Liverpool drug lord John Haase on the AK47s,The Vulcan, death threats and conning the Tories In the 1990s many Liverpool criminals were either directly or indirectly linked to door firms. Stephen Clarke, from Netherley, was associated with the Premier Security brand. In 2008 at the trial of Liverpool gangster John Haase it was revealed he had arranged for the gun to be smuggled into the prison in a sandwich toaster. He falsely claimed it had been smuggled in.
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In the first decade of the new millenium organised crime in Liverpool was dominated by well organised drug gangs led by notorious individuals.
Curtis Warren and his associates were languishing in a Dutch prison after a sprawling international police operation code named Crayfish.
Warren, from the Toxteth area, was jailed for 12 years in 1998 after being proven to be at the top of an international drugs conspiracy .
Back in Liverpool, the new generation of young criminals roared around the city in Golf GTIs, Jettas and Land Rovers wearing over sized ski jackets.
This was the era when Gérard Houllier was the boss at Anfield and Michael Owen was the Reds' best player. A fresh faced David Moyes had just taken over from Walter Smith at Everton and The Liverpool ONE project was still years away from inception.
The gangland violence that encouraged Warren to leave Liverpool in the mid 90s had now gained momentum. In 2002 there were 30 unlawful killings on Merseyside, and in the last month of the year four men were shot dead.
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At the time some of Merseyside's security firms were involved in organised crime across, often controlled by notorious criminals whose names were not registered at Companies House.
Violent young drug dealers began to clash with an older generation of burly doormen and nightclub bosses, resulting in major confrontations and protracted feuds.
The city's crime gangs were often led by local men with big reputations which they carefully cultivated. Everyone wanted to be the biggest, the best, the loudest and hardest.
Sunday nights in town became increasingly tense affairs as rival gangs showed off, throwing fifty pound notes in the face of bouncers and snorting cocaine off the bar as terrified staff looked on.
The north end
During this period of time it was the crime gangs from north Liverpool who dominated the headlines.
The streets of Walton, Everton and Kirkdale had always proven to be challenging territory for police. The Dock Road, Scotland Road and the Vauxhall area had long associations with criminality in the tough decades after World War Two . The wharfs and warehouses of the docklands were long used by local crooks to smuggle and steal contraband.
Tommy Comerford, one of the city's first crime lords, had grown up on Scotland Road, a tight knit postcode where locals knew how to look after each other. The patch has strong associations with armed robbery and heist firms.
John Haase, from Everton, was leading member of a violent armed robbery crew that targeted transit vans in the early 1980s.
But in the early 2000s the majority of young criminals wanted to be involved in the drugs business. The markup between wholesale prices and the price of drugs on the street was vast, and that price difference represented pure profits for criminals.
Young men without the qualifications or technical training to secure well paying jobs wanted a better life and knew that drugs could lift their families out of poverty.
But when competing groups of young men with guns and knives set out to make money from drugs, there was obviously huge potential for conflict.
The Gee brothers, who had grown up on the notorious Grizedale estate in Everton, were a case in point. In particular Danny and Darren Gee both became involved in serious crime. The brothers had a poor experience in the education system and Darren left school at just 13. By the time they were young adults the Gees did not have the qualifications or skills to get a decent job.
After dabbling in burglary and other petty crime Darren and Danny Gee slowly turned their own estate into a 24 hour open air drugs market
At one point the Gees paid schoolboys to stay at home and act as lookouts across the streets and alleyways of Everton. They were paid to watch out for police patrols in the area, and rival criminals.
In 2003 there were simmering tensions between the Gee brothers and a rival faction of drug dealers from the area.
But in 2004 the fallout resulted in a wave of shootings across north Liverpool. On the first day of January 2004 there was a double shooting in the Royal Oak pub in West Derby. One man died and another was left fighting for his life.
Relations between local drug boss William Moore and the Gees then deteriorated. On the evening of April 6, 2004 the Gees returned to the Grizedale after attending a funeral in Speke.
They were parked up on Robson Street, when former SAS officer Darren Waterhouse started shooting , riddling their car with bullets.
Craig Barker, 18, was rushed to hospital but died from his injures. Ian Gee suffered life changing injuries. Mark Richardson, an associate of the Gees, suffered a minor wound and ran off.
Darren Gee, thought to have been Waterhouse's intended target, was not hurt.
Just days later local man Michael Singleton was shot dead.
This was followed by the murder of David Regan, who was shot outside a car wash in Old Swan.
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Fighting fire with fire
Unsurprising Merseyside Police soon began to clampdown on the Gees and their associates after the Grizedale estate became a 'no go' zone.
The community action team, based at Walton Lane police station, carried out high profile raids on the homes of the Gee brothers. There were major confrontations between the criminals and police as they vied for control of the streets on the Grizedale.
A former officer who served in the unit set up to target the Gees spoke to the ECHO last year. The ex-officer, who asked not be named, said that the Gees created a ghetto on the Grizedale estate which they used to make around £20k a week from crime.
He said the brothers were hugely influential employers on the estate, offering young men money they could not earn in the legitimate economy.
He said that the Everton gang war had turned the estate into a 'no go zone' for ordinary people, with an army of North Face wearing teenagers patrolling the streets on behalf of the Gees.
The former officer said that at one point there was a 'battle for the streets' as police fought the Gees for control of the Grizedale which had become a Belfast style citadel.
He said that the police unit was forced to 'break the rules' a bit due to the unique challenge posed by the Gees.
On his point he said: 'Yes we broke the rules and fought fire with fire. We worked in a hostile environment and dealt directly with violent, horrible people.
'In the station we referred to this kind of policing as 'the Lord's work.' It was a kind of code for what we were doing. So yes we were unorthodox, but for all the right reasons.
'In short it was old fashioned, old school policing. We took the fight to the criminals and I stand by this approach because it worked..'
The unit achieved some success in the area. Over a 12 month period the officer said that his team of only six constables and one sergeant made more than 450 arrests - including 50 for supplying Class A drugs.
During the same period of time police put a wiretap in a prison cell. The surveillance revealed that a well known criminal was planning to have members of this specialist police unit shot. As a result of the information they had to start wearing body armour, even when they were off duty.
He said he was proud of the work which reduced the Gees' profits and prevented 'murders' from taking place in the Everton area.
The former officer said that the Gee brothers bombarded the force with 'malicious complaints' about the specialist unit, which created controversy. He said that after a raid in St Domingo Vale 'went wrong' the the force decided to disband the unit.
Darren Gee was jailed for 18 years for organising the murder of Liverpool dad David Regan.
Mr Regan, 36, was shot dead outside an Old Swan car wash in May 2004.
He was thought to have been shot after he was wrongly blamed for the murder of Craig Barker and an attempt on Darren Gee's life during a north Liverpool drug war.
Gee was jailed after being found guilty of conspiracy to murder at Manchester Crown court in 2006.
The Everton man was released from prison a few years ago.
Gee has told the ECHO that he organised Mr Regan's murder because he wrongly believed he was involved in the murder of Craig Barker.
He said that he felt guilty over the deaths of Mr Regan and Craig Barker. He said that Craig was not involved in serious crime and died because of his casual association with the Gees.
In 2005 William Moore, 45, and Darren Waterhouse, 39, were both jailed for life for the Craig Barker murder after trial at Liverpool Crown court. Mr Justice Henriques made a recommendation that they serve at least 30 years before being eligible for parole.
Car bombs and death threats
In 2003 a group of violent criminals from north Liverpool fell out badly with the a family who owned a number of nightclubs in Liverpool city centre. The family owned 051 on Mount Pleasant and Garlands on Eberle Street.
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The gang then began to menace doormen who worked at the clubs, making threats to stab and shoot them.
In September 2003 the first massive car bomb went off outside the 051 club on Mount Pleasant in Liverpool city centre. The bomb went off as clubbers queued to get in, but heavy rain is thought to have prevented the device from fully detonating.
The following month another massive bomb went off outside a private address in West Derby. The bomb damaged several homes and caused thousands of pounds worth of damage in the area.
The gang then decided to target some of the officers who were investigating them with a massive bomb outside Tuebrook police station. That blast, on May 13, 2004, created by packing industrial fireworks into a petrol container, was the biggest bomb on the British mainland since the IRA ceasefire. Bomb disposal experts said more than 20 shock rockets were used.
Kirkdale man Richard Caswell was linked to three of the explosions and jailed for 17 years. Caswell, a former Liverpool doorman, admitted driving cars to the scene of the explosions. Caswell claimed other criminals had prepared the bombs, not him.
Jailing him, Judge John Roberts said: 'Innocent bystanders could have been killed or mutilated by those bombs. They were offences against the community.'
Caswell, who was released from prison a couple of years ago, is now wanted by Merseyside Police for a breach of the terms of his license. Police wish to recalled him to prison. Members of the public have been warned not to approach him.
The Turner Mob
North Liverpool gangster David Hibbs Turner was involved in protection rackets, drugs and guns,
At weekend his gang liked to party in Liverpool city centre, fighting with doorman and terrorising clubbers.
The gang became closely associated with the Velvet Lounge on Bold Street where they spent the proceeds of serious crime.
In 2006 police applied for a ten year ASBO to be imposed on Turner banning him from Liverpool city centre until 2016.
The court hearing revealed how the Turner Crew had been behind 18 months of mayhem in the city centre. Gang members routinely threatened doormen with gun and knives, snorted cocaine openly and spread fear across the city.
Police revealed that some clubs and bars would close on Sunday nights just to avoid dealing with the Turner Crew.
Speaking at the time Chief Inspector John Roy of Merseyside Police told the ECHO : 'This clearly shows what a significant threat Turner is.
'He had an ability to intimidate people connected to licensed premises which made it difficult to gather evidence against him.
'He was linked to violence, intimidation and threats, with our intelligence covering use of knives and guns - and thought he was untouchable.'
The court granted the order and banned Turner from the city centre.
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Turner was shot in the groin and leg during a disturbance outside the Salisbury pub in Walton Breck Road, Anfield, in December 2005. He discharged himself from hospital and refused to co-operate with police.
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The north Liverpool man was now a player in a very dangerous game, and had serious enemies. One such person was Mikey Wright, a rival criminal from the Everton area.
Hibbs-Turner and his loyal associates controlled a network of drug factories in city centre apartments at Beetham Tower, Beetham Plaza, City Lofts and Royal Quay. Here 'bashers' would crush up drugs, provide mixing agents and create hundreds of kilos of coke, heroin and ecstasy ready for the streets.
In one raid police seized nearly £163,000 found in plastic shopping bags in a cupboard under the stairs at one of Hibbs-Turner’s Liverpool homes.
But the drug baron, who also had a home in Marbella, did not bother to turn up at the hearing at Liverpool magistrates court, where he could have tried to reclaim it.
At another address, on Cornwallis Street in Liverpool city centre, detectives found 50kg of drugs – worth more than £2m – together with a silenced Steyr machine gun.
But Hibbs-Turner's hatred for rival north end criminal Michael 'Mikey' Wright would bring about his downfall.
Mr Wright, 34, of Waterloo Dock, Liverpool city centre, was on his way to the KFC in Croxteth’s Stonedale Retail Park on the East Lancs Road on December 8, 2006.
He was then shot dead as he sat in his car.
Hibb-Turner was found guilty of drug running, racketeering, organising the murder, and jailed for a total of 37 years. Mark Richardson, a senior member of the Turner firm, was also jailed for life.
Philip Woolley was jailed for 20 years.
The case was a success for police and removed a significant organised crime gang from the city. The imprisonment of Hibbs- Turner and Richardson in particular reduced the intensity of a number of disputes and made the city a safer place.
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What the police said
Andy Cooke, Chief Constable of Merseyside Police, spoke to the ECHO last year about the challenge posed by criminals in 2004.
Mr Cooke pointed out that there were were 10 fatal shootings and 112 discharges during 2004, compared to 79 firearms discharges and five fatal shootings in 2019.
He said: '2004 was a catalyst for change in Merseyside Police and as a result the force Matrix team was established in January 2005 to bring an holistic approach to tackling gun and gang crime on Merseyside.
'The team consisted of reactive and proactive investigation teams, and a specialist Matrix disruption team and it looked at the problem in the round through investigation, education of young people on the periphery of gun and gang crime and rehabilitation of offenders.
'It was the first unit of its type outside of the Metropolitan Police and was recognised nationally for the ground-breaking work it did.'
The war on serious crime today
The ECHO recently spoke with senior police officers about their ongoing campaign against drug gangs in the city.
Assistant Chief Constable Ian Critchley told the ECHO that although the business model of organised crime had changed over the decades, in essence it was the same.
He said: 'He said: 'We are still talking about the same types of people. They are bullies who use people to sell drugs. They trade in fear and violence to get what they want.'
And Chris Green, head of the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit, said that crime bosses who have left Merseyside for Dubai or beyond were not 'beyond their reach.'
Liverpool's criminal underworld exposed
He said: 'He said: 'Organised crime groups use hierarchical structures and we often see individuals who rise through the ranks and then choose to live overseas. But this is in no way unique to Merseyside.
'We see people at the top of these structures who have the ability to try and control the minds of other, possibly younger, criminals.
'But my message to these people is simple. Leaving Merseyside does not make you untouchable.'
Members of the public are advised not to approach Richard Caswell directly but to call 999 if they see him.
Anyone with information on his whereabouts is asked to contact @MerPolCC, 101 quoting ref. 20000372636 or Crimestoppers, anonymously on 0800 555 111.