It was the funeral that gave it away. Paul Massey’s diminutive five foot frame boxed-up in a coffin, carriage led by four plumed white horses. Man United colours. “Salford Legend”, read the wreath. 55-years-old.
Burly shaven-headed men, white shirts and jeans, emerged from chauffeur driven cars, shaking hands with the mourners. Lager lapped and the whiff of dope. Gangster chic. Charles Bronson, Massey’s former jail-mate, reportedly sent flowers. Salt of the earth.
A few faces to be seen. Paul Ferris – former debt collector for the late Glaswegian Arthur Thompson, Scotland’s “godfather” and the “biggest man” in the now departed “Mad” Frankie Fraser’s prime – was there too. Ferris, another “salt of the earth” chap, received 10 years bird in 1998 for receiving three Mac-10 sub-machine pistols, ammo, silencers and detonators.
49-years-old Stephen Lydiate was also present to mourn the departure of his brother-in-law. On license from prison after receiving a twenty-two stretch for conspiracy to commit murder and kidnap. Revenge attack following an attempt on his life. Norman Shawcross, one of Lydiate’s thugs, held petty criminal James Kent on a farm in an attempt to get him to grass:
A man in a Balaclava appeared. “You see this man?” Shawcross said. “He’s going to rape you. He’s going to fuck you up the arse unless you talk.” The masked man moved forward but as he moved closer he declined: Kent’s legs were bleeding too much, it was putting him off.
Lydiate’s not the last man laughing. Chemicals in the eyes and whacks around the head, from a wooden support used to lower Massey into his hole, landed Lydiate back in prison. Breach of license.
That’s two shits off the streets. And an undignified scramble for the spoils. Crack and smack “flooding” Massey’s old stomping ground of Ordsall, near the BBC’s lavish MediaCity.
But Massey had friends. Remember Massey’s message, seer of his own death:
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.
A seven-year-old boy and his 29-year-old mother are the latest victims believed to be linked to the murder of Massey. Shot above the knees on the doorstep of their own home. No accident, the kid took a point-blank blast. The two gunmen, who didn’t bother to wear masks, were looking for the victims’ father and husband, Christian Hickey. Another “salt of the earth” character:
Locals say Mr Hickey has turned his life around after falling in with the wrong crowd when he was younger.
Hickey served seven years inside following a fatal stabbing in 2002.
Sources on the ground suggested to journalists that locals know who is responsible for the latest spate of shootings, yet the police can’t get past the “wall of silence” – don’t talk to the filth. This “wall of silence” has deep foundations. Robert Roberts remembered of the police Edwardian Salford:
Like their children, delinquent or not, the poor in general looked upon him with fear and dislike. When one arrived on a “social” visit they watched his passing with suspicion and his disappearance with relief. Here was no councillor or friend. Except for common narks, one spoke to a “rozzer” when one had to and told him the minimum.
Don’t be seen talking to strangers. Journalists for the Daily Mail investigating a recent grenade attack in Salford were approached by a well-built man:
Fuck off you grasses. You’d better go now if you know what’s good for you.
Whispers that the area is reverting to infamy, the days of “Gunchester” (1999-2009) when 112 fatal shootings occurred. Chief Superintendent Mary Doyle, commander of Greater Manchester Police’s (GMP) Salford division, implored:
Salford’s very different to other places. We had a similar but in other ways completely different picture in Moss side years ago. We had the mothers against violence and they were instrumental in helping us resolve those issues in that community, we haven’t got that here. Which is why we’re appealing to the women of Salford saying, actually, you lot have got to stand up and help us here. It’s your children potentially that are going to get shot – it’s you potentially that is going to get shot, your young children are clearly in the picture.
The kneecapping of Christian Jnr and Jayne Hickey marks the 21st shooting in 18 months. Nine have occurred since the murder of Massey, two of which have been linked formally to his murder. Police are offering a £50,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of Massey’s executioner.
Why was Massey killed? There’s no doubting he was involved in serious crime. As for the bollocks written about Massey being anti-drugs, “use smack and get smacked” only applied if you weren’t buying his gear. Massey’s interests included protection, running lucrative unofficial car parks for football matches near Old Trafford and money laundering. All washed through a legitimate security business.
Word on the street has it that Massey was on good terms certain police officers, though most successful big-time crooks need to have elements of old bill onside. Investigations by the Observer revealed:
“I don’t think there was money involved. He was just passing on bodies – information,” said one, who had known Massey for decades. He added, “In turn the police helped him, backed him up. He didn’t speak to the local officers; he spoke to the serious end. Sometimes if you crossed him, next thing you’d know is that your front door was being kicked in by the police.
One recounted rumours of a firearms deal for which, instead of Massey, police officers turned up. Another source cited an alleged incident in which police intervened to avoid a tax inspection at Massey’s Salford security firm in the late 90s. “It was common knowledge the book-keeping was dodgy, that it was a front, but the police got involved, saying it was under surveillance.”
Massey was no fool. On good terms with other local nutters such as the Cheetham Hillbillies and the Noonan family, Massey also used kids to do his dirty work. Forty-one-year-old Bobby Speirs, Massey’s right-hand man, was sent down for life with a minimum sentence of 23 years in 2009 for ordering the assassination of fellow thug David Trotton three years earlier. Two men were hired to do the job. Kids really. And it was a fuck up. Although Trotton was seriously injured, one of the guns jammed and the two assassins ended up being disarmed, shot and beaten to death. Carlton Alveranga and Richard Austin, the would-be-killers, were aged 20 and 19 respectively. Trotton refuses to speak to the police.
Salford has the second highest child poverty rate in Greater Manchester and is ranked 26th nationally in this premier league of penury. Forthcoming tax credit cuts are expected to bite hard. Gentrification of Salford Quays appears to have by-passed poorer districts, such as Ordsall. When the BBC opened MediaCity, 3,172 locals applied for jobs, a mere 24 were successful. Eight of these posts went to under-19-year-olds, on six-month contracts, earning less than £5 an hour. Gangs and guns, gilded glamour.
Around 160 organized crime groups operate across the Greater Manchester area, approximately 8,000 families are noted as “troublesome”. In the wake of the latest shootings, police have launched a number of dawn raids and confiscated a significant quantity of drugs. Hundreds of Osman – threat to life – warnings have also been issued by the GMP recently (to put this figure in perspective, 352 such notifications were made by the Met police for the whole of London in 2010).
Don’t believe all the stories. Local Lynsey Wilding and her family have run a convenience store for 13 years, they haven’t been robbed once. Over the period June 2013 to June 2014, Salford was one of the few divisions in the GMP area where crime fell. 864 fewer offences were recorded in Salford, as compared with a total rise of 6,700 crimes in Greater Manchester. The launch of Project Gulf – a multi-agency partnership between local council services, GMP, the National Crime Agency and MI5 – in April 2010 has led to over 300 arrests, the seizure of £9.1 million worth of drugs and 26 firearms. Raids on money laundering fronts, such as car parks, garages, security firms and sunbed shops, has diverted £11 million from the pockets of crooks. 67 known criminals linked to 19 gangs are currently under observation in Salford.
Hopefully a short-term spike, current firearms offences are a shadow of their incidence in “Gunchester’s” heyday. 112 fatal shootings occurred between 1999 and 2009. High noon for the year 2007-8 witnessed incidents involving guns including 146 shootings, an average of over three a day. 397 such incidents were recorded last year, representing a fall of nearly two-thirds.
Drug policy in Greater Manchester, as with the rest of the UK, is akin to an attempt to kill the Lernaean Hydra. Without doubting the misery of illegal drug misuse on some individuals and families, the physiological impact is often no worse than that of alcoholism. Pot, in particular, a weaker poison than Polish vodka. Statistics for 2012-13 show that 75% of drug seizures by the GMP relate to cannabis, not the greatest use of resources to a product not entirely socially unacceptable. Portugal implemented total illegal narcotic decriminalization 14 years ago without the country descending into a national stupor. For Salford, Greater Manchester and the country as a whole, a more radical experiment may benefit. Misha Glenny, an award-winning journalist and historian, has studied the economics of international organized crime. Glenny’s studies led him to this unsettling, for some, observation:
If a country supports prohibition, it also guaranteeing that on the supply side all profits will accrue to underground networks; and on the demand side it is guaranteeing that any social or public-health problems associated with drug-taking will only come to light in the great majority of cases once they are out of control. If the UN is right and drugs account for 70% of organized criminal activity, then the legalization of drugs would administer by far the deadliest blow possible against trans-national organized criminal networks.
- Helen Carter, “Boss behind Gangland Murder Attempt in Salford Pub gets Life”, Guardian, 21 May 2009 http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2009/may/21/salford-pub-gang-murder-attempt
- ___________ “For Long-Suffering Salford, the Joke isn’t Funny Anymore”, Guardian, 13 April 2012 http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2012/apr/13/salford-media-city-bbc
- Frankie Fraser & James Morton, Mad Frank’s Britain (London: Virgin, 2002)
- Mish Glenny, McMafia: Seriously Organized Crime (London Vintage, 2009)
- Josh Halliday & Eric Allison, “Roots of Silence Run Deeper than 90s Manchester Violence”, Guardian, 16 October 2015 http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/oct/16/salford-silence-90s-manchester-violence
- Chris Ingraham, “Portugal Decriminalized Drugs 14 Years Ago – And Now Hardly Anyone Dies from Overdosing”, Independent, 7 June 2015 http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/portugal-decriminalised-drugs-14-years-ago-and-now-hardly-anyone-dies-from-overdosing-10301780.html
- Neal Keeling, “Crackdown Costs “Untouchable” Gangs £11m”, Manchester Evening News, 1 October 2014 http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/crackdown-costs-untouchable-salford-gangs-7859743
- __________ “Salford Crime Rate Plummets Compared to Rest of Region”, Manchester Evening News, 28 October 2014 http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/salford-crime-rate-plummets-compared-8004901
- ___________“Project Gulf Operation against Crime IS Working insist Council Bosses and Police”, Manchester Evening News, 7 August 2015 http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/project-gulf-operation-against-crime-9811296
- ___________“Man who was Brutally Assaulted at Graveside during Funeral of Salford’s ‘Mr Big’ Paul Massey is Recalled to Prison”, Manchester Evening News, 24 September 2015 http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/man-who-brutally-assaulted-graveside-10120478
- __________ “Police Investigating Salford Shootings and Paul Massey Murder make 8 Arrests during Dawn Raids”, Daily Mirror, 16 October 2015 http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/police-investigating-salford-shootings-paul-6647552
- ___________ “ Hundreds of People – including Children – are given “Threat to Life” Warnings in Salford as Gang War Tensions Rise”, Manchester Evening News, 18 October 2015 http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/hundreds-people-including-children-given-10285139
- Michael Kelleher, “Cannabis Accounts for a Staggering 75% of all Drugs Seizures by Greater Manchester Police” Mancunian Matters, 19 June 2013 http://www.mancunianmatters.co.uk/content/190611104-revealed-cannabis-makes-75-greater-manchester-drug-seizures-%E2%80%93-average-15-busts-day
- James Morton, Gangland International (London: Little, Brown, 1998)
- Robert Roberts, The Classic Slum: Salford Life in the First Quarter of the Century (Manchester: University of Manchester Press, 1971)
- Tom Rodgers, “Horror over Tax Credit Cuts: Salford Mums already Skip Meals to Feed their Kids”, Salford Online, 21 October 2015 http://salfordonline.com/11021-horror-over-tax-credit-cuts-salford-mums-already-skip-meals-to-feed-their-kids.html
- Tony Thompson, Gangs: A Journey into the Heart of the British Underworld (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 2004)
- Mark Townsend, “As Salford buries its Mr Big, his Gang want Revenge and Turf Wars Grow”, Observer, 22 August 2015 http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/aug/22/salford-mr-big-paul-massey-revenge-turf-wars
- “Paul Massey Murder: ‘Mr Big’ Shot Dead by Masked Gunman”, 27 July 2015 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-manchester-33671453
- “Hundreds Gather for Funeral of Salford’s ‘Mr Big’”, Daily Telegraph, 28 August 2015 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/crime/11831384/Hundreds- gather-for-funeral-of-Salfords-Mr-Big.html