Ice-cream van drivers’ Narcos-style war which led to mass murder of six people

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A war between rival ice-cream van drivers who'd begun peddling everything from bootleg cigs to heroin ended in a blood bath which saw almost an entire family killed.

Back in the 1980s, against a backdrop of mass unemployment, unrest and poverty, the huge housing estates on the east end of Glasgow suddenly represented a cash-making opportunity for those willing to sell cut-price everyday goods along with their lollies and 99s.

But it wasn't long before toilet paper, bread and milk weren't enough, so drivers also started flogging illegal items such as bootleg cigarettes, drugs and weapons.

As a result turf wars quickly broke out, with opposing factions all seeking to take over the most profitable routes, reports The Daily Record.

Baseball bats, knives, guns and axes were used by gangs to defend their territory as petty vandalism turned into all-out conflict.

Andrew Doyle, nicknamed Fat Boy, was an 18-year-old driver for the Marchetti Brothers ice-cream firm and had resisted numerous intimidation attempts from those wanting to take over his route and force him into selling drugs – attempts which even saw him shot at through his windscreen.

In April 1984, it was decided Doyle needed another "frightener" to get him to play ball. So in the early hours of April 16 someone drenched the front door of his family home in with petrol and set it alight.

Three people were wiped out that night; Anthony Doyle and Christine Halleron were dead when firefighters arrived, while her 18-month-old baby Mark would die in hospital hours later. Another three, Andrew Doyle, his brother James and their dad (also called James) would also succumb to their injuries over the next several days.

The six deaths shocked Scotland and threw into focus the violent gang wars plaguing the city, earning Strathclyde Police the nickname 'Serious Chimes Squad' for its failure to address them.

Under pressure to bring justice for the Doyle family, the force arrested several people over the following months.

Six people were eventually charged and four of them ultimately were tried and convicted of offences relating to the vendettas.

But two innocent men were later tried and convicted of the murders of the Doyle family and would spend twenty years protesting their innocence.

Joe Steele and Thomas 'TC' Campbell were said by the police to be known violent offenders. TC, they claimed, had a history of being an enforcer and Steele was his sidekick.

The prosecution evidence against them rested on three main pieces of evidence: A witness, William Love, stated that he had overheard Campbell, Steele, and others in a bar discussing how they would teach 'Fat Boy' Doyle a lesson by setting fire to his house.

The police stated that Campbell had made a statement, recorded by four officers, that, "I only wanted the van shot up. The fire at Fat Boy’s was only meant to be a frightener which went too far."

The police also stated a photocopied A–Z street map of Glasgow, on which the Doyle house in Bankend St was marked with an X, was found in Campbell’s flat.

TC claimed he was "fitted up" by cops and Love who, he said, had agreed to testify in exchange for staying out of jail.

TC and Steele’s convictions were eventually overturned in 2004 at the Court of Appeal after years of campaigns.

Thomas Campbell died of natural causes at his home in June 2019.

After his death, Joe Steele said crime boss Tam McGraw, who died in 2007, had ordered the hit on the Doyle family and knew who started the blaze – but he would never tell.

  • Gangs

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