You’ve heard of the Krays. And if you’re a connoisseur of true crime, you may be familiar with the Adams family, Richardson brothers, Billy Hill, Jack Spot and the Sabinis. But David Hunt?
55-year-old Hunt first came to public attention in 2013 when he lost a libel case against the Sunday Times. Veteran journalist Michael Gillard successfully defended his research that Hunt headed an organized crime syndicate earning millions from robberies, protection, drugs and prostitution. Earlier this year BBC Panorama alleged that Hunt may have been involved in taking out a contract to kill three officers based at Newham Crime Squad, Stratford, East London.
Described in police reports as possessing “a propensity for violence”, sources state “murder is second nature to him”. Yet Hunt remains at liberty, his last conviction was as a 26-year-old when he was sent down for nine months, suspended for two years, for conspiracy to handle stolen goods. Believed by some at Scotland Yard as “too big to take on”, an official minute notes:
Intelligence shows that [Hunt] maintains and controls a powerful position within a large criminal network … It is clear the subject’s business interests are not legitimate … a large number of associates willing to work for him, and despite a wealth of intelligence dating back approximately 20 years, police appear to have a very poor success rate in developing and progressing this into prosecution material. As a result the subject believes he has untouchable status …
Who is David Hunt? Born in April 1961, the youngest of 13 children in East London’s Canning Town, Hunt “was not unusual in getting into trouble with the law as a young man.” A keen amateur boxer, Hunt graduated to providing security for pubs and clubs. By the mid-1980s police reports claim that Hunt was “moving up the ladder” of the Snipers firm involved in lorry hijackings.
Hunt muscled-in on the Soho sex scene with his usual flair for violence. A set of flats used by prostitutes in Berwick Street were acquired when Hunt’s men turned up and threw the pimp out of the first-floor window. An employee at Peter Street’s Bizarre was kidnapped, had two fingers cut off with a bolt-cutter, with one of the digits being posted to an associate in Hackney. A similar pattern of intimidation forced landlords to handover property deeds. One sex-shop owner brave enough to refuse a £250 a week rent hike described Hunt’s methods to Observer crime correspondent Tony Thompson:
A few days later one guy came and cut one of my staff with a razor all round his backside. After that, we decided to pay. I don’t know what else to do. I can’t exactly go to the police because of the nature of the business. We’re not really hurting anybody, but I would not say what we’re doing is 100 per cent legal. It’s all getting out of hand. Am I scared of them? Of course I am.
By the mid-1990s, Hunt had acquired the freehold of 2 Green’s Court, Soho, a property comprising a basement “clip joint”, a ground floor unlicensed sex shop, the top three floors being rented out to prostitutes. Between 1997 and 1999, 55 “major crime allegations”, were linked to the premises, including allegations that under-age prostitutes worked from the rooms. Activities at Green’s Court alone generated a weekly profit of £2,000.
Police intelligence confirms that Hunt has co-financed with the notorious Adams family shipments of large quantities of cocaine and heroin into the UK and profiteered from the dodgy acquisition of land compulsory purchased for the 2012 Olympics. Despite a police raid in 2006 at an East London storage facility leading to the discovery of £250,000 worth of jewellery in a safe and 16 containers of alcohol, tobacco and other stolen goods – facilitating the finding of a further 40 cases of stolen champagne at Woolston Manor Golf and Country Club in Chigwell, Essex, owned by Hunt – he remains free.
Is Hunt untouchable? He’s clever. The proceeds of Hunt’s illegal activities were laundered through his legitimate business interests, including scrap-metal. Aiding arms-length ownership, and evading the taxman, was facilitated by a series of off-shore accounts in Jersey and Panama. The “Panama Papers” revealed Hunt benefitted from the attention of Mossack Fonseca.
Hunt’s also violent, as Sunday Mirror journalist Peter Wilson found to the cost of a fractured eye socket. Wilson was investigating the murder of Terry Gooderham, a stocktaker (possibly on the fiddle) for a number of London clubs, who was shot dead with his girlfriend Maxine Arnold by a contract killer in December 1989. Subsequent inquiries by Wilson led him to Hunt. In Wilson’s words:
This time I noticed the Claimant [Hunt] himself, walking quickly up the path from his house in a determined and aggressive manner. He looked furious. I instinctively backed-off a few steps; and without saying a single word or pausing, he grabbed me by the lapels and violently head-butted me just above my right eye. I offered no resistance at all. He then said to me, “You fucking cunt. I’ll up you, talking to my wife about fucking murder.” I remember these words clearly … I staggered back in pain and shock and made my way to the car.
Would you testify against Hunt? Billy Allen, a property trader and convicted fraudster, said of Hunt in court:
I’ve got serious concerns and serious worries that I’m even standing here and I don’t want to get involved with these proceedings. I’ve done everything in my powers not to come here today. I did not want to give evidence in this case. I’m forced into giving it. I’m telling the truth. I’ve certainly no vendetta against Davey Hunt, and I hope to God he hasn’t got a vendetta against me…
As for Michael Gillard, his work for the Sunday Times led Mr Justice Simon to conclude:
On the basis of the information of Mr Gillard received from sources he was entitled to treat as reliable and knowledgeable, as well as the information contained in documents … I am satisfied that it was reasonable for him to describe the Claimant as a violent and dangerous criminal and the head of an organized crime group implicated in murder, drug trafficking and fraud.
Gillard has received numerous death threats and currently keeps a low profile.
Difficulties in mounting a prosecution aside, Hunt also has friends in blue. Such was Scotland Yard’s concern at Hunt’s ability to avoid the law, Operation Tiberius was launched in 2002 to investigate police corruption. 42 serving officers and 19 former detectives were named for bent behaviour. Both the Adams and Hunt families were highlighted for their aptitude in infiltrating the Met “at will”.
And when Newham Crime Squad paid closer attention to Hunt, the team faced investigation when rogue officers planted false corruption allegations. According to the Sunday Times, Hunt used his venal links to thwart 27 Met police investigations.
Hunt may have racked up a £800,000 bill when his libel suit against the Sunday Times failed. Barclays may have called in a £4.2 million loan when learning of his case, yet (the partially state-backed) Lloyds stepped in. David Sullivan also lent this West Ham supporting thug a further £1 million. Hunt remains free to enjoy his mansion – with indoor and outdoor pool, gym, tennis court and a lake – set in 20 acres of countryside in Great Hallingbury, Essex; a property which he purchased for £600,000 back in 1993 as a 32-year-old scaffolder.
-  EWHC 1868 (QB): Approved Judgement before Mr Justice Simon between David Hunt and Times Newspapers Ltd, 4 July 2013 http://www.5rb.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/david-hunt-v-times-newspapers-ltd-5.pdf
-  EWHC 272 (QB): Judgement before Mr Justice Tugendhat between David Hunt and Evening Standard Ltd, 18 February 2011 http://www.onebrickcourt.com/files/cases/hunt_28588.pdf
-  EWHC 110 (QB): Judgement before Mr Justice Eady between David Hunt and Times Newspapers Ltd, 30 January 2012 http://onebrickcourt.com/files/cases/hunt_56033.pdf
- Glen Campbell, “The Cop who Stirred the Hornets Nest”, BBC News, 29 February 2016 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-35651565
- Michael Gillard and Laurie Flynn, Untouchables: Dirty Cops, Bent Justice and Racism in Scotland Yard (London: Bloomsbury, 2nd edn., 2012)
- Tom Harper, “Exclusive: Scotland Yard’s Rotten Core”, Independent, 10 January 2014 http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/exclusive-scotland-yards-rotten-core-police-failed-to-address-endemic-corruption-9050224.html
- ________, “Crime Lord ‘Tainted Dozens of Met Cases'”, Sunday Times, 26 July 2015
- James Morton, East End Gangland (London: Sphere, 2009)
- David Pegg, Helena Bengtsson and Holly Watt, “Revealed: The Tycoons and World Leaders who Built Secret UK Property Empires”, Guardian, 5 April 2016 https://www.theguardian.com/news/2016/apr/05/panama-papers-world-leaders-tycoons-secret-property-empires
- Tony Thompson, “London’s New Krays take Soho”, Observer, 28 November 1999 http://www.theguardian.com/uk/1999/nov/28/tonythompson.theobserver
- William Turvill, “Sunday Times Reveals Lloyds Bank Loan to Gangster David Hunt who faced £800k Libel Bill”, Press Gazette, 12 May 2014 http://www.pressgazette.co.uk/content/sunday-times-lloyds-lent-gangster-%C2%A34m-during-our-high-court-libel-battle-0