Denmark uneasy as Angels go to ground

Imre Karacs in Copenhagen on the absence of bikes and leather as the trial begins

Police marksmen in black uniforms crouch on the rooftops. The two main roads running front and back are controlled by checkpoints, while the street exposing the building's most vulnerable aspect is barricaded. Inside this security bubble, a few hundred yards from Copenhagen's royal palace, lies a courthouse.

Nobody is quite sure who is being guarded from whom, but it is a fair assumption that the six young men on trial within, and the reluctant witnesses testifying against them, are all in grave danger. The Danish capital's Eastern courthouse has become the front line in the biker wars that have claimed nine lives across Scandinavia in the past three years. Four Hell's Angels and two aspiring members of the gang are on trial for murdering a member of the rival Bandidos gang and injuring three others at Copenhagen airport eight months ago. Another Bandido was wounded on the same day at Oslo airport.

For most of the past three years, peaceful Denmark seemed quite unable to deal with such unrelenting violence. When the police were finally pushed into action, they found the task so overwhelming that they warned that they could not cope simultaneously with protecting Salman Rushdie, barring the British author from going to Denmark to collect an award last week until the government backed down in the face of a political outcry.

In the light of recent experience, Denmark's harried police must anticipate either an attempt by the Angels to spring their comrades, or an attack by the Bandidos on their foes. Another possibility is that friends of the defendants will try to shoot the witnesses. After last month's missile attack on the Hell's Angels headquarters, which killed two of their members and injured 17 more, anything can happen.

So far, everything has been very quiet - perhaps too quiet. After the latest atrocities, the government ordered the closure of the club houses. The two gangs meekly complied, and then vanished. There are no motorbikes to be seen in Copenhagen or the whole of Denmark. Fearing arrest or retribution from the enemy, Hell's Angels and Bandidos have put away their uniforms and gone underground. Ominously, they have kept away from the trial.

Even the six Angels in the dock have trimmed their hair, had a wash and put on civvies: neat jeans and pressed lumberjack shirts. The only leather in sight are the trousers being worn by a female lawyer. The defendants are held in isolation, and led in one by one every day. Communication among themselves is restricted to boisterous bear hugs and slaps on the back, the flashing of postcards and CDs, and occasional belches to liven up the proceedings. Basking in the admiring gaze of the teenage girls seated in the public gallery, they seem to be rather enjoying themselves.

Their evidence so far has given nothing away. A man with short black hair and tattoos covering his neck and arms refused to confirm that he was a Hell's Angel. He says he has a perfect alibi. At the time of the killing, he was with a friend - but he would not reveal the friend's name. Another defendant appears to have developed complete amnesia about the day the Bandidos were shot from a car parked outside the airport. The police themselves have no idea which Angel fired the bullets, and witnesses are too scared to say.

The authorities are not even sure why the gang rivalry has escalated into such a vicious conflict. It is thought the Hell's Angels controlled the Scandinavian drugs racket - mostly amphetamines and cannabis - until the Bandidos arrived on the scene about three years ago. It is a limited market and the Angels simply could not afford a carve-up.

Now, after so many deaths, the economics have been obliterated by the urge for vengeance. Pride also dictates that one gang must wipe out the other. The police fear that the truce they have imposed will be of the Bosnian variety, allowing the protagonists to return to the battle field with a better class of weapons. The Bandidos used an anti-tank missile in their last attack. You can be sure the Angels will try to top that.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
Lewis Hamilton walks back to the pit lane with his Mercedes burning in the background
Formula 1
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con
comic-con 2014
Sport
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
football
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
News
i100
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
film
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
News
people
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

BI Developer - Sheffield - £35,000 ~ £40,000 DOE

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...

Employment Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - Senior Employment Solici...

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Day In a Page

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride