AN escalating feud between drugs gangs has led to five shootings on the streets of Edinburgh in as many weeks.
Police today said there was a "strong possibility" that shots fired at a private hire cab in Granton last week and a shooting outside the Gauntlet pub in Broomhouse on Tuesday are linked. But the Evening News has learned there have been at least three more incidents involving firearms in recent weeks – including one where a gang member was shot in the head.
Sources say criminals from the north of the Capital have found themselves locked in battle with a hardened gang of young dealers from Gilmerton and the Inch.
Members of the two groups, who are involved in the cocaine and heroin trade, were friendly until a fight outside a city centre nightclub around a year ago.
Since then the gangs are alleged to have become embroiled in a string of "tit-for-tat" shootings, including the attacks at the Gauntlet and on the cab.
Other incidents involving the gangs since mid-August are said to include:
• Two gunmen on a motorbike who fired shots from a semi-automatic pistol at a man from Broomhouse while he sat in his van.
• A gang member shot in the face in Drylaw who was left with four shotgun pellets lodged in his skull.
• An alleged heroin dealer from Craigmillar who had his front window shot at by the motorbike gunmen.
Sources close to the gangs also allege that the Festival Cabs car was shot in a random attack by paranoid gang members who wanted police to swarm the Granton area to protect them from further reprisals.
That same gang are alleged to have carried out the shooting at the Gauntlet on Broomhouse Grove, using two pistols and a shotgun after arriving in a silver car. A burnt-out car found in Morningside is believed to be the vehicle the gunmen used to escape the scene.
Superintendent Mark Williams said today: "We are now investigating the strong possibility that Tuesday night's firearms incident at the Gauntlet pub in Broomhouse is linked to the firearms incident involving the taxi in Royston Mains Road last week, and the recovery of a burnt-out vehicle in Balcarres Street late on Tuesday night. The force is treating these incidents very seriously and I would like to reassure the public that we are dedicating significant resources towards finding those responsible and bringing them to justice."
The police said the three other shooting incidents alleged to have taken place between the warring groups had not been reported to them. But a criminal source said: "This is not a drugs turf war. This is a feud which has got out of control.
"But these are young guys with guns and they don't think twice about jumping into a car or onto a motorbike and going out to kill people.
"The guys from Granton and Drylaw are best described as scum really. The folk from the Inch and Gilmerton are far more serious, however."
The dispute was said to have arisen a year ago when members of the two gangs were drinking together at a city centre nightclub.
A fight broke out between two men, one from Niddrie and connected to the Gilmerton/Inch crew, and another man from Broomhouse, a friend of the Granton gang.
The feud between the factions allegedly grew after messages and photographs were posted on a Bebo website by one of the north Edinburgh gang promising revenge. The dispute deepened in Broomhouse Loan around five weeks ago when the man, in his 20s, was said to have been shot at.
Sources say two men on a motorbike from Gilmerton pulled up next to his Ford Transit van and fired three shots from a semi-automatic pistol. Three weeks ago, the motorbike gunmen took to the road again and went after an alleged heroin dealer in Craigmillar, reportedly firing two shots through his front window.
A week later, members of the Granton gang are understood to have ventured into Gilmerton in a car, apparently looking for rivals to target in an act of bravado. When word reached the Gilmerton gang that the enemy had ventured on to their patch, motorcycle gunmen were dispatched to retaliate for the "insult" of treading on their turf.
Hours later, a man in his early 20s was said to have been hit with a shotgun blast, leaving four pellets lodged in his head. Again, the victim survived.
The Granton gang are understood to have gone to ground in the wake of their friend being shot, hiding out in Royston amid fears of fresh reprisals.
Growing increasingly paranoid, they decided to stage a shooting in a bid to bring a wave of police officers into the area and protect themselves from the Gilmerton gunmen.
A passing private hire cab was reportedly picked out and blasted with a shotgun in Royston Mains Road in the early hours of last Monday. Members of the gang finally came out of hiding on Tuesday night to reportedly carry out the latest gun attack at the Gauntlet Bar.
Sources say the target was a man in his 20s from Broomhouse with connections to the Gilmerton/Inch group who was drinking inside the pub. Four shots are believed to have been fired during the incident.
Armed officers carried out searches in and around the Morningside Park area yesterday with sniffer dogs following the discovery of a burnt-out car in Morningside's Balcarres Street.
A police spokesman said: "We are investigating the possibility that the vehicle may be linked to the shooting, and as a result officers have been searching the area where it was discovered."
TWO THUGS STEP INTO SHOES OF JAILED GANGSTERS
TWO friends emerged from the shadow of jailed gangsters Marc Webley and James Tant – once their close associates – to control much of the sale of heroin and crack in Granton and surrounding areas.
The men – both aged around 30 – are utilising a network of young addicts to deal the drugs while other even more vulnerable users are charged with storing supplies in their houses. One of the dealers – who enhanced his reputation for violence by threatening others with a samurai sword – had his house raided recently by police who came up empty-handed.
Both men are associated with the Granton area gang feuding with south Edinburgh counterparts, although they are believed to be on the fringes, content to continue their money-making.
FROM their base, two ringleaders of a gang in Gilmerton and The Inch are believed to control much of the supply of cocaine across the Capital.
Both are known to be ruthless, and until a recent crackdown by police they were involved in the feud themselves.
The area is known to harbour a number of young gangsters in their late teens or early 20s. Police say these people have ready access to firearms and an easy willingness to use them. They favour using motorcycles to carry out their hits.
The cocaine trade is known to have made them very wealthy, with cash put into property and even hidden under floorboards when it got too much.
'DEALER' WHO ESCAPED BOTCHED HIT
THE suspected heroin dealer targeted in the botched hit in Craigmillar is believed to be one of the biggest dealers of the Class A drug in Edinburgh.
The man escaped when a pair of motorcycle gunmen fired two shots through his front window around three weeks ago.
The man was a known associate of an infamous family from the Niddrie area who once controlled the supply of heroin in the area. The family's activities have been broken up by police, with at least two brothers currently serving prison sentences. The Niddrie gang were notorious for using swords and baseball bats to terrorise people into silence.
ESTATE OF DIVIDED LOYALTIES
THE two shootings in Broomhouse in recent weeks have highlighted the continuing drug problem in the area.
The estate has divided loyalties among its dealers, with some linked to the Gilmerton and Inch gang, and others to the north Edinburgh criminals.
Along with ties to the Granton area group, the man who was shot at while he sat in his van is friends with a notorious member of another Gilmerton crime family.
That family has been locked in intense and often violent rivalry with criminals in the Inch, which included a number of shootings around three years ago.
BROTHERS CONTROL TRADE
A PAIR of drug-dealing brothers have moved to take over the Lochend and Restalrig markets, which are awash with small-time dealers selling heroin to help pay for their own habit.
The brothers, one in his 30s and the other in his 20s, have sought to strengthen their hold over the local trade by turning up at the homes of other dealers and threatening them with knives if they don't work for them.
One couple with a baby, who live in the Nisbet Court flats, were coerced into selling for the pair after first proving reliable customers. They stored heroin in their child's buggy as they made their rounds.
The brothers are not flush with cash as each nurses their own addiction to heroin and crack. They are known to favour bikes to make drug deliveries, and last year the older brother was visited by Glasgow gangsters armed with swords to show their unhappiness at late payment for a large consignment of heroin.