Has a ceasefire been called in a war in Manchester’s underworld which killed two men? Gang leaders Stephen Britton (right) and Jamie Rothwell celebrate over a pizza.
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By Chris Summers 24 March 2019
When gangsters fall out the consequences can be quite messy.
So it was when villains in Salford, a tough part of Manchester, fell out in 2015.
The first casualty was Paul Massey, a veteran criminal who had once been dubbed “Mr Big” and three years later John Kinsella (pictured, centre, in glasses), a gangland enforcer from Liverpool who had been one of Massey’s pallbearers, was also gunned down as he walked his dog with his girlfriend.
Mark Fellows, 38, was convicted of both murders in January 2019 and given a whole life sentence after a trial at Liverpool Crown Court which heard of the intense animosity between two rival gangs in the North West of England.
One gang – known as The A Team – was led by Stephen Britton, who saw Massey, 55, as his underworld mentor.
The other firm – sometimes known as The Anti A Team or Double A Team – was led by Michael Carroll.
Paul Greaney, QC, prosecuting, told the trial a “rupture” had developed between the two factions.
At one point graffiti in industrial language appeared in the Manchester area calling Carroll a “rat”, “snitch” and “faggot”and urging him to come back to England from Spain to fight the war with Britton’s faction.
Fellows, (pictured), was the gunman who shot Massey with 19 rounds from an Uzi sub-machine gun on July 26, 2015.
His close friend Steven Boyle, 36, was his driver and all-round gopher. He was convicted only of the Kinsella murder and was jailed for life with a minimum term of 33 years.
A witness, Matthew Jones, described hearing heavy gunfire as Massey was mowed down as he tried to hide behind dustbins at the front of his house.
In October 2015 the A Team attempted to hit back, targeting Christian Hickey at his home in Eccles.
But when a hit squad knocked on his door it was opened by his wife Jayne, 30, and son Christian, junior, aged just seven. Unperturbed the gang opened fire with a Heckler & Koch M7 9mm semi-automatic.
Little Christian (pictured, below) was hit in the thigh and his mother suffered gunshot wounds to both legs but they survived after being rushed to hospital and undergoing surgery.
On 21 March 2019 four members of the A Team were cleared of conspiracy to murder.
Carne Thomasson, 28, Aldaire Warmington, 32, and Chris Hall, 49, were convicted of conspiracy to cause GBH and face long jail sentences.
Carne’s father, John Thomasson, 50, was acquitted of all charges.
Aldaire’s twin brother Lincoln was convicted of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice by attempting to dispose of the getaway car.
John Kent, 54, was convicted of conspiracy to cause GBH to Jamie Rothwell, a key member of The Anti A Team, who was shot at a car wash in Salford.
In 2018 one of Paul Massey’s pallbearers, Kinsella, was killed by Fellows as he walked his dog with his girlfriend Wendy Owen on a woodland path not far from the M62 at Rainhill in Merseyside.
Ms Owen, who was shot at, ran off and survived.
She told police the killer was “cool” and focused on targeting Kinsella, 53, and clearly “wanted to finish the job”.
In fact the prosecution even referred to Fellows as “The Iceman” during the trial, trying to give him a nickname which might send a shiver down the jurors’ necks.
The trial heard Fellows a GPS-enabled Garmin watch found at his home after the Kinsella killing showed he had travelled to the area, probably on a bicycle, before gunning down Massey.
Kinsella had been an underworld fixer who once stopped a gangster threatening former Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard, now the manager of Glasgow Rangers.
Boyle’s QC, Peter Wright, claimed his client was just a “useful idiot” who was blissfully unaware of what Fellows had planned.
Mr Wright pointed out that when he was arrested in June 2018 Boyle offered to help the detectives.
“I haven’t murdered anyone but I probably know more things about it than I should. If I say anything though my family would need protection,” said Boyle, who clammed up when the offer of witness protection was not offered.
Mr Wright also pointed out that in November 2015 a “threat to life” notice was issued to Boyle following an anonymous tip-off but the leader of The A Team, Stephen Britton, then called the police and said he had no problem with Boyle.
Fellows’ defence QC, Nick Johnson, claimed Boyle was responsible for what he called a “cut-throat ambush defence”.
He says Fellows decided not to give evidence before he knew Boyle would implicate him in the murder of Kinsella.
Mr Johnson said both the prosecution and the defence accepted Kinsella was a “Merseyside-based career criminal”,“regarded by the authorities as a gangland enforcer” and that after he was killed £10,000 in cash was found under the sink in his kitchen.
He then read out some of the agreed facts.
“The police had information as part of their investigation into the background of John Kinsella: that he had criminal connections with people in the Netherlands; that he was, as of May 2018, criminally active; that at the time of his death he had significant debts in connection with criminal activity; that he was involved in an assault on Stephen Lydiate at the funeral of Paul Massey, when he, Lydiate, was attacked with acid; that he had a separate mobile phone dedicated for criminal use,” said Mr Johnson.
“As in the case of Paul Massey, the police had information that John Kinsella had been killed as the result of his criminal activity and the police received intelligence that he had a number of enemies that wanted him dead,” he added.
The jury ultimately concluded Fellows and Boyle killed Kinsella, but Fellows alone had taken out Massey.
Whether they were acting at the behest of Mr Carroll – who is believed to be in Thailand – will remain a matter of speculation.
But the Manchester Evening News reported in March 2019 that the feud is now over.
It published a photograph (left) of Stephen Britton (pictured, wearing a baseball cap) and Jamie Rothwell letting bygones be bygones over a pizza.
Rothwell has reportedly taken over the Double AA Team faction from Carroll and he has apparently forgiven Britton for trying to have him killed.
Have the gangsters chosen peace and profits before war?