Gangland war linked to murder of fugitive: Shooting victim suspected of involvement in contract killing

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A NOTORIOUS gangland figure sought since escaping from Brixton prison with an IRA bomber in 1980, was murdered in a suspected contract killing in an east London pub, police said yesterday.

James Moody, a former member of the notorious Richardson torture gang, was drinking in the Royal Hotel public house in Hackney on Tuesday night when a man pulled out a handgun and shot him at least four times in the head and chest at close range.

Detectives said the murder had all the hallmarks of an underworld revenge killing, of which there have been a large number in London in the past few years. It was disclosed last night that Moody himself was suspected of involvement in the contract killing in August 1991 of two men in a south London public house, which at that time was believed to be part of a war between rival gangs of former armed robbers, largely for control of the drugs trade.

Detective Superintendent Harry Wilkins, who is leading the investigation into the Moody murder, is today expected to liaise with detectives in south London who investigated the murders of David Brindle, 23, and Stanley Silk, 47.

Mr Brindle, who was the target, was suspected of involvement in a series of armed robberies. The killings were believed to have been ordered by the Arif gangland clan, several of whose members are in prison for drugs trafficking and armed robberies.

Mr Wilkins said last night that he would be making detailed inquiries into Moody's recent activities. Detectives have not yet been able to establish an address for Moody, although he was believed to be living close to the public house.

The man who shot Moody was described last night as white, 6ft tall, aged about 40 and with black greying hair and a slight tan. He wore black clothes and a black leather jacket. Eyewitnesses have told police that he walked into the bar, ordered a pint of lager but did not drink it and then walked across to where Moody was standing and shot him. He escaped in a white Ford Fiesta car - stolen from Chessington, Surrey, on Monday - later found abandoned nearby.

Moody first came to the attention of police in the mid-1960s, then in his early 20s and a scrap metal dealer, when he was a member of the notorious torture gang led by Charles Richardson, which controlled large parts of south London.

He was cleared of violent offences in 1966 but jailed for seven years for manslaughter in 1968. In the late 1970s, Moody was a member of the Chainsaw Gang which attacked security vans, cutting away the side of the vehicles to get at the cash and valuables.

Moody was awaiting trial on three robbery charges involving more than pounds 900,000 when he escaped from Brixton prison in 1980 alongside the IRA man Gerard Tuite and another man, Stanley Thompson, who later gave himself up to police. At the time, Moody and Tuite were among the most wanted and dangerous criminals in Britain and the escape caused a furore.

The three men escaped by using tools smuggled into the prison to tunnel through the walls separating their adjacent cells and then burrowing through the outside wall of Tuite's cell. They then escaped across the prison roof. It was never clear which man was the driving force.

Tuite led a mainland IRA bombing gang which planted 16 bombs in London, Bristol, Southampton, Coventry and Manchester, leaving a pounds 3.5m trail of damage, between April 1978 and February 1979.

He was later recaptured in the Republic of Ireland, in July 1982 and jailed for 10 years under an Anglo-Irish agreement.