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


avid Draycott was in trouble. He owed money and those he owed were running out of patience. He could feel it in the darkness as he pulled his black Mercedes into the driveway of his home in Woodlands Way, Sutton-in-Ashfield. It was 9.17pm on 7 October 2002. He had just been to his estranged wife’s home a short distance away and had received two phone calls while he was there, telling him to pay up or he would be in trouble. He had had to ask his wife, Andrea, if she could help him with a banker’s draft to help settle the debt. She had never seen him so worried. He had borrowed £10,000 from some unpleasant characters for a cocaine deal but had not been able to keep up the repayments and now the debt had escalated to more than £30,000, though he told his wife that he needed the money to pay off the VAT bill on the sheet metal business he was running.

‘Drakey’, a big bear of a man, always had a smile on his face. He could be a bit difficult to pin down – sometimes when asked what he was up to he would tell people he did ‘a bit of this and a bit of that’, and laugh. He had worked the doors of pubs and clubs in the Ashfield area, and had come into contact with a myriad of unsavoury people. Wanting to be his own boss, he had sunk money into a sheet metal business but found it was not easy to make an honest crust. His friends knew he had become involved with people who were selling Class A drugs in Nottinghamshire and they were heavy hitters but Drakey kept everything to himself. He never told his friends he was worried about the spot of bother he was in; he thought he could handle any trouble himself.

Two major drug gangs were interested in the debt that Drakey owed: the Dawes family, who controlled the supply of drugs across the East Midlands from their base in Sutton-in-Ashfield, north Nottinghamshire, and the Bestwood Cartel. As he steered his Mercedes into the drive, Drakey was still thinking about trying to reconcile his marriage. Though he and his wife had been estranged for six months, things were getting better. He knew his daughter, aged eight, and son, aged eleven, wanted him to go back home and he and Andrea had become closer in recent weeks, thanks to a holiday in Devon and Cornwall and a break in Skegness. He had even told his mum that he reckoned he and Andrea would be back together by Christmas. If only he could get these people off his back he could start making plans.

Drakey was tired and didn’t see two men get out of the silver Peugeot 206 across the road. They had been waiting there for more than two hours. He didn’t hear them walk down his drive. He only saw them as he opened his door and before he knew it they were pumping bullets into him. Even with his body riddled with ten shots, Draycott managed to crawl to a neighbour’s house to raise the alarm. He was wheeled into an ambulance semi-conscious and fought hard to stay alive but ten bullets was too much even for Drakey. Four days later, he was dead at the age of forty.

Andrea, who had arrived at the scene of the shooting just as her husband was being carried away, issued an appeal that Christmas: ‘No child’s last memory of their father should be of him being wheeled into an ambulance riddled with bullets. They have had their childhood taken away. If anybody knows anything, but they are scared to come forward, I would just ask them to think about themselves in the same situation. How would they feel if their children had lost a father? I would ask them to be strong, because without their help David’s killers won’t be brought to justice.’

A month after the murder, in the early hours of Thursday, November 7, a man called John Shippam was finding it hard to sleep in his new flat in Chiltern Way, Bestwood. Like David Draycott, he was no stranger to violence. Shippam was not long out of prison, having severely beaten up a man in his home in the Sherwood area in 1998. Now he lay listening to music in his room, but he was worried. The Bestwood Cartel were chasing him over a friend’s cannabis debt. His mate has done a runner and left Shippam to bear the brunt. Although it was only a couple of hundred quid, they meant business. He was still nursing the bruises from a beating he had taken outside the Anchor pub in Gunthorpe village on Guy Fawkes Night. They told him then that he would have to find the money quickly. He had asked friends to help but they were slow to come through.

As Shippam listened to his music, two men entered his flat and walked in on him. He knew them – two brothers who had worked with Colin and David Gunn, collecting money and selling drugs for them. One had something in his hand. Shippam pleaded with them but they refused to hear his explanations. A single shot rang out and John Shippam lay dead. He was twenty-five years old.

As the two men walked out of the block of flats, an associate of Shippam saw them get into their car and made a mental note. Later the same man would tell police what he had seen and would be forced to go on the run with his family because the gangsters knew he knew and threatened to murder him. Though two of Colin Gunn’s associates were arrested for John Shippam’s murder, the case remains unsolved. Friends of those arrested claim a rogue police officer tipped off the suspects that a bug had been placed in their sofa, throwing the investigation into chaos. Like Andrea Draycott, John Shippam’s mother Josie has still to receive justice for the murder of her loved one.

IN THE SUMMER of 2003, beleaguered Chief Constable Steve Green found himself in a building he had never been in before. He had been summoned to a meeting in the Pimlico area of London to discuss how certain law enforcement agencies could help him in the battle against organised crime. Green had problems locating the building and had to ring his secretary twice to double-check the address. Having finally found it, he was ushered into a room. Senior managers from the National Crime Squad, National Criminal Intelligence Service, Customs and Excise Investigations Service and other shadowy figures who ‘worked for the Government’ were there to greet him.

‘We gather you have a problem in Nottingham,’ he was told. ‘Well, we are here to help. You have our full support to make use of the resources we have. This is a problem that must be sorted out before it goes any further.’

That problem had become so acute that, in March 2003, David Blakey, one of the senior inspectors from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Police (HMIC), refused to give Nottinghamshire Police a clean bill of health. They were, he concluded, neither effective nor efficient. ‘If you lived, worked or visited Nottinghamshire in April 2002, you were more likely to have a crime committed against you than anywhere else in the country,’ stated Blakey’s report. He was particularly critical of the abilities of the police force to deal with drug crime. Some senior CID officers had also made clear to HMIC that the disbandment of the drug squad and the use of divisions instead had seriously hampered their ability to fight organised crime. ‘There was a widely held view that the Force drugs investigation function was not robust,’ wrote Blakey. ‘The main response to drug investigation, at all levels, remains with divisions who respond within available resources. HMIC was advised during divisional visits that most drug investigation activity took place at local area command level, and that they were unable to respond effectively to drugs intelligence. Overall, the redeployment of Force drug squad resources had not increased the drug investigation capacity at divisional level.’

There was also reference to the pressures that the CID was under. Green’s reorganisation strategy had been forced upon the CID at the most inopportune moment, coinciding with the explosion of gun crime in 2002. The report stated that some of the failures to meet HMIC targets were due to ‘the wider Force reorganisation and unprecedented resource demands for murder investigations’. Regardless of any leap in crime which may have put Nottinghamshire under pressure – it was dealing with twenty-one new murder investigations that year, against an average of twelve – this was either a veiled criticism of the abilities of frontline officers to do their jobs or an indictment of Green’s reorganisation.

The Labour MP for Nottingham North, Graham Allen, had been critical of Green as early as 2001, particularly over the issue of beat bobbies being taken away and replaced with officers in cars, and in 2002 he had raised the issue in the House of Commons. ‘We in the City of Nottingham division are losing bobbies on the beat,’ said Allen. ‘In addition, our local police stations are losing large numbers of officers to response units – in effect, those stations are being hollowed out.’ Was it right, he asked the Home Secretary, that at a time when the Government were being congratulated for employing more police than ever before, people on some estates were seeing fewer of those officers? The Chief Constable, however, had stuck to his guns. ‘I would challenge anybody to undertake change of this depth and not have a few plates fall off,’ he said. ‘It’s the inevitable consequence of trying to tackle so much change.’ At the same time he admitted, ‘The beat officer issue was a stumbling block that we tripped up on. Officers were unsure about their role.’

Now the table of heavyweight officials who confronted Green were talking about organised crime and the problems caused by gun-wielding gangsters, including the Bestwood Cartel. Green was stunned by the detail that the officials had. As he would later admit, the tackling of gun crime in the NG Triangle had distracted attention from the city’s white gangsters. ‘By 2003 it was clear to us that something else was happening,’ he later told the BBC in an interview. ‘There was a different dynamic, so that, if you like, we are kind of fighting the war against gun crime on that front but there is another front opening up, and that led us to sort of reappraise the situation and take stock and conclude that something, I think, far more evil and more insidious was taking place in the white community of north Nottingham that required a completely different approach.’

A few months earlier, when approached by his own senior officers about the problem, he had approved an investigation but had told them they would have limited resources and their work would have to be completed in six months. Now he was being told by representatives of national agencies that it would have to be a bigger operation, involving them. Technology only just being field-tested by MI5 would be available. National Crime Squad officers would be used for covert surveillance and, as part of stage one of the operation, a police officer from London would be sent in undercover to try to infiltrate the Bestwood Cartel. It would be a multi-layered investigation overseen by a clandestine caucus of operatives. Each individual sub-operation against an arm of the Gunn brothers’ empire would be given the codename of states in the USA, such as Utah and Texas. Less than a handful of officers would know what the overall operation would be about. Everything would be on a need-to-know basis only. By August 2003, Nottinghamshire’s head of CID, Phil Davies, had been given the go-ahead that he had been pleading for over the previous twelve months. Operation Starburst was born.

THEY BEGAN WITH Operation Texas. An undercover police officer was brought up from London to infiltrate one side of the gang. Officers decided they would target one of Gunn’s lieutenants, Jamie Neil. The plan was that the officer would pose as a drug smuggler from London who was forced out of the capital and was now lying low in Nottingham. His story was carefully constructed – and it needed to be. Once introductions had been made in Nottingham, Neil turned to Gunn to make enquiries about the bogus villain’s background. Associates went down to London to check out his story and found it was true. Within a few months, the undercover officer was making significant inroads into the gang and picking up vital intelligence on drugs coming in. Then one evening, he was invited to a boxing match. Things were going well until he moved on to a nightclub where Neil and his associates had booked a VIP area, closed off from the public, and proceeded to get very drunk. At some point in the evening, one of the gang took offence to something that had been said and launched a ferocious attack on an associate. As the undercover officer intervened, he too began to take a beating from Jamie Neil, and suffered a fractured skull. The secrecy of Operation Texas meant medics could not be sent to the scene in any other manner than a normal response to prevent suspicions being aroused within the Cartel. Eventually an ambulance was sent for and the officer was taken to hospital but Operation Texas was now in tatters.

Operation Utah was then launched. Bosses decided that it was too dangerous to send in any more undercover officers and so results would have to be achieved through a total surveillance of the gang using covert methods including bugs and cameras.

Events in the underworld, however, began to move at a breathtaking pace.

IN THE EARLY hours of 29 August 2003, after a lock-in at the Sporting Chance on Hucknall Road in the Bulwell area, a group of young men were draining the last dregs of their drinks. The group included Jamie Gunn – Colin and David’s nephew – and Marvyn Bradshaw, plus two other friends. It was 4am and they were finally about to go home. They had enjoyed a good evening, even though it had threatened to turn sour three hours earlier when two men tried to muscle their way into the pub and had to be forcibly ejected. Jamie knew both the men – they had dealt drugs on the Bestwood estate before and one had been going out with a Bestwood girl, which had caused some trouble with one of his uncle Colin’s right-hand men. A scuffle had erupted and Jamie Gunn had smacked one of the men with an ashtray, causing a deep cut to his head. The man was Michael O’Brien, a renowned hothead. The other, Gary Salmon, told him to cool it and dragged O’Brien away. Salmon had an ongoing beef with the Bestwood Cartel and was keen not to antagonise any of them. Four weeks earlier, a white van had parked near his home in Brooklyn Road. As Salmon stood in the doorway, a gunman had jumped out of the back and fired three shots at him. He was a marked man.

Jamie Gunn’s group began to disperse from the bar and make their way to the car park. Jamie was keen for his pal Marvyn to drive his car; he was drunk and didn’t want to get pulled over by the police. Marvyn, who was sober, agreed and got into the driver’s seat of the silver Renault Megane, while Jamie sat in the back. Two other men occupied the rear and front passenger seats. As Marvyn turned the ignition key, the windows were still steamed up, but he began to drive off anyway. Jamie turned and rubbed the glass to clear his window. He saw a shadowy figure wearing a balaclava walking towards the car. There was a loud bang and glass from the driver’s side window shattered all over the passengers. Everybody in the car ducked down except Marvyn, who groaned but continued to drive until the car slowed and finally came to a halt on a grass verge, the engine still running.

Jamie Gunn got out. He did not know what was going on. A car carrying two men in balaclavas screeched off. Through the shattered window of the driver’s door, he could see his friend slumped over the wheel, groaning.

‘I feel sick,’ said Marvyn. ‘I want to feel my head, I want to get out of the car.’

Jamie could now see a red hole in Marvyn’s head and realised his friend had been shot. He took off his red T-shirt, wrapped it around his best friend’s head and lifted him out of the car, comforting him.

‘Just stay here with us mate, it’s gonna be all right.’

But Marvyn Bradshaw was dying there on the desolate car park. Part of Jamie Gunn was dying right there too, he just didn’t know it yet.

DESPITE THE BRUTALITY of Marvyn Bradshaw’s murder, it was barely reported by the media other than the local papers. Outside Nottingham it was simply another gun death and warranted little more than the odd newspaper paragraph. The police were keen to stress that Marvyn was a likeable young man who had never been in trouble with the law. He worked hard as a shopfitter, sometimes six days a week, and he was well liked. Although police initially believed Jamie Gunn was the intended target, another man in the car that night had in fact been in O’Brien’s sights. They were also aware that feelings would be running high. They would have to race against time to catch the people responsible before revenge was sought by the Bestwood Cartel.

Detective Chief Inspector Phil Walker, leading the investigation, told the media, ‘We have not had many witnesses at all really, so far. There was an after-hours drinking session at the pub and people who had been in there have been a bit reluctant to give us a statement.’ This was nothing to do with fear of being caught drinking out of hours. Those in the Sporting Chance that evening had already been told by the Bestwood Cartel that this would be sorted out their own way, not by the police or anyone from Operation Ozone – the name for the investigation into Marvyn’s murder. Police had the names of O’Brien and Salmon but the Bestwood Cartel’s tentacles reached deeper and further than theirs. Within twenty-four hours, Colin Gunn had put the word out within the criminal fraternity. ‘We need to find these two before the police. Put the word out to everybody. If you get a bite, you will be rewarded,’ he told his troops.

By 3 September, intelligence was coming in to the police that Gunn was pulling out all the stops to track the duo and that if O’Brien or Salmon could not be found then their relatives and friends would be targeted. The Cartel’s soldiers got to work. On 7 September, a brick and then a firebomb were thrown through the window of a house Salmon had once shared with an ex-girlfriend, Alison Oldham, in Leybourne Drive, Bestwood. On the same day, a homemade hand grenade was thrown through the window of Salmon’s house on Brooklyn Road. Colin Gunn also learned that two associates of Salmon had helped him get away. On 8 September, as one of the two drove in a car with a friend, a motorbike with a pillion passenger pulled up alongside and two shots were fired into the car, one hitting him in the buttock. Police attributed the shooting directly to the Bestwood Cartel.

By this time, officers had been visiting Michael O’Brien’s mother, Joan Stirland, almost daily as they stepped up their efforts to track down her son. She helped them as much as she could and said her son had intimated that he had been involved in the murder in a telephone conversation, but she did not feel she could make a statement. This was also information that the Bestwood Cartel had become aware of, almost certainly through a police contact, and it incensed them that she was unwilling to make a statement. The Cartel also knew Mrs Stirland’s home address and were aware that O’Brien had a sister in Boston, Lincolnshire. The police could not work out how Colin Gunn was getting so much intelligence, yet they now knew that anybody connected with the two suspects was in danger.

There was a collective sigh of relief from the Ozone team when Michael O’Brien was arrested in Leicester on 9 September, at a girlfriend’s house. Mrs Stirland had been told about the shooting of Kevin White but not that she or any of her family was in danger, even though there was clear evidence that she was. Gunn himself believed that a few scare tactics were needed to concentrate Mrs Stirland’s mind about giving the police a statement implicating her son. Late on the evening of 14 September, two crash-helmeted gunmen left their motorcycle and approached her house in Southview Road. They fired five times: twice from a .38 revolver and three times from a shotgun. One bullet went through the first-floor bedroom window, another through the bathroom window, a third through the front door and two through the downstairs window. John and Joan Stirland dived onto the living room floor and lay there, paralysed with fear before, until Joan was able to crawl upstairs and make a 999 call from her mobile phone. They were very lucky to be alive. That same day the Bestwood Cartel again targeted Alison Oldham’s house in Leybourne Drive with an arson attack, while another former girlfriend of Salmon’s reported seeing a gunman on a motorcycle pointing a shotgun towards her near her home.

The next morning, the Stirlands decided to leave Nottingham for good. They were terrified and had no faith in the police being able to protect them from the gangsters; indeed they thought that the presence of officers in their vicinity was aggravating the situation and making them less secure. They had good reason to feel that way.

IN LATE SEPTEMBER 2003, a young Scot sat in a pub being lectured by a tall, burly, shaven-headed man in a Lacoste tracksuit top. The young man quietly took in the message as the shaven-headed man explained his plan to rob a jewellery shop. He had recently lost a £70,000 cocaine shipment and needed some quick cash to pay off the suppliers. The young man had already carried out several armed robberies for him in the past few weeks, three of them over a single twelve-hour period. During one raid he had discharged the gun he was carrying to frighten the victims. The same day he had also been part of a gang of men who brutally attacked dreadlocked social worker Derrick Senior while he was enjoying a pint with a friend in the Lord Nelson pub in Bulwell.

The shaven-headed man knew the Scottish lad was a hothead and sometimes a liability, but he could groom him, he thought. He would try to buy off the Rastafarian social worker with a bribe but for now he needed this robbery carrying out. Two other men working for the gang had already reconnoitred the shop and decided which jewellery cabinet to target. The shaven-headed man stressed that he did not want anybody killed.

According to an account later given to the police by one of those involved, and outlined to a judge in legal submissions before trial, the burly man was Colin Gunn and the young man James Brodie, one of his underlings. They were planning the robbery of the Time Centre in Arnold, Nottingham, run by Victor and Marian Bates. The robbery would involve a four-man team led by Brodie. In the getaway vehicle would be Dean Betton, and driver Craig Moran. Peter Williams, the youngest member of the gang at just seventeen, would carry a crowbar and assist Brodie. A high-powered scanner would help the gang to monitor police radio messages. The robbery was set for 30 September.

Peter Williams would later tell police that Gunn continued to outline the plan, ordering Brodie to park his scooter up an alleyway and to make sure there were no customers in the shop when they entered. Brodie nodded, listening almost reverently. Gunn, said Williams, was adamant that he did not want any shooting, but Brodie was a loose cannon; who knew what he might do?

On the morning of 30 September, Victor and Marian Bates made their way into Arnold, taking the road from the village of Ravenshead. Victor was sixty-five and Marian sixty-four. Their jewellery store had a bit of early trade but by 11am only a handful of customers had come into the shop: a woman looking for a watch for her husband, a couple who browse through the engagement rings before leaving empty-handed, another man looking for a some special earrings for a girlfriend. The shop was empty when, at about 1.30pm, two young men wearing motorcycle crash helmets with the visors up and rucksacks on their backs burst in. Xanthe Bates, Victor and Marian’s twenty-three-year-old daughter, was helping out in the shop and happened to be on the telephone to her husband. She was startled by the noisy entrance of the two men storming in. One of them opened his jacket, took out a crowbar out and walked towards one of the glass cabinets, which he tried to jemmy open. The other man, slightly older, looked Xanthe in the eye.

‘This is an armed robbery. Put the fucking phone down now.’

It seemed unreal, like a scene from a movie. Xanthe was rooted to the spot, phone still in her hand. Marian and Victor heard the shouting from the back of the shop and rushed to the front counter. Marian saw the two young men and walked towards her daughter to take charge of the situation. One of the men levelled a gun at Xanthe, who still had the phone in her hand, and took a couple of steps forward. Marian rushed in front of Xanthe. Trying to protect her daughter, she stretched out her arms instinctively and screamed, ‘No!’ There was a roar of gunfire from three feet away and Marian collapsed on the ground. The shooter shouted at Marian, now slumped on the shop floor, ‘You stupid cow.’ All hell broke loose. Victor had managed to press a silent alarm button underneath the counter and now had an old fencing foil which he grabbed from the back of the shop. He rushed towards the gunman, later identified in court as James Brodie. Brodie aimed the gun at him and pulled the trigger but this time the weapon misfired. Then Xanthe jumped on Brodie’s back, screaming and grabbing his arms so that he couldn’t raise the weapon again at her father.

Peter Williams, who had been grabbing jewellery from the cabinet and throwing it into his rucksack, saw his accomplice in trouble and swung his metal bar at Victor, slamming it into the side of his face. Reeling in pain with a fractured cheekbone, Victor remained undaunted and attacked Brodie with the foil once again. Williams raised the iron bar and aimed several more blows at Victor’s arm as the shopkeeper tried to stab Brodie. Finally Brodie threw Xanthe off his back, cutting her lip badly with the handle of his gun in the process. He made for the exit, quickly followed by Williams.

They headed for a nearby alleyway where they had left a scooter with the engine running, but the gunshot and commotion attracted the attention of several shoppers, who were trying to see what was going on. Brodie brandished his gun menacingly and screamed, ‘Get out the fucking way.’ The startled shoppers parted and the raiders make their escape. At a petrol station about a mile away, their getaway car is waiting with Craig Moran driving and Dean Betton in the passenger seat. Betton’s job was be to get rid of the scooter, while Moran drove Brodie and Williams back to a safe house to check their spoils. They found two rings, three pairs of earrings and a pendant worth just £1,100 in the rucksack. It was the price of Marian Bates’s life.

The death of Marian Bates again trained the eyes of the nation on Nottingham. The fears of the white Middle Englander were concentrated in that one brutal murder: the Bates were grandparents, middle class, owned their own small business and lived in a village. Chief Constable Steve Green wondered what he had done to deserve such pressures. It was a far cry from the blueprint for success that he had devised and envisaged for Nottinghamshire some three years earlier, when he had taken over the force of 2,500 officers and a budget of some £170 million per year. Now it was attracting a reputation for being the worst policed county in England and Wales, despite the setting up a ‘reputation unit’, costing council taxpayers more than £400,000 a year, to tackle the media portrayal of the city. By then it was too late: the adverse headlines had sunk into the public consciousness.

BY 23 SEPTEMBER 2003 John and Joan Stirland had moved to a council flat in Goole on the Humberside coast. The place was not the dream home by the seaside that they had hoped for; in fact it was barely big enough for the two of them. They had received some help from the police in getting the tenancy of a one-bedroom flat but they felt increasingly isolated. Both were taking sleeping pills and anti-depressants and Joan was suffering from severe depression. Her son had been charged with a brutal murder and now they were living in a tiny flat in a place they hated, constantly looking over their shoulders. As the months ticked by the depression got worse. By November 2003 Joan had had enough. She wrote in her diary:

Tuesday the 2nd of Sept 03 police came to our house said they wanted to speak to my son JJ about a murder. After that they came every day for over a week. Then he was caught. Then the next Sunday at 10pm two men on a motorbike came to our house and fired six shots. They tried to kill me and John, my husband. The next day police told us to leave Nottingham. We didn’t know where to go so we just drove. We ended up in Bridlington, we went to the council there and the manager Karen Jordan said why land on our doorstep why Bridlington. We were in such a state we didn’t know what to do or who to turn to. She told us to come back Monday which we did. She took us to a single person’s flat in a house with a man living upstairs. We were told to sign a tenancy, we were told we had no choice, so, desperate, we did it. We are on anti-depressants plus sleeping pills. The GP Dr Moran wrote us a letter to get us moved, so did the psychiatrist, but the CID in Nottingham put a stop to it. They said it is dangerous for us to go back. We have done nothing wrong. We are decent innocent people we have worked all our lives and now we have nothing. We are desperate to get out of Goole. So desperate that, if we are not out by Xmas you will be taking us out in a box. We just need you to know we want to be buried in Nottingham, Wilford cemetery. This is just because the police in Nottingham can’t control the Gunn family who run the Bestwood estate and everyone in it. It is disgraceful the police can’t do anything about them they used me three times and now they don’t want to know. Our lives are non existent. We haven’t been out of this bedsit since the day we moved in on September 22 2003. We are at the end now, all we wanted was to come back home.

During a phone call to her daughter Rosie in early November 2003, Joan said both she and John had talked about taking an overdose of sleeping pills and ending it all. Rosie tried to cheer up her mum and told her to get the police to do something. A few days later, Rosie rang her mum back and told her she had looked through a newspaper and seen some adverts for retirement bungalows on the Lincolnshire coast. She gave Joan the phone number and a few days later got a call back from her mum, who was ecstatic. ‘Rosie, it’s fantastic!’ she gushed. ‘This place in Trusthorpe is right next to the beach and it’s quiet but there is plenty to do. It’s the perfect place for us, it’s out of the way. We are going to take it. Everything is going to be all right.’

ON 11 DECEMBER 2003, police officers were watching Colin Gunn. Operation Starburst had made him and his brother David its number one target. Colin had driven over to Lincolnshire from Bestwood and was at a caravan site on Sutton Road, on the way to Trusthorpe. He was having a dispute with one of his crew who had displeased him. The man had fled Bestwood for the East Coast after bodging a kidnapping for Colin in Calverton village. Instead of taking the man away from the house in Calverton and giving him a hiding, the man had been persuaded to let his victim go free for the £200 he had in his pocket. Colin was furious when he found out and demanded that the kidnappers be dealt with using the most severe tactics. One of them had also bodged a previous shooting, almost killing a child. He had been warned at the time that any more failures to carry out Colin’s orders would have fatal consequences for him.

Colin called John McSally, his favoured enforcer, over to Sutton to brief him on the job. He made it clear he wanted the man dead with no mistakes or messy leftovers. McSally was staying nearby in a caravan owned by Colin’s mum while he planned the job. McSally approached his target but ended up shooting him through the shoulder instead of the head. Shocked and badly injured the man lived and made his way to safety. McSally was later arrested for the shooting but walked straight back out of the police station without being charged.

On 14 December, Joan and John Stirland gathered up their small bundle of belongings and made the journey down to Radio St Peter’s, their new street (its distinctive name derived from its role as a wartime RAF station) in Trusthorpe. They were looking forward to life again, a new start, and could put some of the past behind them. Joan thought she would phone the police, just to let them know where they were. They had done little for her, but she felt she ought to call in case the Gunns were up to anything she needed to know about.

On 15 December, she rang her contact at Nottinghamshire Police to tell him about their move to Trusthorpe. He warned her about the Gunns’ connections with the area but she was adamant that this was where they were going to start a new life. The officer would later be asked in a courtroom whether police had subsequently examined the security issues surrounding the Stirlands’ move to Trusthorpe. ‘I had satisfied myself that they were not vulnerable at that location, yes,’ he replied.