Gun No 6: The trail of death, destruction and misery left by 'Britain's deadliest firearm' – which may still be out there

Despite 11 shootings including three murders, the 9mm handgun has never been found by UK police, and may still be on the streets today 

Adam Lusher
Sunday 02 December 2018 15:41 GMT
BBC trailer for Gun No. 6: The untold story of Britain’s deadliest illegal gun

It announced its presence on the streets of the UK with three shots fired outside a Birmingham nightclub at 2.55am on February 23 2003.

Although they didn’t know it at the time, the police who recovered two bullet cases had found the first evidence of what would eventually be categorised as Gun No 6, “Britain’s deadliest gun”.

The 9mm pistol has claimed three lives and been linked to 11 shootings in six years. And since it has never been recovered, its reign of terror may not yet be over.

The story so far will be told in the BBC2 documentary Gun No 6 on Sunday night.

As well as being a biography of a weapon, Gun No 6 is an insight into the world of the criminals who fired it.

The pseudo-glamour that sometimes clings to guns and gangs is stripped away to reveal a toxic mix of viciousness, vindictiveness, tragic ineptitude and the kind of fatal bravado that leads one ex-offender to tell the programme makers: “When you’re on the street, you’re on a stage. Under no circumstances would you allow yourself to be perceived as a weak person.”

The story of Gun No 6 also exposes the hollowness of the traditional gangster excuse that “they only hurt their own”.

This is the weapon that has killed an innocent nightclub bouncer who was murdered for causing nothing more than a slight loss of face and momentary annoyance.

It has claimed the life of a 29-year-old who was trying to protect his mother from a bunch of “chaotic, not very good armed robbers” who were trying to raid a family-run village post office.

The weapon, identifiable because every gun leaves a unique marking on the bullet cases, is thought to be a black CZ 75 semi-automatic made in the Czech Republic.

It is not known how it entered the country.

Nor is it entirely clear that the trail of death and destruction inflicted by Gun No 6 begins in Britain. It is possible the handgun was smuggled into the UK after being used in the conflicts that brought misery to the Balkans in the 1990s.

The 9mm parabellum ammunition it fires, a ballistics expert explains to the documentary, “was designed primarily for military use … causing an increased rate of tissue damage.”

Once in Britain, such a weapon can be passed from gang member to gang member. Britain’s tight firearms laws make such a weapon a prized commodity for criminals on this side of the Atlantic.

In the US, the easy availability of firearms means that no single weapon is likely to be involved in numerous shootings in the manner of Gun No 6.

When the weapon was first fired in Britain, in Proctor Street, Birmingham, it seems it was in the hands of the Johnson Crew, a gang engaged in an increasingly destructive feud with the rival Burger Bar Boys.

Both gangs defended territories defined by postcode. Both were named after their favourite meeting places – a now closed burger bar on Soho Road, the now similarly defunct Johnson’s café on Heathfield Road.

Both were happy to use guns as their weapon of choice.

On January 2 2003, Burger Bar members fired a “hail of bullets” from a Mac10 machine pistol in a drive-by shooting at a new year’s party in Aston, Birmingham.

They missed their intended target, a Johnson Crew member. Instead they hit and killed two innocent party goers: Charlene Ellis, 18, and Letisha Shakespeare, 17.

That tragedy, however, brought neither peace, nor sense to the gang war. Perhaps that was inevitable. A court later heard how the Johnson Crew member who was the intended target of the drive-by shooting had earlier in the evening been seen “bigging it up” with his own handgun.

The following month Gun No 6 entered the fray. The gang-related nature of the shootings ensured it was shielded by a wall of silence.

No-one talked after the Proctor Street shooting. No witnesses came forward after what appeared to have been an exchange of fire between rival gang members in Winson Green on March 24 2003.

On June 13 2003, a 24-year-old man was hit in the arm, back and neck in a drive-by shooting. He declined to help the police find his attackers.

The next day produced the next drive-by shooting. The June 14 victim also refused to talk, preferring to go home before calling an ambulance so paramedics could patch up the bullet wound in his leg.

And so the shootings continued: August 20 2003, Gun No 6’s youngest victim, a 19-year-old, refuses to talk after being shot in the back and foot; May 9 2004 a young woman narrowly avoids being hit in the crossfire of a gangland firefight; June 28 2004, a bullet is fired through the wall of a house. The occupants refuse to talk.

It was shooting number eight before any witnesses willing to talk could be found. After shots were fired during a high-speed car chase through Birmingham, police were able to get CCTV footage and witness statements.

But the cars involved were never traced. Nor was Gun No 6.

And so the weapon was able to claim its first life.

On the night of Saturday November 20 2004 nightclub doorman Ishfaq Ahmed, 24 kissed his partner Penny and 18-month-old daughter Aneesah goodbye as he dropped them off on his way to work at Premonitions in Birmingham.

He didn’t drive off straight away. From his car he gazed up at his partner, who was standing by the window of their home as she took a call from a friend.

“I actually said to her, ‘He’s looked at us like he’s never going to see us again,’” Penny would later recall. “I just had this horrible feeling.”

At about 3.30am a group of men linked to the Johnson Crew tried to get into Premonitions without paying. Mr Ahmed did his job and stopped them entering. The men walked off.

It was only when Mr Ahmed’s back was turned that two of the men opened fire on him.

Gun No 6 was one of the weapons used to shoot the innocent father in the back because, as a judge later put it, he had “caused loss of face or annoyance, or both.”

The next year, Gun No 6 claimed its second life, in what another judge described as a “cold-blooded execution”.

On July 23 2005 drug dealer Kemar Whittaker, 23, of Tottenham, north London, killed Andrew Huntley under a railway arch in Digbeth. Birmingham Crown Court heard that minutes before his death Mr Huntley had been branded an informer.

The 31-year-old was kneeling with his hands raised as if to beg for mercy when Whittaker shot him twice in the head.

Now linked to two murders, Gun No 6 was ‘hot’. Anyone caught by the police with it in their possession would have a lot of explaining to do.

Gun No 6 disappeared for four years.

It reappeared in the hands of what was described by retired Detective Chief Inspector Andy Hough, who led the team that first identified Gun No 6, as a bunch of "chaotic, not very good armed robbers".

In the early morning of January 9 2009 the three bungling armed robbers entered the post office and convenience store in the village of Fairfield, about 15 miles from Birmingham, that was run by the Hodson-Walker family, who lived above the shop.

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Seeing the gun wielded by robber Anselm Ribera and an accomplice’s sledgehammer, a young woman shopper let out a series of ear-splitting screams.

Craig Hodson-Walker dashed down in his boxer shorts to help his mother Judy and father Ken. He pulled his mother out of harm’s way and picked up a cricket bat. Gun No 6 was fired, in what was now its 11th shooting.

The bullet tore through Craig’s heart and one of his lungs. The 29-year-old became the third person to be killed by Gun No 6.

Ribera and the brothers Christopher and Declan Morrissey were subsequently jailed for life by a judge who described them as “parasitic criminals” who had "shown no remorse, no shame and no contrition".

Since then, Gun No 6 has fallen silent. DCI Hough suspects it is now considered too hot to handle and has been thrown away into a canal or river.

Until it is found by law enforcement, however, no one can be sure about whether or not Gun No 6 is still out there, awaiting its next victim.

Gun No 6 is on BBC2 on Sunday at 9pm

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