Salford’s Mr Big: Who Was Paul Massey?

I could be shot dead anytime. I’ve realized that for years. If it’s meant to happen, it’s meant to happen. I pity the bastard who did it after. The only reason that’s kept me alive today is because the person who fires that shot knows that they’ve got to fly the flag and handle the pressure after it. They are not going to be able to handle it. They are getting it.

Prophetic words spoken by Paul Massey who was shot dead outside his home in Clifton, Salford, Greater Manchester, around 7.30pm last Sunday (26 July 2015) as he stepped out of his BMW. Partner of Louise Lydiate for 28 years, this 55-year-old father of five was a controversial character.

Growing-up in the inner-city area of Ordsall, the inspiration for Coronation Street, Massey was sent to an approved school at the age of 12 years for criminal damage to an empty house. Forever a marked man? Massey muscled his way onto the Manchester rave scene, his security business controlling entrance to the most popular nightspots. Manning the doors of clubs such as the Hacienda, allowed Massey’s team to oversee the sale of ecstasy in the city. Useful, as Massey & co were importing pills from Holland.

By the time of his death, Massey’s rap sheet hit 25 convictions, including offences such as violence and possessing an offensive weapon. The proverbial tip of an iceberg? Difficult to tell. Successful lags try and stay out of the limelight. Massey avoided two prosecutions against him, disturbances outside a Manchester nightclub and a Birmingham boxing match, when the cases collapsed. Yet rumour has it that during the 1990s, Massey was under surveillance by D7, the branch of MI5 acting in concert with customs and the police against so-called organized criminals.

Journalists write euphemistically that  “he wielded considerable influence during the 1990s”. A local councillor dubbed Massey “Mr Big” following the ambush of police officers during the riots of 1992. Six years later, Massey escaped death when the house he was standing outside was sprayed with machine gun bullets.

Massey’s luck appeared to run out in 1999 when he was sent down for 14 years for stabbing a man in the groin, severing an artery. Nice chap: according to Andrew Gilligan two years were added to this sentence, for when Massey was stopped by the police for drink driving, he threatened “I’ll get you all shot”.

During 1999 Massey’s brother-in-law Stephen Lydiate was also shot at the Ship boozer in Salford. Doctors believed that a bullet-proof vest, which mysteriously disappeared by the time they arrived at the scene, saved Lydiate’s life. In revenge, Lydiate was later sentenced to 22 years inside for kidnap and torture.

All in the past? After release from prison Massey campaigned to be elected mayor of Salford in 2012. Stemming drug use amongst the young was a campaign theme. Stickers on Salford lamposts warned “use smack and get smacked”.

Manchester Evening News crime reporter Neal Keeling described Massey as “articulate, intelligent and street-wise.” Down to earth character. One local resident said of Massey:

He is a real person. A lot of people from Salford are probably like Paul. They would probably relate to him a lot better than any of the councillors. It could be a good thing that somebody like Paul, who is not well-educated and has a criminal past, is given another chance to prove himself. Because that is the problem – once you have committed a crime it is very difficult to get an opportunity to prove yourself.

A man of contradictions. Anti-drugs yet made significant money selling drugs. A man who didn’t like to show off, though at one point in his life he enjoyed travelling in a Rolls Royce drinking champagne.

Popular guy, but beware tales of Robin Hood: 1,995 people voted for Massey, representing 4.5% of the ballot. Of the ten candidates, Massey ranked seventh. Popular, respected or feared?

Family stress that Massey had turned his life around following his long stretch inside. One acquaintance told the Guardian he had been mediating frictions between two rival gangs and “he may have come unstuck”. Another source informed the Daily Mail that “Massey was an old school gangster and hated the idea of youngsters fighting amongst each other.”

Peter Wash, author of Gang War: The Inside Story of the Manchester Gangs, said of Massey. “He had a strong anti-authority streak. He wasn’t the biggest, he wasn’t the toughest, but he was quite charismatic and very principled in his own way.” The sort of bloke “not to lord it over people”.

How criminally active was Massey on the eve of his death? His property and security interests may be legitimate while acting as legal cover for illicit funds. For the past three years, Massey had been on bail following the regional organized crime squad examining his role in money-laundering.

And within recent memory, the name Massey was a name to be feared. Back in 2010, 39-year-old Lee Taberner from Oldham received an eight year prison sentence for masquerading as Massey in an attempt to extort £1 million from a Leicestershire businessman.

When asked of his criminal misdeeds Massey denied being a gangster, replying with the art of a politician:

A gangster is a person who goes out letting off guns unnecessary, shooting people unnecessary and basically getting involved in unnecessary crime. 

The execution of Massey is not unique to this corner of the north-west of England, though Greater Manchester Police (GMP) claim that there is no intelligence linking his death to 14 shootings  in the Manchester area over the past few months. However, Graham “dyslexia is a cruel fiction” Stringer, Labour MP for the adjoining constituency of Blackley and Broughton, accuses Sir Peter Fahy, chief constable of the GMP, of “deprioritizing” organized crime:

We have seen the failure of a chief constable who believes in keeping people out of prison and a social worker’s attitude towards prison. It is likely that the increase in the number of shootings is related to this attitude. What’s important for Greater Manchester now is that we get a chief constable who is interested in charging and getting gangs locked up. … He’s got more excuses for not doing his job than Dennis the Menace had for not doing his homework. We need a proper copper at the top.

In Sir Peter’s defence, despite the poverty and unemployment which still blights Salford, official statistics suggest that crime has fallen in the district since at least 2008. Sir Peter responded curtly to Stringer’s charge:

I am not going to apologize for the fact that we have adopted a neighbourhood approach which means we have the highest level of public confidence in policing for many years.

Hopefully Sir Peter is not holding himself a hostage to fortune. Hints that friends of Massey know the identity of the killer. Do these friends include relatives of the late Manchester thug Desmond Noonan, who was stabbed to death in 2005, and seen mourning the death of Massey? In a video recording made in 1998, Massey predicted his own death and vowed revenge:

Too many people around me are friends, they’re not associates, they’re friends, there’s personal friendship. Them personal friends wouldn’t lie in bed at night if something happened to me.

Related Blogs

Gunchester Awakes? The Salford Shootings 


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