Webster revealed his failings in an emotionally charged moment at Wolverhampton Crown Court. ‘I don’t think I have been good enough in my job,’ he admitted. ‘I don’t expect any sympathy from anyone. I have let the Bates family down, the CPS down and the barristers,’ he said. ‘Williams did make those admissions. He did say that, but how I have recorded it wasn’t correct. The gist of what he’s saying was correct, but having considered it for months, I believe it was a vast error of judgment on my part in going anywhere near him that night. In the last probably five or six years I have suffered ill health. It’s not an excuse for this but I don’t think my judgment has been correct. I came here today very agitated and it’s because I don’t think I have done the right thing. And I don’t want to drag the force into any further disrepute by trying to defend a position that I’ve looked at for a long time now and think I cannot defend in court properly.’

Discussions took place before the trial commenced, including applications from the defence that could have scuppered any trial had they been accepted. However, the Judge Mr Justice Goldring ruled that the trial should go ahead. Williams was convicted and received a life sentence with a twenty-two-year tariff; Dean Betton, twenty-four, and Craig Moran, twenty-three, both received fourteen years.

DI Webster broke down completely shortly after his admissions and left the witness box in tears, with the judge declaring him unfit to give evidence. He subsequently suffered a breakdown and was off work for nine months, though he later returned to duty. An Independent Police Complaints Commission enquiry into the police investigation of the Marian Bates murder found that there was no evidence of any misconduct by Webster or any other officers involved, though it did say there were ‘lessons for Nottinghamshire force to learn in relation to best practice with regard to the timely completion of pocket notebooks’. Inspector Sam Wilson, vice chairman of Nottinghamshire Police Federation, pointed out that Webster had been commended five times for his work and had an exemplary record: ‘Tony is highly respected by his colleagues and has never lost his focus on what this job is about: catching criminals and protecting the public,’ he said. ‘We are heartened he has been completely exonerated by the totally independent IPCC.’

Police had intelligence at the time that the car linked to the Bates robbery, a maroon Peugeot, had been pulled over three months before the raid, when it was driven by Colin Gunn’s common-law wife, Victoria Garfoot, and by February 2004 they had information about Gunn sponsoring the raid. But it took until January 2005 for him to be arrested. Officers were rewarded with a few nuggets when they went to Gunn’s mother’s home in Raymede Drive on 7 January 2005. Gunn was not there (though his solicitor later made arrangements for him to attend the police station). As police carried out searches at the property, they discovered various pieces of torn paper which were clearly the remnants of faxed documents. The bundle of evidence was bagged up and then the relevant pieces removed by one of the senior officers, who realised its significance and the need to ensure the corruption investigation, Operation Salt, remained hidden from rank and file officers. Forensic examination of the paper found that it had been sent by fax from Radford Road Police Station to Limey’s clothes store in Bridlesmith Gate, Nottingham. The piece of paper had the fingerprints of Jason Grocock, manager of Limey’s, on it, and the fingerprints of Colin Gunn. The connection between the two was trainee detective Charles Fletcher, based at Radford Road Police Station.

IN DECEMBER 2003, one of Colin Gunn’s runners went on an unsanctioned cocaine run into Lincolnshire. Gunn found out about it, and began to suspect the runner might be a weak link in the organisation. A bullet was fired through the letterbox of his home. Patrick Marshall, known as ‘Celtic Pat’ because of his passion for the Scottish football team, had become a loose canon as far as Gunn was concerned and needed sorting. Gunn also heard Marshall was trying to get a gun to settle a dispute with another man called ‘Scotch Al’, and decided to intervene. He sought out his deadliest gunman, John McSally, to deal with it. A junior member of the Cartel organised a car, while McSally told Marshall he would be able to provide him with a gun. A meeting was arranged in the car park of the Park Tavern, Basford, for 8pm on 8 February 2004. McSally was late and Marshall was on the point of giving up and going home when the pony-tailed enforcer turned up. As the father-of-one walked with McSally to where he said the gun was stored, McSally shot him in the head. He then made his escape in the getaway car, careering through a bollard as he made his way out of the pub car park. Patrick Marshall, forty-six, lay dying with a bullet wound to his head.

John McSally was born in Nottingham in 1956. His criminal career began when he was eleven and his first spell in custody came in September 1971, when he went to borstal for burglary. In 2002, he was jailed after visiting Nottingham pubs with a shotgun searching for a person he wanted to kill. He received a ludicrously short sentence of two-and-a-half years for making threats to kill, possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life and breaching a suspended sentence. A wild-looking man with tattoos on his neck and a greying goatee, his weakness was his penchant for getting drunk and letting his loose tongue wag. During boozy late-night chats, he even told the landlady of his local pub in Basford about some of the shootings he had carried out done, saying he got sexually aroused by it. ‘Yeah, I did the Mansfield one [David Draycott] and Patrick Marshall and the black guy from the Heathfield Estate. It’s just business,’ he said.

The black guy from the Heathfield Estate was Derrick Senior, a social worker. In September 2003, he and a friend arranged to meet a colleague in a pub. They went to the wrong one and ended up in the Lord Nelson in Bulwell by mistake. Dreadlocked Mr Senior was chatting to his friend Esther Robinson when one of five young white men playing pool kicked her on the buttock as he walked past the table. Derrick asked them to apologise but instead they grabbed him by his dreadlocks and dragged him into the corner of the pub, where they began to kick, punch and beat him with their pool cues. He suffered a fractured eye socket and rib and Esther suffered bruises after being attacked when she went to his aid. His attackers even danced around the pub laughing and joking, holding his dreadlocks in the air. The incident, just after 10pm, was caught on CCTV.

The five men were all members of the Bestwood Cartel. They had been celebrating a birthday and also the arrest of Michael O’Brien for the murder of Marvyn Bradshaw. The men were twenty-year-old James Brodie, a young man who had just carried out a series of robberies; John McNee, twenty-four, who had a history of violence in virtually every pub he had been into; Joseph Graham, twenty-three; Lee Marshall, twenty-four, and Robert Watson, twenty-five, whose birthday it was. By the time the case came to court in May 2004, Brodie had disappeared; he was wanted in connection with the shooting of Marian Bates.

One of the Bestwood Cartel contacted a drugs worker they knew and asked him if he would approach Mr Senior and offer him some money to withdraw his complaint, but the fifty-year-old had already given police a witness statement. Colin Gunn wasn’t happy that his crew would have to face court, particularly as the incident would spark more questions about what had happened to James Brodie. Mr Senior, who had started growing his dreadlocks thirty-three years earlier, told the police, ‘It was the greatest insult I could suffer. I am a Rastafarian. It encompasses my life and religion. I have been more deeply affected than I can possibly imagine. The physical scars and injuries have healed, but the mental scars are never likely to heal.’

His attackers received sentences of between six-and-a-half years and two-and-a-half years at Nottingham Crown Court on 14 May 2004. Three days later, Derrick Senior was feeling more vulnerable than ever. He knew how these people might react, having gone to court to see them sentenced. He had taken to driving his car to the shops even though it was just down the road. As he got into his car that evening, he didn’t take much notice of the motorcycle revving up nearby. It looked like a pizza delivery man – he had a cardboard box in his hand. He didn’t see another man with a motorcycle helmet get off the bike and approach his car. John McSally thrust his handgun through the car window and pumped three bullets into Senior, shouting, ‘You grassing bastard.’ Senior sat in his car, his hands still on the steering wheel, trying to play dead as he battled to stay calm with bullet wounds in both legs and his armpit. He later told a courtroom, ‘I was trying to play possum, play dead as it were. [Then] I got up and hit the horn and screamed, “I’ve been shot.”’

Derrick Senior survived but was forced to enter the witness protection programme. He has not been back to Nottingham since.