Bystanders caught in crossfire as gun gangs shoot it out in south Manchester

Ian Burrell
Friday 20 December 2013 02:47

At half-past two on Monday afternoon, Alice Carroll was struggling home with her shopping bags when the dull normality was shattered by the crackle of gunfire. Mrs Carroll, 70, who had a heart condition, found herself caught in crossfire between two groups of youths firing from their mountain bikes. She was hit in the back by a bullet from a .45-calibre handgun and she fell to the ground.

Fortunately, Mrs Carroll has recovered from the shooting in May last year, just one among hundreds in a 14-year turf war by gangs in South Manchester that is costing more than £8m a year, a Home Office study shows. It found that combined "membership" of the four major Manchester gangs has grown to 470. Since the start of 1997, they have been responsible for at least 154 shootings, including 23 murders and 94 woundings.

The report, gives the clearest indication yet of the emergence of an American-style street gang culture in Britain. It finds that two well-established Manchester gangs, "Doddington" and "Gooch", formed about 1988, are now rivalled by two younger groups, known as the "Pit Bull Crew" and the "Longsight Crew". All four gangs have ready access to firearms and have been responsible for murders.

The report says: "The ongoing conflicts between gangs mean that future shootings between members can be expected." It identifies "a general mutual hostility" between the rival groups with "a number of particular scores to be settled".

Based partly on intelligence and records compiled by Greater Manchester Police and partly on interviews with former and active gang members, the report says rival cliques have created a battlefield in a small area in the south of the city. All four gangs are in the Longsight and Greenheys police divisions, close to the Moss Side district.

The study found that for every shooting in other parts of Greater Manchester, there were 35 in this neighbourhood. People in Longsight and Greenheys were, per head of population, 140 times more likely to be shot than other residents of Greater Manchester. The gang problem was particularly acute among the African-Caribbeans in south Manchester, with 79 per cent of known gang members being black or mixed race.

But the itinerant Jamaican gangsters who have been blamed for much of the gun violence in London, Bristol and other cities are not responsible for Manchester's turf wars. The study found that only one in 40 of the gang members was born outside the United Kingdom, and 85 per cent were born in Greater Manchester.

Although the Doddington gang was exclusively African-Caribbean, the younger Pit Bull Crew had a mixed ethnic make-up, with only 73 per cent black members. Young gang members who spoke to the researchers talked of the difficulty of extricating themselves from their situation. One said: "If you're in, you're in. But it's scary getting in too far..."

Others spoke of their limited life expectancy. The report said: "Several respondents deemed themselves marked men, for whom those in other gangs would, literally, be gunning. Asked about where he might be in five years, one incarcerated respondent said he expected to be dead."

Among those who have died are Marcus Greenidge, 21, and Gabriel Egharevba, 17, shot in separate incidents at point-blank as they rode their mountain bikes in Longsight in September 2000.

The previous January, Roger Ormsby, 35, a wealthy businessman, was shot in the back of the head as he sat in the driver's seat of his BMW car, parked in a Moss Side alley.

The Home Office report found that the average age of victims in the South Manchester shootings was 20. Two thirds lived locally. They had an average of 5.3 convictions each, compared to an average of 3.4 each for the gunmen, who had an average age of 21.

In June last year, police scored a victory against the gangs when four members of Gooch were each jailed for nine years. Officers raided a house in Ruskin Avenue, Moss Side in April 2000 and found an arsenal that included a Skorpion 7.65mm machine pistol, a Smith & Wesson .357ins magnum revolver and a Colt .45-calibre semi-automatic pistol. The gang members, some of whom had body armour, also used police radio scanners and night-vision binoculars.

Giovanni McKay, 20, of Whalley Range; Meshach Gordon, 19, of Fallowfield; Lee Amos, 25, of Longsight and Colin Joyce, 21, of Gorton, admitted having ammunition and firearms with intent to endanger life.

The gang was named after the now-destroyed street of Gooch Close, where many of its original members lived. The study said the Gooch and rival Doddington gangs were made up of friends who grew up together and went into crime.

Apart from murder, firearms crimes and drugs offences, the report also links the gangs to rape, indecent assault, robbery, burglary, fraud and perversion of the course of justice.

Two thirds of the Doddington gang are now said to be over 23 and the group is being eclipsed by the larger Longsight Crew, which "crystallised ... following the unintended and misdirected fatal shooting of a main [former Doddington] player by a member of Gooch" in 1996.

Anther splinter group, the Pit Bull Crew, was formed in 1999 to take revenge for a Doddington member killed in an internal feud. This crew, based mainly in Longsight, is loosely allied to the Gooch gang. The south Manchester gangs also clash periodically with white "crime firms" from nearby Salford, who are linked to drug trafficking and providing protection for clubs in central Manchester. They are less high profile but better organised.

The turf wars in south Manchester have generated economic and social costs of £32.4m in the past four years, the study says. The authors, whose views do not necessarily reflect those of the Home Office, examined methods used to tackle gang violence in Boston in America. They recommend greater efforts at mediation among gangs and greater "engagement" with members by youth workers and other officials to gather intelligence and help those wanting to quit gang culture.

DEADLY RIVALS

GOOCH
Members (under 25s only): 64
Year gang emerged: 1988
Confirmed shootings: 10
Confirmed murders: 6
Arrests for gun offences: 15
Number of males: 92%

DODDINGTON
Members (under 25s only): 30
Year gang emerged: 1988
Confirmed shootings: 6
Confirmed murders: 2
Arrests for gun offences: 7
Number of males: 100%

LONGSIGHT CREW
Members (under 25s only): 67
Year gang emerged: 1996
Confirmed shootings: 4
Confirmed murders: 1
Arrests for gun offences: 15
Number of males: 100%

PITT BULL CREW
Members (under 25s only): 26
Year gang emerged: 1999
Confirmed shootings: 3
Confirmed murders: 1
Arrests for gun offences: 8
Number of males*: 88%

(* Female members play supporting role, minding safe-houses, concealing and carrying weapons etc)