Gangster reign of The Licensee brought to end by heart attack
TAM McGraw, the notorious gangster who built a multi-million-pound fortune from drug-dealing and extortion, died from a heart attack yesterday, opening up a potential power vacuum in the Glasgow underworld.
McGraw, 55, who went by the nickname The Licensee, was reportedly found dead in bed at his bungalow yesterday afternoon.
Despite being linked to a list of crimes and named as a key figure in the infamous Ice Cream Wars in Glasgow's East End in the 1980s, McGraw had not been convicted of an offence for more than two decades.
He was acquitted of the attempted murder of a police officer in 1978 and drug-smuggling charges were found not proven in 1998. Crime was estimated to have netted him 20 million.
Yesterday a Scottish Ambulance Service spokesman confirmed: "At 2pm, we received a call to assist a collapsed male at an address in Mount Vernon." McGraw was confirmed dead on arrival at Glasgow Royal Infirmary.
McGraw's death is surprising only in that it was from natural causes, for as one of the kingpins of Glasgow's underworld, his life was defined by violence and crime. Through threats and intimidation, he maintained an almost unassailable position from Glasgow's days of street gang notoriety in the Sixties through to its rebirth as a cosmopolitan tourist hotspot.
Known as one of the country's top five crime bosses, McGraw was brought up in the city's tough east end estates during the 1960s.
Like most gangland figures, he started out in petty crime and gang fights and spent time in approved schools and borstals, where he developed his contacts with the criminal underworld. It was only during the 1970s that McGraw took his first real step into serious organised crime when he was recruited into the Barlanark, or Bar-L, Team, which specialised in armed robberies across Scotland.
Despite being captured and arrested during a botched robbery at a nightclub that resulted in him being charged with attempted murder, McGraw evaded prison. He became known as untouchable - by criminal rivals and the police - fuelling speculation that he was an informant. The charge was always denied by Strathclyde Police.
He graduated from armed robbery to build a huge empire based on large-scale drug dealing and extortion, establishing bases in Tenerife and Ireland, and toppling old Arthur Thomson, the "Godfather" and Glasgow's previous crime lord.
It was suspected that even McGraw's legitimate interests in property, taxis and security firms were used to launder the proceeds of his drug deals.
In 1998, he walked free from court having been accused of masterminding a Europe-wide cannabis smuggling ring, following a 58-day trial. Three others were sentenced to a total of 24 years in prison.
His escape from justice led other gangland figures to label him a police informant and it was this - as well as ownership of many Glasgow pubs - that earned his nickname, as he was seen as being licensed to commit crimes anywhere and at any time.
Paul Ferris, a rival gangster who now insists he has gone straight, claimed in his autobiography that McGraw was backed by corrupt police officers, who passed on confiscated drugs which he then sold on the streets.
They were embroiled in a long- running feud and Ferris believed that his former partner in crime had tried to set him up on criminal charges on several occasions.
Mystery shrouds McGraw's role in the city's so-called Ice Cream Wars, which involved the murder of six members of the Doyle family, who died in a house fire in Ruchazie in 1984.
TC Campbell, who had his conviction for the killings quashed, said on his release from jail that McGraw was responsible for the deaths. But a fresh police investigation was never launched.
Though feared throughout the city, McGraw had a brush with death in 2002 when he was stabbed several times in daylight not far from his home. He escaped with minor wounds, it was claimed, because he was wearing a bullet-proof vest.
Following the attack, many believed McGraw had retired from the criminal life to his Spanish villa. Whether his death sparks a vicious new battle to adopt his crown has yet to be seen.
LINK TO 'ICE CREAM WARS'
TAM McGraw was linked to the infamous Ice Cream Wars in Glasgow's east end in the 1980s.
Ostensibly a battle between rival ice cream van operators for lucrative territories, it was, in reality, a bloody feud between gangs who used the vans to sell drugs.
Violence and intimidation saw the viciousness of the conflict escalate - with rival vendors raiding each other's vans and firing shotguns into rivals' windscreens.
At the time, the police force was lambasted by the public for failing to deal with the escalating trouble, earning them the nickname the "serious chime squad" from locals.
The conflict culminated in the revenge murder of six members of the Doyle family in a blaze on a housing estate.
Andrew Doyle, an 18-year-old ice cream van driver, had resisted attempts to force him to distribute drugs or give up his run.
The ensuing court case saw Thomas 'TC' Campbell and Joe Steele convicted of their murders and jailed for life.
In high-profile campaigns both men protested their innocence.
But it was not until 2004 , and their third appeal, that the convictions were quashed.
The ruling at the Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh found the men were victims of a miscarriage of justice.
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