Real Life Stories


by Chris Summers                                                              23 June 2015

As Britain heads towards a referendum on leaving the European Union the spotlight will increasingly be focused on keeping out dangerous foreign criminals.

But it is a two-way street as the case of Sean Heiss proved.

Imagine the uproar if a foreigner – who was the prime suspect for a murder in his own country – was allowed into the UK and then killed an innocent British woman.

Well that is exactly what happened, in reverse, to Clementina Naura Liscano, killed by a rogue British citizen in Spain.

Earlier this month Heiss, 30, (pictured left) was jailed for life for murdering his mother, Margaret Sheehy, in the London suburb of Kingston-upon-Thames in June 2012.

But it emerged during his trial at the Old Bailey that after the murder he had disappeared off the radar, spending months travelling across Europe before killing a second woman, almost beheading her, in a horrific attack in Barcelona, Spain.

Heiss, who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, was found guilty of murder by a jury who rejected his plea of guilty to manslaughter due to diminished responsibility.

While there is little doubt he suffered from mental illness Heiss’s actions were clearly those of a cunning criminal who was trying to evade justice.

After strangling his mother he stole her debit cards, travelled to Paris on the Eurostar and withdrew money from her account before heading to Spain.

The Metropolitan Police were 99% certain Heiss had killed his mother and issued a European arrest warrant.

But the wheels of bureaucracy turned too slowly and when Heiss was detained by Spanish police in San Sebastian on 23 June after threatening a hotel receptionist with a knife they were not aware he was wanted in Britain and he was released on bail.

He vanished for most of that summer and is believed to have been living rough in northern Spain.

On 29 September Heiss, who had been sleeping in an ATM foyer, attacked Clementina Naura Liscano, punching and kicking her before stabbing her in the throat and almost cutting her head off.

This time he did not try to get away and was arrested on the spot.

Heiss claimed Ms Liscano told him: “You stink, you are stupid.”

He said, in his typically self-pitying way: “This is the story of my life. I keep getting disrespected by people I don’t even know.”

Heiss was convicted of Ms Liscano’s murder in Spain last year but the Spanish authorities agreed to extradite him to Britain on condition that he be returned to serve the rest of his sentence at the end of the trial.

On 4 June Judge Gerald Gordon sentenced him to life with a minimum tariff of 27 years. Four days later he was flown back to Spain to serve the rest of his 22 year sentence for Ms Liscano’s murder.

At the conclusion of that sentence it is expected he will be sent back to Britain to begin his life sentence for his mother’s murder.
The trial heard that Heiss had quit his job as a supermarket worker and was relying on unemployment benefits at the time of the killings. He had his own flat in Surbiton but would often spend evenings at his mother’s flat in Kingston.

Heiss told police his benefits had been cut off and he had run out of food. He was £200 overdrawn. He claimed his mother refused to feed him and he was turned away from a local food bank. He even suggested she was trying to poison him.

The prosecutor Sarah Plaschkes QC, told the trial Mrs Sheehy, a telemarketing executive (pictured above), had been planning to sell her flat and live mortgage-free in Bournemouth or Spain.

She had considered paying off some of Heiss’s debts but then changed her mind and decided to stay in her flat and continue working after all.

The judge rejected Mrs Plaschkes’ claim that Heiss was motivated by money, saying: “In my view the cause of the killing that night was anger, not greed.”

But he said nothing about the failures of the authorities to detain Heiss before he carried out a second murder three months later.



By Chris Summers                                                     1 June 2015

Last month The Sun’s crime reporter Anthony France was given a suspended jail sentence following an investigation by Scotland Yard’s Operation Elveden, which looked into payments by journalists to police officers.

His conviction came as a surprise to me and many other crime reporters because it came only two months after The Sun’s chief reporter John Kay, 71, royal editor Duncan Larcombe, 39, executive editor Fergus Shanahan, 60, and deputy editor Geoff Webster, 55, were all cleared of wrongdoing in a very similar case.

Kay, Shanahan and Webster had been charged with paying a Ministry of Defence official, Bettina Jordan-Barber, around £100,000 for a series of stories which she leaked to the paper.

Jordan-Barber, 42, was jailed for 12 months but the journalists’ defence was that they were “acting in the public interest” by exposing stories about army failures in Afghanistan and Iraq, disciplinary proceedings and sexual misconduct among officers.

Jordan-Barber was known as Kay’s “number one military contact”.

So what was different in France’s case?

He too had a “Deep Throat” source within the police – PC Timothy Edwards, who worked at Heathrow airport.

PC Edwards, who received £22,000 in payments from The Sun for tip-offs, admitted his role and was jailed for two years.

But why was France’s public interest defence rejected by the jury?

Was it simply because some of the stories he ran were considered not important enough?

The trial heard that one occasion The Sun ran a story under the headline “Sexual Heeling” about a British Airways engineer who had a fetish for high heels.

BA installed secret cameras at the airport to discover why some of their ceiling tiles were being damaged. The cameras revealed the man – who I will not name to spare him further embarrassment – prancing around in a bodice and stilettos on a home-made catwalk made out of tiles.

The police were called in but no charges were brought. The man resigned from BA but did not tell his wife the reasons why he had left.

A year later PC Edwards – who had arrested the man – recalled the story and tipped off France about it.

France (pictured above when he exposed lapses in parliamentary security) confronted the man, who had three children, and his wife found out for the first time what he had been up to.

At the trial Zoe Johnson QC, prosecuting, asked France: “Was that story in the public interest or was it just ‘of interest to the public’?”

France insisted it was a story with a legitimate public interest because the man had security clearance at the airport and could have laid himself open to blackmail.

The jury evidently disagreed.

In sentencing him, Mr Justice Pontius, said the “Sexual Heeling” story and another article, about airport staff making lewd comments about a colleague after she used on of their security body scanners, were the “worst examples” of unwarranted invasions of privacy.

The judge said: “The Heathrow ‘body scanner’ story is an example, intended to titillate and published regardless of the private life of the woman concerned  –  herself already the victim of disgraceful behaviour by a colleague  –  to the inexcusable extent of revealing her name and printing her picture. The apology, a couple of centimetres square and tucked away at the bottom of a page deep inside the paper, regrettably did not appear until about 18 months after the original article.”

France was supported in court by The Sun’s crime editor Mike Sullivan and former News of the World reporter Lucy Panton, who comforted his tearful mother when he was finally released from the dock.

Many people reading about France’s conviction might consider it good news and a sign that “corrupt journalism” is being rooted out.

There are cases – like the murder of private detective Daniel Morgan – where the relationship between some journalists and police officers has been extremely unhealthy.

But is there not a danger that some crime stories will simply go unreported?

The judge said much of France’s reporting was genuinely in the public interest and added: “Obvious specific examples are those stories which concerned airline safety, such as drunken pilots and the smuggling by crews of drugs, the importation from the United States of vicious ‘X-men’ style weapons and the movement in and out of this country of British Islamic extremists.”

This case may well be a deterrent to officers like PC Edwards who may be tempted to reply to the “We Pay Cash for Stories” teasers so often carried by The Sun.

Mr Justice Pontius said: “It is a practice which is certainly not improper, still less is it to be condemned, least of all by me, as long as it does not involve  –  as it did in this case  –  encouragement by a journalist to anyone holding public office to abuse their trusted position, for payment, by providing confidential information obtained in the course of their work in order that it might be used to feed the public’s appetite for news which sometimes amounts to no more than titillating gossip.”

It would be a good thing if ordinary people’s privacy is not invaded in future.

But crime reporting is under siege as news desks cut down on journalists leaving the office to go to court or meet contacts in the police or criminal underworld.

So there is a danger that the Edwards/France case will further discourage police officers from tipping off journalists about matters of genuine public interest.

For the record totalcrime does not pay for stories but we are happy to follow up tip-offs from anyone in law enforcement or the underworld and expose issues to the public. Email



By Chris Summers                                                 18 May 2015

May 1985 was probably the nadir of English football.

That month saw three terrible tragedies which highlighted how dangerous the game had become off the pitch.

On 11 May 56 people died when flames tore through the old wooden main stand at Bradford City’s Valley Parade ground during a game with Lincoln.

On the same day – in an incident which was eclipsed by the Bradford fire – a 15-year-old boy was killed at Birmingham City’s St Andrews ground during a huge brawl between Birmingham and Leeds United fans.

As a 17-year-old who was on the fringes of the “casuals” scene at the time, it was both an exciting and terrifying time.

I remember watching on TV as the third tragedy unfolded on the night of 29 May.

It was the European Cup Final in Brussels, between Liverpool and Juventus.

Liverpool, the English champions, had in their team great players like Kenny Dalglish, Ian Rush and Alan Hansen while the Turin team included Italian legends Marco Tardelli and Paolo Rossi aswell as Poland’s Zbigniew Boniek and Frenchman Michel Platini, one of the best players of his generation.

But as the pundits discussed the game beforehand it was clear that trouble was brewing on the crumbling terraces of the old Heysel stadium.

Segregation was poor and antagonism between the two sets of fans suddenly triggered an invasion of a section involving Juventus fans by Liverpool supporters, many of whom had been drinking all day.

As the Italians fled a crush was caused at one end of the terrace and 39 people died, mostly Italians.

The tragedy played out live on television with commentators struggling to put into words what was happening in front of their eyes.

The game should have been postponed but officials feared there would be more trouble if they did so, so after a delay of more than an hour it finally kicked off and Juventus won 1-0, with a Platini penalty. But the score was almost irrelevant amid the death toll and Platini’s ashen face suggested it was a hollow victory.
Thirty years later Francesco Caremani, the author of a new book on the tragedy, told totalcrime: “Heysel was the worst massacre in the history of world football, because there was nothing random or accidental in what happened.

“Hooliganism was well known in England and widely underestimated in Europe. After  Heysel the whole world realised how serious hooliganism had become, but the British did nothing to combat it.”

English clubs were banned from European competition for several years – ironically Liverpool’s great rivals Everton were the biggest losers – but Mr Caremani says nothing was done to reform football in England until after the Hillsborough disaster four years later.

In that case the victims were ironically Liverpool fans.

Mr Caremani said: “I’m convinced that Hillsborough is the son of the failure of memory of Heysel.”

When Liverpool played Juventus for the first time since Heysel some unforgiving Italian fans raised placards which suggested the deaths at Hillsborough were some sort of payback for the actions of Liverpool fans at Heysel.

After Heysel some Liverpool fans claimed they were provoked by stones being thrown from the Juventus section.

Mr Caremani says there is no truth in this claim and added: “The English (were) trying to invent excuses for a shame that they will never erase.”
Fourteen Liverpool fans were convicted for their part in the violence at Heysel.

In 2005 one of them, Terry Wilson, visited Arezzo in Italy to try and apologise to Otello Lorentini, who lost his only son at Heysel.

As well as the deaths, 600 Juventus fans were injured, some of whom were permanently disabled. One, Carla Gonnelli, went into a coma. When she eventually woke up she discovered that her father, who had taken her to the match with her, had died.

The Heysel stadium was later renovated and renamed the King Baudouin stadium but there are persistent rumours that it will be demolished and replaced with houses.

This year Juventus have made it to the final of the European Cup again and many fans of the “Old Lady” of Italian football hope they will win the trophy on 6 June to honour the 39 dead at Heysel.

 If you were at Heysel on 29 May 1985 please contact me on



by Lashayla Mensah                                                                                        1 April 2015


Earlier this year Padge Windslowe was convicted of the murder of Claudia Aderotimi (pictured, below).

Windslowe, known as the “Michelangelo of butt injections”, had no shortage of customers.

No American hip-hop music video is complete without gratuitous close-ups of the generous backsides of various scantily clad dancers and models.

The pinnacle – or low point, depending on your point of view – of the genre was the 2014 Anaconda video by Nicki Minaj which featured semi-pornographic shots of the singer’s derriere and the catchy chorus: “Oh My God, look at her butt.”

The fashion for “big butts” has taken off in a big way on both sides of the Atlantic and nowhere more so than in Philadelphia, where Windslowe – aka The “Black Madam” – plied her trade.

She was actually born male but identified as transgender and reportedly had sex change surgery in Latin America.

The Black Madam was the name she used when she made her own music video in 2010 for a song called “Come On In My Kitchen”.

The tune sank without trace and Windslowe realised her hip-hop career was not going to take off, so she reverted to her career as a black market cosmetic surgeon.

She held “pumping parties” where young women would pay to have their buttocks injected with silicone (pictured, below).

Assistant District Attorney Carlos Vega said: “What they didn’t know was that this was not medical-grade silicone but silicone for machines, for use on tanks by the military and to lubricate car engines…it was poison.”

Stephanie Matos, a 32-year-old hotel desk clerk from New York, paid Windslowe $1,000 to inject her.

Windslowe even claimed to have operated on celebrities, such as Amber Rose, the model and former girlfriend of singer Kanye West.

But in February 2011 she made the fateful decision to operate on Claudia, a 20-year-old Nigerian student who lived in London.

Aderotimi aspired to be a dancer, actress and choreographer but as talent scout Tee Ali told the Daily Mail: “The problem was she didn’t have no butt, and she wanted a butt.”

He said she went to one audition wearing fake booty pants but when it was discovered that her bottom was not naturally large she was sent packing.

Claudia, desperate to break into the hip-hop world, decided to fly to America and visit the “Michelangelo of butt operations”.

She booked into a cheap hotel in South Philly (pictured, above) and had the operation the following day.

But the silicone got into her bloodstream and eventually moved to her lungs, before stopping her heart.

When Aderotimi began having chest pains Windslowe – who claimed she had medical training – “put her hand on this young lady’s chest as if she were doing an exam,” said Assistant District Attorney Bridget Kirn, “but there was no exam.”

Aderotimi suffered a cardiac arrest and as an ambulance took her to hospital Windslowe fled.

When police raided her apartment they found 22,000 syringes, 55 gallons of industrial strength silicone and a quantity of Krazy Glue, which was used to suture the incisions.

Windslowe (pictured, left) was eventually captured a year later and in February, this year, finally went on trial.

The jury heard she had an affair with a married gastroenterologist, James Taterka, back in 1993 but he denied he had ever taught her how to inject silicone or bought supplies for her.

Windslowe was convicted of third degree murder and could face up to 40 years in jail when she is sentenced.

Sadly the world of buttock augmentation surgery claimed another victim in October when Joy Williams, 23, from Thamesmead, south-eastLondon, died after a botched operation in a back-street clinic in Bangkok.




by Sven Kristensen                                                                               3 March 2015

The murder of three men in a house in a quiet Hertfordshire town in the summer of 2007 made headline news.

Keith Cowell, 52, and his 17-year-old son Matthew (pictured below), and their friend Tony Dulieu were gunned down with an Ingram Mac-10 sub-machine gun in Bishop’s Stortford.

The killers then stabbed two women, Christine Jennings and Claire Evans, who were upstairs, and shot the Cowells’ dog, a puppy called Gorgeous. Ms Evans’ four-year-old daughter was unhurt.

Miraculously both survived and a harrowing 999 call made by Ian Jennings – who came back into the house after the gunmen left – was later played to a murder trial jury.

Asked by the operator who carried out the shooting and why, he simply repeats: “No.”

Stuart Trimmer QC, prosecuting, admitted at the trial that Jennings had been shady: “Some part of what he says is clearly not a full account, you need to remember that Ian Jennings was involved in a drugs deal. It’s perfectly plain, the Crown say, that he was not, at this stage, prepared to be completely forthright.”

It seems hard to believe that so much violence was as a result of a dispute involving a few thousand pounds. The trial heard Jennings, Cowell and his son made only £500 out of a deal involving £15,000 worth of cocaine.

The trial was told that Miran “Mikey” Thakrar, 24, was the instigator and chief gunman. He was dealing in cocaine and had got into a row with the Cowells over the quality of some drugs they had sold him.

Miran (pictured below) thought he was buying a high quality drug called Shine, but was in fact sold low quality Repress.

But while the evidence against Miran remains strong, the guilt of his little brother, Kevan, remains heavily in doubt.

After the murders Miran Thakrar fled to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, thinking he could not be extradited, and the police made much of the fact that Kevan was arrested as he prepared to fly out to join him.

But Kevan says he was simply going to find out why his brother had fled, as he heard his life was in danger.

One of the most unusual aspects of the trial was that powerful hearsay evidence was allowed in court, which came from several Turkish Cypriots who had claimed they were unable to come to England to testify in person at St Albans Crown Court. They claimed Miran Thakrar had confessed to his role in the murders.

It transpired that some of these witnesses could not speak English and Miran Thakrar certainly could not speak Turkish.

The prosecution, and the Turkish Cypriot police, suggested Miran had confessed using sign language.

But one of the witnesses, Selcuk Moran, said: “Mikey said he had taken drugs and that his head was not well, that he later took his brother to the house where people were going to meet them.

“While Mikey was speaking to these people he was swearing inside, saying to himself, planning things like I am going to kill him first and then I am going to kill him.”

Kevan insists he has never been to Bishop’s Stortford except for one occasion, when he was a child, to attend a swimming gala.

His supporters point to the absence of DNA, fingerprint, ballistics, mobile phone or other forensic evidence placing him at the scene.

Eyewitnesses did not identify him and one described the gunman’s accomplice as “shorter than five feet six with a balding shaven head…unhealthily skinny.”

Kevan (pictured, left) is almost six feet tall, was 12 stone at the time of the murders and was sporting a French crop hairstyle.

Mystery also surrounds Christine Jennings’ son, Ian, who was at the heart of the case, according to the prosecution.

Jennings – whose uncle was Keith Cowell – was in the kitchen when Miran Thakrar arrived and escaped the massacre by hiding in the back garden.

He later received a seven year sentence for drug dealing and is thought to have made his way into the witness protection scheme.

Jennings identified Kevan in an identity parade but he also picked a second man, who was an entirely innocent volunteer.

He later told the trial: “My head was up my arse. I just picked any two numbers.”

Asked to identify the killers in court Jennings told the jury: “The two men are sitting at the back. Those two there done all the shooting. The one on the right (Miran) had the gun.”

Ms Evans did not pick out Kevan in an ID parade.

Kevan, who comes from Stevenage, claims the police focused their case on what Jennings told them, without checking to corroborate it.

He claims a friend who could have given him an alibi for the night in question – because they were together in Enfield, north London – was threatened by police he would spend 10 years in jail if he told the truth.

Whereas Miran’s actions after the murders were extremely suspicious, his brother acted completely innocently – going shopping in Tesco, using his own credit card and trying to fly to Cyprus on his own passport.

After his arrest Kevan claims a police officer told him: “We know you didn’t do it but if you don’t help us we will make sure you serve 50 years.”

Kevan’s solicitors have criticised the judge for not removing a juror who was a friend of one of the police officers involved.

Another juror – who was the foreman – was discharged from jury service after five days of deliberation, because he needed to be with his ill wife. But before he left he apparently pleaded with the other jurors to convict both men.

They have also criticised the judge for allowing a knife and a gun to be brought into court although there was no evidence either weapon was used in the crime.

There is a legal and psychological phenomenon called Wigmore’s Horse which suggests that if a man is on trial for stealing a horse and a horse is brought into the courtroom a juror will automatically assume it is the horse referred to in the indictment.

The Thakrars were eventually convicted, by a 10-1 majority.

In August 2008 Miran Thakrar was jailed for life with a minimum of tariff of 42 years. Two months later Kevan was jailed for a minimum of 35 years.

Last year Kevan was accused of throwing excrement in the face of a female prison officer and he was recently moved north, from Woodhill prison to Full Sutton in North Yorkshire, after being accused of intimidating a witness who was due to give evidence against him.

He is awaiting a trial for those alleged offences, which he claims he is also innocent of. Supporters say he has been beaten up in prison recently.

If you have any information about this case contact




By Cedric Saulmier                                                   1 February 2015
Last month the world’s attention focused on an obscure French magazine which was the target of a hideous massacre by Islamist zealots.

But Charlie Hebdo was born in 1970, out of the ashes of another satirical magazine which was perceived as having committed an outrageous slur against the French President, Charles de Gaulle, who had died a few days earlier.

The story began on the night of 1 November 1970 when a fire broke out in a rural nightclub near Saint-Laurent-du-Pont, in which 146 young people died.

It was a horrific incident and the tragedy of the Club Cinq-Sept fire struck a chord across France.

A few days later President de Gaulle died, aged 79, at his home in the town of Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises.

Eight days later the satirical magazine Hara-Kiri plastered its front page with the banner headline Bal Tragique a Colombey…1 Mort (Tragic prom in Colombey…One Dead).

It was not only incredibly tasteless, it was also mortally offensive to the establishment of the Fifth Republic, to whom de Gaulle was an iconic figure.

He had led the Free French forces against the Germans in the Second World War and had led the nation during its darkest moment, in the late 1950s and early 1960s when it was being torn apart by rebellion and eventual independence in Algeria, which was violently opposed by the French settlers, known as the Pied Noirs.

Hara-Kiri had committed ritual suicide and was banned by the French government.

It got around the ban by bringing out a new title, called Charlie Hebdo (Charlie Weekly) and named after the popular cartoon strip character Charlie Brown.

The tragedy which later befell Charlie Hebdo and its legendary cartoonists is now notorious, but what happened at the Cinq-Sept (Club 5-7) is much less well known.

The club, two miles from the town of Saint Laurent du Pont was only opened in April 1970 – five months before the fire – and was housed a large, open-plan windowless building, made of cheap breezeblocks and a corrugated iron roof.

Entry was through full-height turnstile, similar to what was used to enter football stadiums.

Despite its unprepossessing exterior, the club became popular with bored local youths from the town of Chambery and even the city of Grenoble, 20 miles away.

On 31 October 1970 a rock band from Paris, Storm, were booked to play at the club and at 1.40am in the early hours of 1 November around 180 people were still there, after the band had left.


Someone sitting on a sofa downstairs lit a cigarette and threw it away. It caught light and a blaze broke out.

Soon the entire building was engulfed and those in the upstairs portion were unable to escape down the single spiral staircase.

Only 30 people managed to escape and six of the survivors, who were badly burned and taken to a hospital in Lyon, later died.

The finally death tally was 146.

It was of course an accident.

But the owner of the club, Gilbert Bas, was culpable for the club’s bad design, lack of a fire escape and also for locking various fire exit doors because he feared people would be able to get in without paying.

The maximum sentence for manslaughter in French law is 20 years but  in 1971 Bas, amazingly escaped with only a suspended sentence.

The case also set legal history in France as the trial was the first time in which a victim could claim compensation after an illegal act.

On 13 June 1976 a memorial was unveiled to the dead on the site of the Club Cinq-Sept and a ceremony is held there every year in honour of the dead.


By Deborah Chang                                                               2 January 2015

Death for Chris Mohan and Ed Schellenberg was a cliché.

They were “in the wrong place at the wrong time”.

It was their bad luck to be in a tower block in the city of Surrey, British Columbia when a gang of killers came calling.
Surrey is a city of almost half a million people but few people outside of Canada have ever heard of it.

It is an urban sprawl separated from Vancouver by the Fraser river and reaching down as far as the US border.

Around 48% of the population are of Asian origin and between 2007 and 2011 it was at the epicentre of a brutal gang war.

The conflict pitted the Red Scorpions against the United Nations gang.

Both gangs drew from youths of various ethnic origin and their feud became especially toxic after Jamie Bacon, and his brothers Jonathan and Jarrod, defected from the UN gang and allied themselves with the Red Scorpions.

On 19 October 2007 several members of the Red Scorpions turned up on the 15th floor of an apartment block in Surrey looking to take out rival drug dealer Corey Lal.

They executed Lal, 21, his brother Michael, 26, and their friends Ryan Bartolomeo, 19, and Eddie Narong, 22.

But they also killed neighbour Chris Mohan, 22, and fireplace maintenance man Ed Schellenberg, 55.

The pair were leaving Chris’s apartment when they almost bumped into the killers, who were leaving a flat on the other side of the corridor after killing their four rivals.

They stood no chance.

Last month two of the killers, Cody Haevischer and Matthew Johnston, both 29, were jailed for life, with no parole for 25 years.

Mr Schellenberg’s daughter Rachel wept and hugged Corey and Michael Lal’s sister Jourdane.

Two other men have already been convicted of the murders – Quang Vinh Thang Le, aka Michael Le, 29, and Dennis Karbanovec, 27. But the man thought to have led the gang that day, Jamie Bacon, is due to go on trial in May.

Sophon Sek, a poker champion, is also awaiting trial for manslaughter. He is said to have been a Trojan horse who gained entry for the gang.

He won C$364,000 in a poker tournament in 2009 but his prize has been frozen, pending the outcome of his trial.

Chris Mohan’s mother Eileen (pictured) submitted a victim impact statement in which she said: “My life was destroyed with the bullet that pierced my son. The bullet that killed Christopher also took a part of his father, his sister and his cousins.”

Mrs Mohan said she still felt enormous guilt because her son was only at the apartment that day because he had offered to wait for the fireplace maintenance man so that she did not have to miss a day at work.

Addressing Haevischer and Johnston directly, Mrs Mohan said: “You pulled my terrified innocent son from the hallway as he was leaving for his basketball game.”

Both refused to meet her gaze.

She thanked the judge, Justice Catherine Wedge, “for giving Christopher the justice he deserves.”

Mrs Mohan said: “I am truly and tremendously grateful and I am really relieved and happy.”

Asked if she was surprised that neither man gave evidence, she added: “I don’t think they are man enough to do that. They are full of guilt. They know what they did and they know how they killed my son.”

Judge Wedge said the Red Scorpions’ plot “exploded into a horrific display of wanton violence in which six people died.”

“The carnage has left in its wake numerous surviving victims. They are the families and loved ones of the six murdered men,” she added.

Prosecutor Mark Levitz told reporters: “The Surrey Six murders were probably one of the most horrific crimes committed in this province and among the most horrific crimes committed in the country.”

But the so-called Surrey Six killings were not the end of the bloodshed, but only the beginning.

The gang war rumbled on until 2011 and embroiled several other groups, including the Vancouver chapter of the Hells Angels.

In August 2011 Jonathan Bacon was shot dead as he sat in a Porsche Cayenne SUV outside the Delta Grand Hotel in Kelowna, British Columbia. Larry Amero, a full-patch member of the Hells Angels, was critically injured in the attack.

A beautiful young woman, Leah-Hadden Watts, who was also in the car, survived but was paralysed. Her uncle is a Hells Angel.

Sergeant Shinder Kirk of the Mounties’ Lower Mainland gang task force told reporters: “The paradigm has shifted. [Women] are no longer off-limits. They’re now potential targets.”

It is thought Bacon was in the process of forming a new criminal alliance, known as The Wolfpack, including Hells Angels, former Red Scorpions and members of the Independent Soldiers gang.

Hours before the killing the victims were seen on Okanagan Lake in a powerboat called Steroids & Silicone.

Three men – Jason McBride, Jujhar Khun-Khun and Michael Kerry Hunter Jones – have been charged with Bacon’s murder and are due to go on trial in 2016.

CHRISTMAS/NEW YEAR QUIZ                                         December 2014

This was the bonus question: In September an off-duty police officer was beaten to death outside the Spark ATT nightclub after a huge brawl between gang members. The chief suspect – who was said to have delivered the fatal blows – was a member of the Heavenly Dragon chapter of the United Bamboo Gang. But in what country did the incident happen?

The answer was Taiwan. Many of you emailed in with the correct answer but the winner – chosen at random – was Mick Macauley from Dorset.


by Victoria Floyd                                                                             17 November 2014

In 2007 Shaun Attwood, a former stockbroker from Widnes, Cheshire, was deported from the US after spending five years in jail on drug charges.

Attwood’s latest tale of life behind bars in Arizona, Prison Time, was published earlier this year.

It is in turns amusing, poignant and terrifying.

Despite being by his own admission a fairly weedy figure, Attwood survived serious injury – or rape – by a mixture of cunning, guile, humour, playing the system and most importantly of all forging alliances with key prison figures such as Long Island and Two Tonys (pictured, left).

Here are six things you may not know about Arizona prisons.

1 – People have to stick to their race groups (whites, blacks, Hispanics) no matter if they don’t have a racist bone in their bodies.

At one point in the book Shaun Attwood befriends a black convict called T-Bone, who has an interest in English history, and is accused of racial betrayal and of being T-Bone’s lover.

2 – Prison food is (not surprisingly) not great. But vending machines in the visitation area sell various candies and other goodies.

Inmates can also buy food and other groceries from the commissary, which is run by a company called Keefe. They almost have a monopoly on prison food and groceries in prisons across the US.

Keefe Group are owned by St Louis-based Centric Group, who have annual turnover of $750m.

3 – The only way to get better food is to change your religion. Many inmates claim to be Jewish because the menu for Jewish inmates is better. As a result there are black Jews, Mexican Jews and even more bizarrely Jews who are members of the white supremacist gang Aryan Brotherhood and have Heil Hitler tattoos.

Attwood himself had to sign up as a Hindu in order to get vegetarian food.

4 – The Arizona State Prison complex at Buckeye (where most of Prison Time is set) saw the longest stand-off in US prison history.

In early 2004, the Morey Unit of the Lewis complex was the site of the longest standoff between inmates and law enforcement officers in United States history. It began on January 18 and ended on February 2.

The inmates were originally trying to escape, but their plan went awry, and the escape event turned into a hostage situation.

Two officers were taken hostage, one male and one female, by two inmates, Ricky Wassenaar and Steven Coy. The woman, Lois Fraley, was repeatedly raped but later waived her right to anonymity.Wassenaar was later convicted of 19 charges relating to the siege and was given 16 life sentences. When he was convicted she said: “It is a beautiful day. Justice has been served. He is out of my mind. He is not holding me hostage anymore.”

5 – Pre-op transsexuals who offer sexual services in the Arizona prison system are known as cheetolins or cheetos. Most are Mexican-American or Native American. In Shaun Attwood’s book they have luxurious names like She-Ra and Mochalicious

6 – Tattoos are hugely popular in prison. Usually they are made by a home-made tattoo gun (often using parts of a pen). But beware those who have a teardrop under their eye…it is supposed to signify they have murdered someone.

But according to Urban Dictionary there are many explanations for the tattoo. One suggests that the murder idea was a fake story put out by prisoners when they came out of prison. According to this explanation, the teardrop signifies that they were owned (or protected) by another prisoner, again for sexual favours.  It is quite common for vulnerable prisoners to have an esposo (Spanish for spouse) – a prison “husband” or sexual partner who will protect a newbie (known as a fish) in return for sexual favours.


by Lashayla Mensah                                                                                                   18 October 2014

Two nightclubs on two nights eight years apart. One was in Chicago, the other in Northampton, England.

Deadly stampedes broke out in both and lives were lost – 21 in Chicago, two in Northampton.

Have the lessons been learned from these tragedies?

Or are nightclubbers taking their lives in their hand every weekend in Britain, the US and elsewhere?

Earlier this week the Crown Prosecution Service announced it would not be bringing criminal charges against anyone involved in the events of 19 October 2011.

Nabila Nanfuka, 22, and Laurene-Danielle Jackson, 19, both from London, were killed in a crush at 3.30am as people suddenly tried to leave Lava/Ignite in Northampton in a mass exodus.

Lava/Ignite closed down immediately after the tragedy and has since been converted into a gym.

Eight days after the tragedy the club’s owners, Luminar Leisure, collapsed and went into administration with debts of £65m.

But the company – which owned 64 clubs, mainly under the Oceana and Liquid brands – was later bought out of administration by Peter Marks, and is now trading successfully again.

Various theories have been given for the stampede, but it appears it may have been sparked by something as simple as a rumour that the coaches waiting to take people to their home towns were about to leave.

The event – known as Wickedest Wickedest – was attended by students from universities as far away as Canterbury, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Birmingham.

Students paid £15 for a ticket to the event, which included coach travel.

Nabila, a leisure and tourism student, died on the night while Laurene-Danielle (pictured below) died three weeks later in hospital.

Dan Jones, of the CPS Special Crime Division said this week: “After carefully examining the evidence in this case, including accounts from eye witnesses, in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors there is not a realistic prospect of conviction for any of the charges considered.”

He said that in order to prosecute anyone for gross negligence manslaughter it must be shown that a duty of care was owed to the deceased, that the duty was breached, that the breach caused the death of the victim and that any breach was so bad that it should be categorised as gross negligence.

Mr Jones said the courts have made it clear that mistakes and errors of judgement, even serious ones, do not amount to criminal acts.

The Leader of Northampton Borough Council, Councillor David Mackintosh, added: “We carried out a thorough investigation alongside Northamptonshire Police into this tragic incident, which cost the lives of two young women. It is crucial to me that we learn any lessons that should be learned from this, so that it is prevented from happening again.

“We will review the evidence that we have gathered and, when we have liaised with the Coroner, we will look to see if action should be taken under the Health and Safety at Work Act.”

The cause of the stampede at the E2 club in Chicago in the early hours of 17 February 2003 was clearer. Pandemonium broke out after bouncers used pepper spray to break up a fight.

People began fainting and vomiting and the crowd panicked and rushed towards the exit. Some believed it was a terrorist attack and shouted: “I bet it’s (Osama) Bin Laden.”

The mass of people rushing down the stairs found the front door closed, with the doors opening inwards – itself a violation of the Illinois fire safety code.

People who had been coming up the stairs were knocked down by the human tidal wave and found themselves at the bottom of a pile of people.

Eventually 21 people died in the stampede and 50 others were injured.

Chicago police officers and fire service came in for considerable criticism for their slow reaction to the first 911 calls and the police were particularly accused of trying to arrest people in the crowd outside rather than trying to rescue people from the crush.

Paramedics arrived at the scene and were unaware what sort of incident they were arriving at, and even took patients to hospital without any knowledge that they had been involved in a stampede.

The Mayor of Chicago’s office was also criticised for spreading misinformation. The mayor’s office claimed the club had been open in direct breach of a court order but it later emerged that the order had only called for one room in the club to be closed.

A criminal trial began in 2007 and two years later the E2’s owners, Dwain Kyles and Calvin Hollins, were acquitted of involuntary manslaughter but convicted of criminal contempt for failing to keep the building up to code. They were jailed for two years.

Marco Flores, who had been promoting the Ladies’ Night event, was acquitted of all charges.

Ironically three days after the Chicago stampede a local TV crew in Rhode Island visited a local club, The Station, to film a package about nightclub safety.

Pyrotechnics being used by a rock band set off a fire which triggered another stampede – 100 people died. That horrific tragedy was caught on camera (beware of graphic content):

If anyone reading this article was at either the E2 or Lava/Ignite on those tragic nights I would like to hear their story and add to this article. They can email me at










by Sven Kristiansen                                                                      20 September 2014

In 2010 Christopher Erick had the world at his feet. The 21-year-old high school graduate had just qualified as a massage therapist and was blessed with Hollywood good looks.

Two years later he was dead…from cyanide poisoning.

Initially the local police in the small Texas town of Midlothian said there were no signs of foul play and it appeared Chris had died naturally. The medical examiner had ruled Chris’ death natural by “heart disease” but his mother, Kim Erick Smith, insists he was murdered.

And she has pointed the finger of suspicion at her “controlling” former mother-in-law.

Christopher (pictured above) had spent the last few months of his life living with his “Grandma Pat” and after he died she responded to a text message from Kim asking: “How did Chris die?” by replying: “Naturally and peacefully”.

It struck Kim as an odd response, especially considering what she has since learnt.

Kim points out that death by cyanide is usually an extremely painful process and people do not just “die in their sleep”.

It is no secret that there was no love lost between Kim and her mother-in-law (pictured below, with Chris).

Kim separated from Chris’s father, Steven, in 1993 and they later divorced. She was awarded sole custody of Chris.

But when he was six years old his father used a faked custody order and “abducted” him from school and he vanished for six months.

Kim recalls: “It was sheer terror. I didn’t know if he was OK. We had never been away from each other for that long and I was concerned for his wellbeing mentally.”

Chris’s father and his second wife had moved to a new city and re-enrolled him in a new school but Kim eventually tracked him down and began a prolonged custody battle.

The years passed in an uneasy peace until Chris reached the age of 16 and, according to Kim, he was “kidnapped” by his grandmother and locked him into a “behaviour modification centre” in Conroe, Texas – a two-hour drive to the south.

Kim says: “It was a school for kids who were out of control and he couldn’t understand why he was there. He was nearly 18 before they would let him go.”

She broke down with emotion when she told totalcrime: “He came and found me. It was amazing, like he was never gone…”

He went to college and qualified as a massage therapist.

But the mind games were not over.

Patsy Erick set her grandson up in an apartment, which she paid for, and she gave him a credit card, describing it as an “early inheritance”.

Kim: “It was a form of control, through money. He was doing so well up until that point. He started partying and then he was prescribed Adderall, which is basically like speed.”

Kim says he developed terrible side effects, including auditory hallucinations and depression.

She says one of his friends had been “bugging him” to sell him some of his Adderall.

Eventually he agreed but it was a set-up.

He was arrested in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart supermarket and charged with supplying drugs.

He faced up to 20 years in prison.

Kim recalls him joking: “I’m too good-looking to go to prison” but she says the whole family was terribly worried.

Then in March 2012 the authorities agreed to drop the charges in a plea bargain – he would face no prison time but would have to go to a rehabilitation centre to treat his Adderall addiction.

Kim says Grandma Pat told her: “I will see Chris dead before I see him in one of those hospitals.”

She shudders at the memory of those words.

By June 2012 Chris (pictured left, with his mother) had been detoxed and was free of Adderall. But he moved in with his grandmother and his condition worsened.

“Chris began talking about the angel of death coming to get him and he would make it sound as if he was supposed to sacrifice himself as some sort of obligation in which he had no control. He was so confused,” says Kim.

In October 2012 he wrote on his Facebook page: “I know God has told me that my end is coming this year. And there is nothing I can do to change it. However the Gods appointed to oversee the task of this harvest have yet to expose (sic) an exact date or time at this point.”

Later that summer his girlfriend, Rachel, told Kim he was back on the Adderall.

Then on 23 October his grandmother told Kim he had tried to buy cyanide on her credit card but she had spotted it and cancelled it.

Three days later a parcel of cyanide did arrive at the house.

The police have told Kim her son bought the cyanide.
But she does not believe them.

She says on 29 October she discussed with Grandma Pat buying some paint for Chris for Christmas as he was an enthusiastic artist.

But her reply in hindsight sounds sinister.

“She told me to hold off and let’s wait and see how where he is nearer to Christmas,” says Kim.

A few days later Kim’s mother-in-law stopped answering the phone.

She messaged him on Facebook and asked him if he wanted to come to one of his cousins’ weddings. He did not reply.

On 10 November, as Kim and her daughter Megan drove to her niece’s wedding, they received a phone call from the police.

“They said he had been found deceased and it appeared he had died in his sleep,” she said.

Kim (pictured below with Chris and his sister Megan) says the next few days passed in a blur and on the day of the funeral she felt they were rushing to cremate him.

She says she asked the police: “Are you sure you have got everything from Chris’s body to test for poison?”

They said they had and were sure it was not foul play.

Chris’s body was cremated without him being tested for poison and all they had left to test was a vial of his blood. Without a body it was no longer possible for test for long-term poisoning since no hair or tissue had been secured by the police. But the medical examiner agreed to test the vial for cyanide and the test came back positive.

The police immediately sought to rule it a suicide. Two years later, without any obvious signs of an investigation, they were eventually forced to take it to a grand jury after a “public outcry”.

But last month the grand jury declined to indict anybody for the death of Chris Erick.

Midlothian Police Department were unavailable for comment.

But Kim has not given up and continues to press for the case to be reopened.

She is convinced her son was murdered.

Watch this space.





by Sven Kristiansen                                                                           1 September 2014

In 1971 Shirley Griffiths discovered the body of her mother, murdered, in her home in north London. Shirley was only 17. She has since discovered that her mother’s killer has been freed early twice for killing people.

When Terry Bewley was jailed for the murder of Shirley Griffiths’ mother a detective, angered by the lenience shown by the judge, told her: “He’ll only serve 12 years and he’ll commit another murder.”

Sadly his words came true.

But amazingly Bewley was then released early from his second life sentence and is now believe to be a free man and his file is secret, closed for scrutiny until 2056.

Shirley wants to know why.

Her story begins on a Monday in November 1971 when she came home at lunchtime from her job as a trainee hairdresser to discover the body of her mother, Lilian Shapero, on the floor in the dining room.

Mrs Shapero had suffered a stroke six years earlier – paralysing her down the left side – and her daughter thought she may have succumbed to another stroke.

But after she gave a statement at the police station detectives broke the news to her that her mother had been strangled.

Lilian (pictured left, with her husband) worked as a credit collector in Tottenham, north London, and one of her clients was Bewley, a trainee ambulance driver who was forever getting in debt.

Bewley, then 21, had been asking suspicious questions of her mother on the previous Friday and Shirley’s father, Alfred, had warned her not to let him in the house in Kirkstall Avenue, Tottenham.

“He must have talked his way in or forced the door,” says Shirley, who is now 60 and lives in South Africa, “he probably thought she had a lot of money in the house. But she’d banked it already and he only got away with £30.”

Bewley was immediately arrested and her mother’s bag – emptied of money – was found in the boot of his car. He was banged to rights but insisted that although he had hit her he had not killed her.

Shirley was due to be a prosecution witness at Bewley’s trial at the Old Bailey in the spring of 1972 but she was never called.

Bewley was found guilty by a unanimous verdict and was given a life sentence with a 15 year tariff for murder and a consecutive sentence of five years for burglary.

But both the police and family felt the judge was too lenient and Shirley remembers: “Bewley was smirking and laughing during the sentencing.”

The smirk might have been wiped off his face when his young wife divorced him but it was no justice for the Shapero family.

“It broke my dad. He died in 1987, aged 75, but he was never the same. He was a broken man,” said Shirley.

She tried to get on with her life, married a Yorkshireman, Peter Griffiths, moved to Leeds and retrained as a nurse.

In the early 1980s, with Britain in the grip of a recession, the couple decided to emigrate to South Africa where Peter found work as a systems analyst.

She had a daughter, Amanda, in 1984 and life moved on.

Bewley was almost forgotten.

Until one day in 1994.

“My mother-in-law was staying with us and we had Sky News on and suddenly an image of Bewley flashed up and something about him committing another murder,” she recalls.

From her home near Cape Town, Shirley tracked down a copy of the British Express – an expat paper in South Africa – and found out he had been convicted of another murder in Surrey.

“That was a huge shock. The police were supposed to let us know which prison he moved to and when he was released. Apparently he’d been released in 1981!” she remembers.

After his release from prison Bewley moved to Ruislip in Middlesex, settled down with a woman and began working as a chauffeur.

A few years later his partner died of cancer and in 1989 he began a relationship with a blonde called Sandra, who was by all accounts something of a nymphomaniac.

But Bewley (pictured left) was not rich so Sandra seduced another man, Bob Wignall, from Addlestone, Surrey, and they got married on Christmas Eve 1991.

Sandra Wignall resumed her sexual relationship with Bewley, unbeknown to her kind and nature-loving husband, who continued to dote on her.

The trial heard she told friends: “He’s so kind, considerate and thoughtful it’s boring. He is always making me tea and asking if I am okay. It’s boring.”

Her neighbour Christine Willis told the trial: ‘Sandra needed a lot of it (sex) in her life. It was very important to her. I don’t think her initial relationship with Terry involved anything else.”

The trial even heard she had indulged in group sex with Bewley and two of his friends.

Bewley may have been an exciting lover but his obsession was money and he harassed her with demands for cash. Eventually, in an attempt to keep him, Mrs Wignall, 48, decided to have her husband killed and give the £21,000 life insurance money and the proceeds of her house sale to her greedy lover.

On the evening of 5 September 1992 – a pleasant summer’s evening – she suggested they went for a walk in the woods behind their home in Addlestone to see if they could see any fox cubs.

Her husband, who loved wildlife, agreed and when they got to the woodland glade she offered to perform oral sex on him.

Suddenly Bewley and his friend Harold Moult jumped out of the bushes and attacked Mr Wignall, stabbing and beating him to death.

Mrs Wignall claimed to police they had been attacked by robbers.

But police became suspicious after she put in an insurance claim 11 days after his death – even before his funeral.

The jury too saw through her ruse and in November 1993 she was jailed for life.

Bewley – who was already out on licence from his first murder – was jailed for life again, with a minimum tariff of 30 years.

And that was that….for a while.

Shirley, who got divorced in 2006, takes up the story: “About 18 months ago something in my head told me to go and look on the internet. I Googled his mother’s name and saw a notice on the National Archives website about closing his file. I think I opened a can of worms.

“I had to fill in a form. My brother, my cousin and my daughter also filled one in. It took eight weeks to come back. They had decided to close his file because it was too sensitive.

“The file would not be opened until 2056.”

She also learned that he had been released in 2012, after serving only 19 years.

Now 62, Bewley has vanished again and is living somewhere in England.

A man who has killed twice and been freed early both times.


And why has file been deemed too sensitive to be opened before 2056 – 83 years after his trial – when many of those interested in the case may well be dead.

A spokesman for the National Archives told totalcrime: “The file 8746/71 on Terence Bewley has been closed because it contains sensitive personal information which would distress or endanger a living person or his descendants.”

So was Bewley a police informant?

Was he released early so he could do a dirty job for the police?

Speaking from her home in Blouberg, near Cape Town, Shirley Griffiths wants to know: “I don’t know why they’re covering it up but I know he is walking free.”

She says: “I’m not doing this for myself. I’m doing it for my mother’s honour.”

Shirley (pictured left) said she had also considered contacting Mr Wignall’s children, Debbie, Denise and Dean, who she imagines would be equally outraged at what has happened to Bewley.

She discovered that eight other files relating to people convicted of murder or manslaughter were also sealed at the same time, in November 2012.

She has contacted Baroness Lawrence – whose son Stephen was murdered and who has faced similar problems with secret files – and numerous lawyers and even handed in a letter to 10 Downing Street.

“Every time I try to get help from the legal system I go round and round in circles. I want that file opened. That’s my life sentence,” she says.

Anyone with information about Bewley can contact Shirley via Totalcrime by emailing


by Catalina Diaz                                                                                     6 August 2014

At dawn on 22 February this year the world’s most wanted drug baron, Joaquin Guzman Loera (pictured), was arrested by Mexican Navy officers in a dramatic swoop on his beachfront retreat in Mazatlan in his home state of Sinaloa.

The arrest of “El Chapo” (Shorty) – who escaped from jail in 2001 – has been portrayed as a turning point for Mexico and a bright sign of the new government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, who was elected in 2012.

The last decade has been a particularly bloody one south of the Rio Grande.

Massacres – such as that at Cadereyta Jiménez in May 2012, when 49 headless bodies were dumped on a highway near Monterrey – have become frighteningly frequent as innocent people are caught up in violent feuds between the Sinaloa Cartel, the Gulf Cartel and the notorious Zetas.

So El Chapo’s arrest seemed to be a good sign.

But cynics, and followers of the narcocracy that is Mexico, will wait a few more years before passing judgement on whether it really is a significant moment.

Anyone who has read Narcoland, the superb book by journalist Anabel Hernandez, will know that presidents come and go, drug cartel bosses come and go, and yet politics in Mexico remains poisoned by the stench of drugs money.

Take for example businessman Jaime Camil Garza, who was often seen hanging out with El Chapo in Acapulco while the Sinaloa Cartel boss was on the lam.

In one notorious photograph taken on El Chapo’s yacht you can clearly make out Maru Hernandez.

Who was she?

Only a close aide of Marta Sahagun, the wife of former President Vicente Fox.

Garza cultivated Fox and his predecessor, Ernesto Zedillo, and worryingly, before the 2012 election, he became quite friendly with Senor Pena Nieto.

Hernandez chronicles a depressing catalogue of corruption which includes pretty much every president of the modern era – Miguel de la Madrid (1982-88); Carlos Salinas de Gortari (1988-1994); Ernesto Zedillo (1994-2000); Vicente Fox (2000-2006) and Felipe Calderon (2006-2012).

She also makes it clear that things are not always as they seem.

In December 2000 the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) was ousted from power, which it had held since 1929, and was replaced by the right-wing PAN party’s candidate, Fox.

Fox, a former President of Coca-Cola Mexico who sported a cowboy hat, promised to change Mexico and root out corruption.

But nothing changed.

In fact a month later El Chapo was sprung from Puente Grande, a supposedly high-security prison, with the connivance of senior prison officials and even civil servants.

Hernandez points the finger at Jorge Enrique Tello Peon, who was an under secretary in the Department of the Interior who was in charge of prisons.

She suggests he was implicated in El Chapo’s escape and its subsequent cover-up.

But Tello Peon, who resigned for “personal reasons” a month after El Chapo’s escape, bounced back.

After a spell as an executive with a cement company he was invited back to become a state security minister in 2006 by President Calderon, who was embarking on his infamous “war on drugs”.

One of the most fascinating aspects of Narcoland is the way Hernandez chronicles the involvement of the United States.

In the early 1980s Colombian cartels were in charge of the US drugs market.

But this gradually changed, partly as a result of the actions of President Ronald Reagan and his fanatically anti-communist cabal.

Reagan was so obsessed with the communist threat in Nicaragua that he siphoned off money from illegal arms sales to Iran to fund the Contra rebels fighting the Sandinista government.

But he also encouraged the CIA to develop links with Mexican and Colombian gangsters, who made their own payments to the Contras in order to curry favour with the US authorities and give themselves a “Get Out of Jail Free Card”.

One of those the CIA protected was Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, head of the Pacific or Guadalajara Cartel.

Gallardo fell from grace in 1985 after his underlings killed a US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent, Enrique Camarena.

Gallardo went to jail and his empire was split between the Arellano Felix brothers, who controlled Tijuana; Amado Carrillo Fuentes, aka The Lord Of The Skies, who ran Ciudad Juarez; and El Chapo’s Sinaloa Cartel.

In recent years these cartels have been at war with the sinister Los Zetas, a gang of former Mexican special forces soldiers who defected to the dark side a decade ago.

Some of Los Zetas – such as Daniel “El Loco” (The Crazy One) Ramirez (pictured, above) have carried out horrendous massacres, such as the one in Cadereyta Jiménez, to create fear and terror in the population.

Hernandez suggests the Mexican government, under Fox and Calderon, supported the Sinaloa cartel in this war, enraging Los Zetas and causing them to become even more brutal.

We don’t know yet but perhaps El Chapo’s arrest simply indicates that Pena Nieto’s government is backing a different gang, or maybe one of his friends within the Sinaloa Cartel has betrayed him so that he can take over.

Even if El Chapo’s criminal career really is over now, there will be a lot of other drug bosses ready to take over, including his old buddy Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, who may well have taken over the day-to-day running of the Sinaloa Cartel.

And with so much drugs money still sloshing around in Mexico, it is far too early to say that Mexican politics is clean.

Watch this space.


By Morgan Carr III                                                                      10 July 2014

A fraud case involving churchgoers in a sleepy Colorado town is not the sort of case you would normally associate with, but bear with us for this is a fascinating tale.

One day in 2005 more than 20 FBI agents raided the Colorado Springs offices of IRP (Investigative Resource Planning), an IT company who were marketing a special crime-fighting software which would be used by New York Police Department, the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI itself.

Six IRP executives (pictured) – Gary Walker, David Banks, Demetrius Harper, Kendrick Barnes, Clinton Stewart and David Zirpolo – were convicted in 2011 in a federal court and jailed for between 7-11 years for wire fraud.

They were accused of siphoning millions of dollars from recruitment companies for staff working on their CILC (Case Investigative Life Cycle) software.

Their case has become an alleged miscarriage of justice and they have become known as the IRP6. They are serving their sentences in Florence Correctional Complex in Colorado, close to the infamous supermax prison.

Clinton Stewart’s brother Cliff told totalcrime: “We have since learned that 200 pages of trial transcript is missing. It includes a part of the trial where the judge told one of their defendants that unless one of them took the stand, their defence would be closed and their case would be over. That was a breach of their Fifth Amendment right to self-incrimination.”

Judge Christine Arguello has always denied saying such a thing but the missing transcript has meant the matter cannot be cleared up.

The pressure group A Just Cause has been running a petition demanding an investigation by Attorney General Eric Holder –

Retired federal judge, H Lee Sarokin, writing about the IRP6 case in the Huffington Post, says: “The Court of Appeals certainly has enough evidence to conclude that the right against self-incrimination indeed was, violated by the trial court.” –

Sam Thurman, president of the pressure group A Just Cause, says: “All of them were IT professionals. Mr Walker (pictured left) was the chief architect of the software and was a genius. Several of them had military backgrounds and had top secret clearance.”

IRP, which was run by a small group of African American businessmen, was a minnow in the IT industry and was up against giant corporations like IBM, SAIC and Lockheed Martin.

They were accused of defrauding the recruitment companies out of $5.1m.

Initially, in their subpoena, the FBI claimed CILC did not even exist and was part of a huge scam.

Later, in court, the FBI were forced to admitted it did exist but continued to insist the men were criminals.

Mr Stewart says: “Why, if these men are running a scam and have no product and are going around to defraud companies, why would you contact law enforcement agencies?”

He says: “CLIC had 18 modules, the most important of which was confidential informant management.”

After the raid the FBI went to a forensic analysis company, Califorensics, and asked them to look at the software and they reported back that CLIC would do everything the IRP6 had claimed it could do.

Mr Stewart says: “The authorities refused to let that report be used in the trial and claimed CLIC was just ‘smoke and mirrors’.”

He adds: “How can you have a fraud if you have a viable product? Where’s the fraud?”

Mr Thurman, who used to work for IRP, says: “Gary, David, Clinton and I went to (Washington) DC and we were reaching out to law enforcement agencies but the Department of Homeland Security contacted us – not the other way round – and said ‘We understand you are working on something that we need to see’.

“Gary and David went there and did a presentation and they hit it out of the park.”

He says the DHS were particularly interested in the confidential informant (CI) management module because the 9/11 Commission had stated that agencies needed to work better when managing CIs.

Mr Thurman says: “The Department of Homeland Security asked them to make a little more robust (before they bought it) and to make that happen they needed to bring in additional talent to get it done quickly. So they reached out to professional staffing companies to find software programmers.”

Mr Thurman says: “Gary and David were very up-front with the staffing companies about at what stage they would get paid. The contract with the Department of Homeland Security was potentially worth $100m and the staffing companies looked at it as an opportunity. When IRP closes this deal it’s going to be good for their business.”

But IRP went into arrears with one of the recruitment companies and they called into the authorities, suspecting they had been the victims of a scam.

Andrew Albarelle, an executive with Denver-based recruitment firm Remy Corporation, wrote a letter to the US Attorney’s Office in July 2011 explaining that what IRP had done was not fraudulent and at least a dozen other Colorado companies were operating exactly the same business practice.

But he was never permitted to testify at the trial.

And Gary Hillberry, a retired special agent with the US Customs Service who confirmed CLIC was a “viable law enforcement product”, was not given the chance to tell the jury what he had said in his affidavit.

Mr Stewart says he believes the verdict in his brother’s trial was “perverse” but he says: “We’ve spoken to a couple of jurors and they said they were waiting for the defendants to present their evidence. There was Albarelle, Hillberry and Califorensics but the judge stopped us from using it.”

Stewart, Zirpolo and Harper (pictured left, with his family) were jailed for 121 months; Barnes was incarcerated for 87 months but the stiffest sentences were reserved for Banks and Walker who both got 135 months.

Mr Stewart talks of darker conspiracy theories which may have led to the IRP6 case but, for legal reasons, I am unable to publish the details.

But he adds: “These men are patriots, churchgoing Christian family men. They were not committing any crime and this case should have never come to court.”



By Kenichiro Sasaki                                                              15 June 2014


Reading between the lines of his book Tokyo Vice, Jake Adelstein’s wife Sunao must have put up with a lot.

Adelstein is an oddity.

A skinny Jewish kid from Missouri who became obsessed with Japan, moving there, learning Japanese and immersing himself in Nipponese culture.

He got a job on the prestigious Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper in 1993 – not the English-language version but the proper Japanese title which sells 10m copies a day – and began to specialise in crime reporting.

Before long he was investigating Japan’s infamous organised crime syndicates, the yakuza.

There are several large syndicates – Sumiyoshi-Rengo, Inagawa-kai and Matsuba-kai – but the Big Daddy of them all is the Yamaguchi-gumi, which has an estimated 40,000 members.

The Yamaguchi-gumi, which has its roots in the Kansai region (Osaka/Kobe), is made up of several smaller gangs, one of which the Goto-gumi, became Adelstein’s bête noire.

The eponymous godfather was Tadamasa Goto, a character who villainy is imbued with a darkness redolent of some of the sicker manga comics.

At the heart of Tokyo Vice is the story of how Goto obtained a liver transplant in the US after a murky deal with the FBI.

Standing this story up – as they say in journalism – almost got Adelstein killed.

As he got deeper and deeper into the Tokyo underworld Adelstein had to spend more and more time hanging out in hostess clubs and brothels – “pink salons” – in Kabukicho and Roppongi, mixing with prostitutes, pimps and strippers.

Having to endure nubile young ladies grinding their lithe, young bodies against your groin may not sound like a bad gig.

But the job, which involved ridiculously long hours and virtually constant sake hangovers, clearly took a toll on his relationship with his long-suffering wife Sunao.

Adelstein hints at womanising and is also coy about his relationship with a Australian hooker “with a heart of gold”, called Helena, who plied her trade in Tokyo.

Some might say he also put the life of his wife and two children in danger at times as he strove to get the “perfect story”.

But what is refreshing is that Adelstein does not shrink from self-criticism, especially regarding his own role in the fate of Helena.

At one point in the book he reports a chilling encounter with a yakuza dubbed Cyclops, who berates him at length for encouraging Helena to go sniffing about for information about a human trafficking network run by Goto.

Adelstein could easily have played that down or even omitted it altogether.

But he chose not to and basically confesses to his own flaws as a journalist, a friend and a husband.

Which brings us back to Sunao.

I would have liked to have heard more about her.

She is clearly no shrinking violet, no passive old-style Japanese wife.

At one point she puts her foot down and insists he come back to the US with the rest of the family rather than attending the funeral of a Japanese cop friend, forcing Adelstein to break a

promise he had made to the dying man.

All in all, Tokyo Vice is a rip-roaring read and is written with such flavour that I could almost taste the sushi and sake.

For more on the Yakuza, click here and scroll down to Japan:                                            


by April Summers                                                                                                                                                                                      26 May 2014

Reports about the botched execution of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma in April, triggered the age-old debate regarding the validity of capital punishment.

Sentenced to death in 1999, Lockett’s execution was set for this year.

During the lethal injection operation he reportedly “did not fall unconscious for 10 minutes. Three minutes after he was declared unconscious, he lurched forward against his restraints, writhing and attempting to speak. He strained and struggled violently, his body twisting and his head reaching up from the gurney.”

His vein burst and he eventually died of a massive heart attack. The incident reinstated the controversial discourse that has existed ever since the death sentence was established.

Those in favour of capital punishment often argue it prevents re-offending and provides closure for the victim’s family – relatives can rest easy, knowing they will never have to come into contact with the killer again.

The counter arguments, however, focus primarily on the concept of capital punishment as a form of vengeance. One person killing another is the definition of murder, so, protesters would argue, how can an agent of the law administer death upon another human being, without in turn becoming a murderer?

There is also the question of killing an innocent person, an issue which, both terrifying and unjust as it is, has occurred a worrying amount of times in the US.

The case of Texan father Cameron Todd Willingham (pictured below) in 2004 is one of the most well known wrongful executions to date.

Willingham was charged with the murder of his three daughters, a crime seen as worthy of the death penalty by US law enforcers. The primary evidence in this case was the findings of an arson investigator which determined that judging by specific burn patterns and laboratory tests, the fire appeared to have been deliberately ignited with the help of a liquid accelerant.

After his death at the Texas State Penitentiary in Huntsville on 16th February 2004, further evidence was put forward by the Texas Forensic Science Commission panel.

By 2009, due to advances in fire science and arson investigations, Willingham’s case was re-evaluated and it was determined that the original arson investigators used “flawed science.”

Is one person’s testimony reliable enough to justify taking a potentially innocent human being’s life? And in cases like Willingham’s, the death of his three children would be torturous enough, without being accused of causing it and then in turn, murdered for it.

Deciding that a person deserves to experience death by lethal injection, surely in turn means taking responsibility for the administering of that death?

How can any law-abiding citizen put aside their emotions and honestly believe thaty murdering another human is what is right for the good of mankind?

A lot of the liberal newspaper coverage of the event failed to discuss some poignant information, such as the horrifying details of the crime committed by Lockett: abducting 19-year-old Stephanie Neiman, raping her friend before shooting her and burying her alive.

Leaving out the details of the crime in which Lockett received the death sentence for resulted in a soft news story which generated sympathy and human emotion from the general public.

When considering Lockett’s fate in light of his behaviour, his death on the execution table seems almost justified.

But the BBC Three series Life and Death Row, aired earlier this year, provided a fresh new perspective into the lives of young people waiting to be executed in the USA.

This three part series successfully portrayed the lives of several criminals and their repentance and rehabilitation in jail.

Not only this, but the filmmakers also successfully provided an accurate insight into the lives of those affected by these criminals, and a lot of them (the mentioned being mainly religious) did not necessarily believe the crime was worthy of death.

I think it is safe to say that when reading about the horrifying details of a criminal act in a news story it is easy to deem a person worthy of the death sentence.

However, I believe after much consideration and more recently due to the BBC Life and Death Row series, life sentences in America are lengthy enough and mean that death sentences appear to be simply unjustifiable and unnecessary.







by Stevie McCulloch                                                                                1 May 2014


Reading the Scottish newspapers is like stepping back in time, to an era when crime reporters were kings.

From the 1950s through until the 80s readers south of the border followed with interest the careers of gangsters like the Kray twins, the Richardsons, the Great Train Robbers and Ronnie Knight; and other serious criminals like the Yorkshire Ripper, the Black Panther (Donald Neilson) and The Fox (Malcolm Fairley).

But nowadays London-based tabloids have eschewed crime reporting and front page splashes are more likely to be celebrity-led “kiss and tells” involving soap actors or reality TV stars.

The Scottish press however remains in the thrall of gangsters with nicknames like The Iceman, The Licensee and The Gerbil.

Scottish gangsters know this and are aware of their market value.

They often publish memoirs and, because they have fallen out over the years, there is inevitably sniping between them when their accounts differ over key events.

Such is the case with William Lobban (pictured, left), whose recent book The Glasgow Curse, was immediately criticised by his erstwhile underworld pal Paul Ferris.

Ferris’s own memoirs, The Ferris Conspiracy and Vendetta, came out a decade ago and was penned by the late Reg McKay.

Several police officers have got in on the act as well, including former detective Gerard Gallagher who wrote Gangsters, Killers and Me.

Ironically – and it is an irony not lost on Ferris’s enemies – a film based on his memoirs, The Wee Man, was a box office flop last year after criminals pirated the DVD.

Lobban and Ferris fell out over one of the most notorious murders in Glasgow underworld history.

On 31 August 1991 Arthur “Fat Boy” Thompson, 31, was fatally wounded outside his parents’ barracks-like home, nicknamed The Ponderosa, in Glasgow’s Springboig district.

He was on weekend leave from Noranside prison, where he was serving a sentence for drug dealing.

Thompson was the eldest son, and heir, of Glasgow gangland legend Arthur Thompson senior, who drove him to the hospital at speed in a vain attempt to save his son’s life.

Ferris, who was seeking to take over from Thompson as the king of Glasgow’s criminals, was soon arrested and charged with murder. His accomplices were believed to be Joe “Bananas” Hanlon and Bobby Glover.

But on 18 September 1991 Glover and Hanlon were shot and their bodies left in a car close to Ferris’s favourite watering hole, The Cottage Bar in Shettleston.

This time the finger of suspicion was pointed at Lobban.

In his autobiography Ferris referred to Lobban as “Judas” and claimed he had been paid £10,000 to set up Glover and Hanlon.

He also described him as an “ungrateful moaner”.

Ferris (below), who had incriminated Lobban during his trial, was later sensationally acquitted of murdering Fat Boy.

But Lobban was never charged with any of the murders, which remain unsolved.

He insists he is innocent and he and Ferris continue to throw mud at each other in their books and in the Scottish papers.

In The Glasgow Curse, Lobban writes: “The bottom line is that 22 years later the case remains as much of a mystery today as it was all those years ago.

“Ferris has been blaming me for years, saying that I was behind not just Hanlon and Glover’s demise, but all three killings, but he does have a tendency to change his tune.

“Let’s not forget, during his 54-day trial at the High Court in Glasgow in 1992 he accused me of being the person who shot and killed Arthur Thompson Junior, only for him to change his story and then accuse someone he refers to as “the Apprentice” instead.

“The two others, accused to Ferris, with whom I’m supposed to have shot Hanlon and Glover – my own uncle Billy and Paul Hamilton….are now dead and gone and cannot now defend themselves.

“Where does Ferris get this information? He never discloses his sources. He only ever points the finger.”

But aside from sniping at other gangsters, Lobban’s book is an entertaining, evocative and riveting tale of a childhood growing up with an alcoholic, impoverished single mother and two equally sozzled grandparents in one of Glasgow’s roughest neighbourhoods.

Lobban was kith and kin of the notorious Manson family – no, not the California hippy killer variety, but the Glaswegian gangsters – who are woven into Scottish criminal folklore like tartan thread.

His uncle Billy Manson died of an overdose of painkillers in 1997 but there have been claims that he was murdered.

The book also contains tales of violence and rioting in various prisons, most notably Shotts and Peterhead in Scotland, and Full Sutton in England.

It also gives an insight into the paranoid vicious circle which the young Billy Lobban got into while behind bars.

The Glasgow Curse ends in 1998, when Lobban was released after a decade in Scottish and English jails, and the highest praise I can give it is to say that it whetted my appetite for the sequel, which will apparently tell the tale of his post-prison life of crime in Holland, Spain and Morocco.

Although Lobban insists that he has now retired from a life of crime and is living the quiet life.



By Carlos Mathurin                                                           10 March 2014

In the spring of 1978 Jamaica’s most famous son, reggae singer Bob Marley, pulled off a major political coup.

At the One Love Peace concert in Kingston, Marley persuaded Prime Minister Michael Manley and his deadly rival Edward Seaga to come on stage and shake hands.

The image became enshrined in the legend of Bob Marley, a man who would be accorded a full state funeral three years later, as a messianic figure who could bring peace where previously there had been conflict.

Sadly the truth is quite different.

The handshake and the apparent bonhomie between the two politicians disguised a deep hatred and the brief ceasefire between Manley’s People’s National Party (PNP) and Seaga’s Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) soon collapsed with bloodshed enveloping the island in the run up to the 1980 general election.

In 1980 a total of 889 people were killed during battles between the PNP and JLP.

The warfare on the streets was set amid the context of the Cold War – Manley’s PNP was a socialist party in the 1970s with close links with Fidel Castro’s Cuba, while Seaga’s JLP were rabidly anti-communist and tacitly supported by the US.

Both sides brought weapons to the island during the late 1960s, which stoked up the violence which worsened throughout the 70s.

Three months before the One Peace Love concert five gangsters from the JLP stronghold of Southside had been gunned down at a firing range at Green Bay, just outside Kingston, after being lured there on false pretences by a group of soldiers who supported the PNP.

The soldiers planned to claim that they had shot the men dead after being ambushed in the evening.

But their plan was undermined by the testimony of five others who survived either by running into the sea or the thorn bushes nearby.

They would later recount what really happened and were backed up by photographs which emerged and showed soldiers’ long shadows over the five bodies, making it clear the killings had occurred in the morning.

The Green Bay massacre created pressure to do something about the politically-inspired violence in Jamaica.

In the spring of 1978, around the time of the One Peace Love concert, Manley and Seaga reluctantly agreed to a truce which had been brokered on the streets of Kingston but gang bosses like Claudie Massop and Bucky Marshall.

But before the end of the 1978 the truce was over and peacemakers like Massop (pictured below in a Kington mural) were betrayed. In February 1979 Massop, by now out of his favour with his JLP overlords, was gunned down by the police on his way back to Tivoli Gardens after a football match.

Seaga won the 1980 election and the Cuba-inspired socialism of Manley’s PNP was replaced with the conservative, free market capitalism of the JLP, enthusiastically supported by US President Ronald Reagan.But the 1980s also saw a massive sea-change in Jamaica’s drugs culture.

As a character called Lyrics says in Laurie Gunst’s marvellous book, Born Fi’ Dead: “Seems like the 70s belonged to Manley and to ganja but the 80s belong to cocaine.”

Seaga’s government burnt marijuana plantations or sprayed it with chemicals, while turning a blind eye to the trans-shipment of cocaine from Colombia.

Crack cocaine emerged in Jamaica and then hit US cities like New York, with Brooklyn in particular suffering an epidemic linked to Jamaican drug gangs like the notorious Shower Posse.

Gunst’s book is a must-read for anyone seeking to understand Jamaica’s underworld.

Her research was peerless and she explained to outsiders dozens of deadly anachronisms – for example the fact that Red Stripe beer was forbidden in JLP territory because red was a PNP colour (they are now orange, rather than red) and Heineken was likewise taboo in PNP neighbourhoods because green was and is the JLP colour.

Fast forward 30 years and the tribalism remains the same and the links between Jamaican politicians and gangs would seem to be as close as ever.

In May 2010 the US demanded the extradition from the island of Christopher “Dudus” Coke, a major drug smuggler, the leader of the Shower Posse and a gangster who ran the Tivoli Gardens ghetto in West Kingston.

But Tivoli Gardens was solid JLP territory and Dudus was closely aligned with several JLP politicians.

Cue mayhem – 73 people died during days of clashes between gangsters and policemen searching for Dudus.

Dudus (pictured below) was eventually extradited to the US and jailed for 23 years but the whole episode deeply undermined Prime Minister Bruce Golding, who resigned the following year. His JLP lost the 2011 general election to the PNP.

Coke’s father Lester – better known as “Jim Brown” – was rumoured to be the gunman who shot and wounded Bob Marley back in 1976.

Jim Brown  – the nickname came from his passing resemblance to the US gridiron star – died suspiciously in 1992 after a fire in his prison cell, after apparently falling out with his patron, Seaga.

Another of Lester Coke’s sons, Anthony – known as Jah T, was shot dead by a PNP gunman in 2005.

Seaga himself joined 20,000 people who attended Jah T’s funeral.

Jah T’s “babymother”, Deborah “Foxy Brown” Golding wore an eye-catching black dress at the funeral. In 2012 she tried to get elected as an independent councillor for Tivoli Gardens, after being rejected as a JLP candidate.

In the past year 120 people have been killed in Jamaica and, although it may way down on 1980 levels, there is every sign that the Jamaican politicians have failed to gain control of the crimewave they started back in the 1960s.

Manley died in 1997, while Seaga is now 84, and still an eminence grise in the JLP.




by Sam Christopher                                                                                     29 January 2014



An unremarkable hillside in northern Kentucky contains a dark secret.

It was here 37 years ago that a horrific blaze broke out, killing 169 people – four of them unborn babies.

Many disasters have large, impressive memorials.

But the Beverly Hills Supper Club fire has only a neat green plaque on a signpost beside the road, erected by the Kentucky Historical Society in 2007.

Trucks thunder past without stopping to read about what happened here on a hill overlooking the city of Cincinatti, on the other side of the Ohio river.

On the night of 28 May 1977 flames destroyed the glitzy Beverly Hills Supper Club as singer John Davidson – a big name in the 1970s – was preparing to entertain 2,000 people with hits like I’ll Always Remember.

For years the cause of the fire was a mystery, with Kentuckians seemingly happy to forget about the whole tragic night.

But a new book, based on four years of research by Robert Webster and a team of local historians in Kenton County, has unearthed a shattering discovery – that the fire was almost certainly arson and the 169 dead were therefore murder victims.

Webster claims in his book that the fire in May 1977 was set by arsonists posing as air conditioning maintenance men.

There is even the suggestion that a group of men and women posed as cleaners during the day of the blaze and brushed the walls with a special inflammable lubricant – liquid graphite – which would explain the remarkable “burning down” patterns found at the scene.

Numerous witnesses saw the maintenance men and the cleaners and assumed they were working for the Schilling family, who owned the club.

But they were not and the the author points the finger unambiguously in the direction of the Cleveland mafia, a notoriously brutal outfit which had once been run by gangland legend Moe Dalitz.

But to understand the events of that night fully you need to be aware of the historical and geographical context.

Kentucky – “the bluegrass state” – is a largely rural place, home to dozens of horse breeders and trainers, the Kentucky Derby and Jim Beam whiskey.

But tucked away in the northern corner of the state, in a bend in the Ohio river, are the towns of Newport, Covington and Southgate.

Nowadays they are humdrum dormitory suburbs of Cincinatti, but the area – and Newport in particular – has a colourful past as “sin city” where booze, gambling and sex were peddled for years.

Newport in particular was a hub of brothels, speakeasies and illegal casinos in the Prohibition era and it was only in 1961 that a clampdown by Governor Bert Coombs and US Attorney General Robert Kennedy curbed these excesses.

Kennedy was assisted in this campaign by George Ratterman, the new Sheriff of Campbell County, a former Cleveland Browns quarterback, who was elected with a promise to clean up northern Kentucky.

But Ratterman’s election campaign was almost derailed when he was drugged with chloral hydrate, tucked up in bed with stripper April Flowers and photographed in a bid to blackmail him into bowing out of the race.

Ratterman managed to prove he had chloral hydrate in his bloodstream and Flowers confessed to her part in the scam.

During the 1960s the Mob began moving their investments from Kentucky to Las Vegas, which soon became the US’s gambling mecca.

Newport began a slow spiral of decline, with its population falling by 25% over the next few decades.

But while prostitution and gambling may have disappeared, there were still a few venues where crowds would travel from miles around for rather more wholesome entertainment.

One of these was the Beverly Hills Supper Club, which was taken over in 1969 and relaunched by local tycoon Dick Schilling.

Before he could even open it, the club was gutted by a fire in 1970 started, almost certainly, by extortionists from the Cleveland mafia.

Over the next few years the club went from strength with stars such as Ray Charles, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carol Channing and The Four Seasons coming to perform, but the Cleveland mobsters continued to harass Schilling and tried to intimidate him into selling it to them.

On the day of the fire receptionist Eileen Druckman received a chilling phone call from a mystery man who simply asked her: “When was it that the Beverly Hills burnt down before?”

Flustered and extremely busy as guests began to arrive, she brushed him off, but not before he told her: “It burned down on June 21, 1970.”

She put the phone call and thought no more about it, until the blaze broke out later in the evening.

Webster’s book is superbly researched and he has found witness accounts from scores of guests.

What is amazing is that many of them reported heat and smoke up to two hours before the fire brigade was called.

It appears the fire was smouldering for up several hours – from as early as 5pm – before it finally broke into the open at around 9pm and thick black smoke alerted people to the impending disaster.

Hundreds managed to escape but a bottleneck developed in the Cabaret Room, which is where 99 of the bodies were found.

Webster also uncovers evidence that timers were found in the debris, several of which were set for 5pm.

He speculates that the arsonists may have simply made a mistake: instead of starting the fire at 5am – when the club would have been empty – they may have set it off at 5pm.

Kentucky State Police, under pressure from Governor Julian Carroll, were guilty of a “rush to judgement”, wanting to blame the Schillings and rule out arson.

The governor ordered the club be demolished with unseemly haste so it was impossible to prove how it started.

There was an in-built “expectation bias” which sought to portray Dick Schilling and his family as the culprits.

It has since emerged that not only were the Schillings innocent of most of the code infringements they were accused of but Governor Carroll had been a guest at a party in Christmas 1976 hosted by Sam Schraeder, the Cleveland mafia’s man in northern Kentucky.


Did he later cover up for the mafia, possibly under duress?

Perhaps the most chilling clue as to the real motive was found by Margie Schilling, Dick’s wife, when she finally returned home in the early hours of the Sunday morning, feeling utterly devastated by the loss of life at their club.

There on the doormat was a note, with letters cuts from newsprint in the style of a ransom note, saying: “WE BURNED YOU BEFORE, WE’LL BURN YOU AGAIN. YOU KEEP BUILDING, WE’LL KEEP BURNING.”

The Beverly Hills Supper Club was never rebuilt and the site – in view of the Interstate 471 highway – remains morbidly vacant, a testament to that tragic night.






by Sven Kristiansen                                                                                December 2013


More than 30 years after seven people were killed when cyanide was place inside painkiller capsules in the US, a new theory is suggesting the police and FBI were looking in the wrong place for the killer.In the autumn – or, as they say, in Chicago, the fall – of 1982 seven people, including a 12-year-old girl swallowed a Tylenol Extra Strength capsule….and dropped dead.The acetaminophen powder – what we call paracetamol in the UK – inside had been replaced with cyanide.Tylenol was – in fact, still is – one of the most popular over-the-counter painkillers on sale in the US. At the time it had a 37% share of the market.So the seven deaths became headline news across the nation, even though they were limited to the Chicago area.The police and FBI jumped to the conclusion that the killer was taking bottles of Tylenol off the shelves, unscrewing the capsules, replacing the acetaminophen with cyanide and then placing them back on sale.But a new book suggests that theory was wrong and the police and FBI spent years looking for the “Tymurs” killer in the wrong place.The author of The Tylenol Mafia, Scott Bartz, certainly should know what he is talking about.He spent a decade working as a sales manager for Johnson & Johnson, the giant consumer products firm which owns McNeil, the firm who make Tylenol.Bartz left the company under a cloud after he tried to expose fraud in Medicaid, the programme which funds medicines for the poor in the US.His book – which is an immensely readable page-turner – is sweet revenge.It claims – with a considerable body of evidence behind it – that the theory of the “madman in the store” not only does not make sense but was deliberately put forward by J&J to steer the authorities away from the real culprit because it might lead them with a hefty lawsuit.Without going into detail – and there is a heck of a lot of detail about batch numbers, “rack jobbers” and distribution networks – Bartz claims the killer worked in a repackaging warehouse in the Chicago area.Key to his argument is the case of Lynn Reiner (pictured above), who had recently given birth and died after taking a Tylenol capsule she had been given by the hospital pharmacy.Bartz argues that the hospital pharmacy was secure and a random killer could not have wandered in and tampered with the Tylenol bottles.He says the killer must have tampered with the capsules before they even reached the pharmacies and convenience stores where they were purchased.Lynn’s daughter Michelle Rosen says she believes Bartz and she told the Daily Herald, a suburban Chicago newspaper: “We’ve been on such a dead road for 29 years, is this not worth looking into?”“It would be irresponsible of them not to legitimately look deep into this. What facts do they currently have? The only evidence that authorities have ever given us to their theories is, ‘People bought Tylenol and died.’ Well, that isn’t enough anymore.”A central character in the Tylenol story is James Lewis, an eccentric individual who became the FBI’s prime suspect after he – in a fit of pique at an employer who had gone bust and failed to pay his wife her wages – sent an extortion letter to the authorities, demanding $8,000 be paid into a bank account in order for the poisonings to stop.The bank account belonged to his wife’s former employer who he held a grudge against, and he had no access to it.But despite that Lewis was convicted of extortion and spent many years in jail.In fact he was behind bars in 1986 when an almost incident killed another woman in New York after she swallowed Tylenol which had been replaced with cyanide.By then J&J had introduced tamper resistant packaging. But they were still persevering with capsules, which are easy to tamper with.Only after the 1986 murder did they phase out capsules and replace them with caplets (pictured left), which are sealed and cannot be tampered with.Lewis has remained the prime suspect for the FBI and DuPage County police, despite the fact that at the time of the Chicago poisonings he was thousands of miles away in New York city.Even as recently as 2009 Lewis and his long-suffering wife LeAnn were arrested at their home in Cambridge, Massachusetts by federal agents looking in vain for a “smoking gun” which they could use to pin the crime on Lewis.capletsBartz speculates that the reason for the arrest and the publicity surrounding it was not because the authorities actually believed Lewis was the killer, but because it allowed them to refuse to release vital documents about the case because they could claim it was still an “ongoing investigation”.The reality is that nobody really has a clue who the Tylenol killer was.His motive was never made clear. For all we know it could have been carried out by one of their business rivals in order to destroy Tylenol as a brand.Tylenol did however recover, despite the 1986 hiccup, and in fact rose to 56% in 2009.But since then a series of manufacturing faults have led to the recall of millions of bottles of Tylenol, Benadryl and Motrin, all made by McNeil.Tylenol’s market share has now fallen to 24% and in 2011 McNeil closed its factory at Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, after a damning report by the Food and Drug Administration.Bartz’s book suggests J&J deliberately masked the origin of the 1982 poisonings because if it turned out the perpetrator was in the distribution network they could be held legally liable, whereas if the “madman in the stores” theory was true they were not liable.Johnson & Johnson gave a statement recently, saying: “We believe the premise in Mr. Bartz’s book has no merit. The facts of this case have been shared with the appropriate authorities over the years, and we defer any comment on the investigation of these poisonings to the appropriate legal authorities.”

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