Turf-war murders over crack terrorise black music clubs

A WAVE of gun murders - including carefully planned killings and indiscriminate shooting into crowds - has caused terror in the black entertainment industry.

Police, who believe that many of the shootings are linked to a new turf- war over crack cocaine, have drawn up a list of 200 Jamaican-born criminals who they suspect are connected with gun crime in this country.

The violence, which has left at least four people dead, has brought fear to nightclubs across London and Birmingham. Reggae concerts have been cancelled and music award ceremonies called off to prevent further violence and as a mark of respect for the families of those who have been killed.

Scotland Yard admits that its efforts to trace the gunmen are being hampered by a lack of evidence, with witnesses extremely reluctant to come forward.

When two gunmen had a shoot-out in a crowded east London nightclub earlier this month, seven people were wounded in the crossfire. Yet the police were almost the last to find out. The victims - three women and four men - arrived at hospital in private cars.

By the time police got a tip-off - from a paramedic - and arrived at the scene of the shooting, Orchids nightclub in Kingsland High Street, Hackney, the venue was empty.

A police source said: "We were not even alerted by the [injured] people concerned. We need statements from people but they are sometimes very difficult to obtain. People often give false names and addresses."

The victims of the Orchids shooting suffered their wounds in a gun battle, but other recent shootings have the appearance of planned murders.

On 6 March, Jamaican-born Mervyn Sills, 36, was shot dead in front of 50 passers-by at 2.15pm on a busy street in Brixton, south London.

Only a handful of people were prepared to speak to the police and the killer has not been caught.

In another incident, detectives are hunting two men who walked into a music ticket agency in Lewisham, south-east London, at lunch-time on 13 April and shot the owner, Keith Balfour, 32, in the chest with a sub-machine-gun. The men made no attempt to disguise their faces and seemed unconcerned there were witnesses.

Two days earlier, Richard Parkinson, 30, a doorman at the Stratford Rex dance hall in east London, was shot dead as concert-goers arrived for a gig by the Jamaican reggae artist Beenie Man. Two people were injured by ricochets. A man has been charged with the murder.

The shootings have devastated the black music industry and prompted the Radio 1 DJ Chris Goldfinger to appeal for calm on his reggae show last weekend.

For more than a year, a team of detectives based in Lambeth, south London, has been compiling intelligence on Jamaican-born criminals. The Operation Trident squad includes a number of officers with Jamaican family backgrounds who have helped to make inroads into previously impenetrable criminal circles.

Detective Chief Inspector Steve Kupis, head of the operation, revealed that a database had been compiled of 200 Jamaican-born criminals linked to gun crime in Britain.

"The reality, whether we like it or not, is that it's Jamaicans and very often they are illegal entrants," he said. "But we are there to support the community and we want people to stand up and give evidence so that we alienate a very small group of people who are not part of the community."

Hugh Ord, Metropolitan Police commander for south London, said initiatives were being developed to break the walls of silence that often surround such incidents.

He said members of black community groups were being asked to stand alongside police officers handing out leaflets requesting information on crimes. Pirate radio stations are even being used to broadcast appeals for witnesses.

Mr Ord said: "The vast majority of the black community are outraged by this behaviour. What we are seeing is that by working with the communities we get the help we need."

But black leaders said previous police tactics for tackling drug-dealing had deeply undermined the confidence of the community. Lee Jasper, director of the 1990 Trust, said: "They need to stop making alliances with unregistered informants and criminals, who are giving them the runaround, and build alliances with the communities who can give them real information." He added: "The stereotypical view of the police is that the black community is soft on drugs but we actually think the police are soft on drug-dealers."

Detectives in Birmingham are hunting the killers of Jamaican-born Michael Senior, 30, who was shot three times as he stood outside a nightclub in Handsworth on 1 March.

The killing was witnessed by queues of people waiting to go into Thasha's club and by others waiting at a taxi-rank. Despite this, police were unable to name the victim for three weeks until a former girlfriend flew from New York and identified the body.

Police investigating a series of similar shootings in the city have recovered American army issue machine-pistols capable of firing 1,100 rounds a minute, fitted with silencers and retractable shoulder-pieces.

The violence prompted the Birmingham coroner, Dr Richard Whittington, to make an unprecedented appeal for calm. "We do have a problem with people who possess guns and have no hesitation in using them," he said. "Not only do they kill their victims but there's a large number of other people at risk."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
Arts and Entertainment
The Palace of Westminster is falling down, according to John Bercow
voices..says Matthew Norman
Steve Bruce and Gus Poyet clash
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Graham Norton said Irish broadcaster RTE’s decision to settle was ‘moronic’
Arts and Entertainment
Jake and Dinos Chapman were motivated by revenge to make 'Bring me the Head of Franco Toselli! '
arts + ents Shapero Modern Gallery to show explicit Chapman Brothers film
Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain performing for 'MTV Unplugged' in New York, shortly before his death
music Brett Morgen's 'Cobain: Montage of Heck' debunks many of the myths surrounding the enigmatic singer
Life and Style
Brendan Rodgers
football The Liverpool manager will be the first option after Pep Guardiola
Amazon misled consumers about subscription fees, the ASA has ruled
Arts and Entertainment
Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Russell Tovey in 'Banished'
TV Jimmy McGovern tackles 18th-century crime and punishment
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Whitehouse as Herbert
arts + ents
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Lettings and Sales Negotiator - OTE £46,000

£16000 - £46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Home Care Worker - Reading and Surrounding Areas

£9 - £13 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a s...

Recruitment Genius: Key Sales Account Manager - OTE £35,000

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Have you got a proven track rec...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn