Yardie hitmen carrying out contract killings

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The Independent Online

Jamaican "yardie" hitmen are being hired for as little as £500 by British drug gangs and brought over for contract killings, the head of Scotland Yard's operation against black-on-black shootings said.

Jamaican "yardie" hitmen are being hired for as little as £500 by British drug gangs and brought over for contract killings, the head of Scotland Yard's operation against black-on-black shootings said.

Commander Mike Fuller, who is in charge of the 160-strong squad called Operation Trident, said his detectives were catching a hired Jamaican gunman every "two to three months".

The hitmen, who use fake documents to enter the country, are provided with "safe houses". Mr Fuller said that British drug gangs were hiring the Jamaicans to attack rivals and as part of a continuing tit-for-tat" feud among London-based dealers.

Since the beginning of 1999 there have been 29 drug-related murders involving black-on-black attacks in the capital, six of which have been this year. In the most recent shooting, on Monday morning, eight people were injured when two gunmen opened fire with automatic pistols on a queue of people outside a club in Peckham, south- east London.

Intelligence obtained by Operation Trident has discovered that killers from Kingston, Jamaica, are being recruited by the British gangs. Detectives from the police operation believe they have managed to intervene and "disrupt" most of the hitmen shortly after arriving in Britain, forcing them to return home.

Mr Fuller said: "These people are not paid that much. £500 is the lowest I've heard. £1,000 is a lot money if you are coming from downtown Kingston.

"The thing that's ruthless is that they are quite prepared to kill and use guns. You are talking about people from absolute poverty who have killed before. The legal penalty they face is the death penalty, so you are talking about people with nothing to lose."

Mr Fuller said that because the gunmen's intended targets were usually other criminals, it was extremely difficult for the police to offer them protection. "We have a dilemma as to whether to inform them, because it could start or escalate a situation."

Mr Fuller estimated that Jamaicans were responsible for about 10 per cent of the recent shootings.

As well as the six murders this year there have been 23 black-on-black non-fatal shooting incidents in London. Some of the Yardies have been known to stay on in Britain and take over the drug turf of local criminals.

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