Gunman fires into club crowd and injures eight

Terri Judd
Tuesday 01 August 2000 00:00

A gun cartridge glinting in the middle of the street was the only remnant yesterday morning of one of the worst shootings London has seen.

A gun cartridge glinting in the middle of the street was the only remnant yesterday morning of one of the worst shootings London has seen.

Only a few hours earlier a group of revellers had been queuing impatiently to get into the Chicago nightclub in Peckham, south-east London, when a gunman began firing indiscriminately into the crowd.

In the narrow street the bullets pumped into eight victims, leaving them screaming on the ground. Others fled in panic from the bright flash of the automatic weapon.

In the confusion another weapon was fired, though it was unclear whether it was in retaliation or co-ordination with the original attacker. Eventually, the gunman fled, police believe to a waiting car, before speeding away.

"I heard the gunshots and ran away to hide and when I came out there were two women on the floor screaming," said one man.

A 15-year-old girl was among the five females and three men to be left bleeding in the street. One man, 27, was left critically ill with two shots to the chest. Others had arm, leg and chest wounds.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Bill Griffiths said: "We are very fortunate not to be talking about eight murders here. This was clearly indiscriminate and reckless firing."

Yesterday 50 officers from the Metropolitan Police's specialist Operation Trident were assigned to the investigation. The entire section of Peckham High Street was cordoned off as forensic science officers dusted for fingerprints.

Only a week after the force announced a relaunch of the dedicated task force to deal with an increasing number of predominantly drug-related black on black murders, it was investigating one of its biggest cases yet.

Mr Griffiths acknowledged that the attack appeared to represent a worrying spread of the gun culture that seems to be taking a hold among London's gangs. "I would say it is unprecedented for this number of people to be injured by gunfire in one incident. It involved a high level of indiscriminate violence. That is why this is so worrying," he said.

The officers insisted there was no clear motive yet for the shooting though there was a "possibility" it was drugs related. But some locals who had gathered around the blue and white police cordon seemed in little doubt.

"The area is known as the 'frontline' round here because of all the drugs gangs and Yardies," said one young mother, adding: "I am so glad I moved away from here. I have three young sons."

Tony Kempson, a 47-year-old printer, said: "There is always someone on the corner selling drugs. You name it, you can buy it round here." He had been walking home from his night shift in the early hours of yesterday morning when he heard a commotion.

"It sounded like a machine- gun. I just ran down a side street. We have the occasional stabbing round here but this is the most serious yet. You don't expect this kind of thing on the streets of London," he said, clutching his two young daughters tightly.

Police said the "frightened and shocked" victims were at a hospital, the location of which was being kept secret.

The black activist Lee Jasper, chairman of the Operation Trident lay advisory group, appealed against jumping to the conclusion that every black on black shooting was Yardie related, but he acknowledged that the majority had a connection to crack cocaine dealing.

"We have got a gun culture developing in a small section of the black community where people think it is very cool to carry a gun and they are prepared to use it at the drop of a hat. It is a consequence of aping the African-American culture," he said, adding: "We appeal for calm in the Peckham area. We would not want to see any retaliatory action."

Detective Superintendent Peter Camilletti admitted that few witnesses had come forward. He promised that their safety would be guaranteed.

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