'Ice-cream wars' verdicts quashed as justice system faulted

Key points

• 'Ice-Cream Wars' accused Thomas 'TC Campbell and Joseph Steele freed

• Compensation claims, perhaps in excess of 1m, expected from both men

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

• Men accused of murders of Doyle family and jailed for 20 years

• Police had no evidence against accused except testimony of criminal figure

Key quote

"There is no jubilation or happiness, because I feel there is only losers in this case. The Doyle family [the victims of the fire] has lost, we have lost our lives in prison, and for 20 years, justice has lost" – Thomas 'TC' Campbell

Story in full WHEN the judgment finally came, the end of Scotland’s longest-running legal saga was marked not by the raucous celebration that most anticipated, but by muted anger at the failings of the criminal justice system.

As they were cleared at the Court of Appeal in Edinburgh of the murder of six members of a Glasgow family during a fire-raising attack in 1984, Joseph Steele and Thomas Campbell did not turn to each other or their loved ones packed together in the public gallery, but looked straight ahead, staring unflinchingly at the bench.

Their reaction was perhaps fitting in the circumstances - the true legacy of their 20-year campaign for freedom has been their blinkered determination to overturn one of the biggest miscarriages of justice in Scottish criminal history.

The murder of six members of the Doyle family in an arson attack at the height of the so-called ice-cream wars is surpassed in Scottish criminal notoriety only by the horrific deeds of Peter Manuel, who was hanged at Barlinnie Prison in 1958 after being convicted of seven murders.

The events leading to the deaths of James Doyle, 53, his daughter, Christina Halleron, 25, and her 18-month-old son, Mark, and three of Mr Doyle’s sons, James, 23, Andrew, 18, and Tony, 14, began in Glasgow in the early 1980s, as rival gangs fought for the control of lucrative ice-cream van runs used as a front for distributing stolen goods and heroin.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

In 1984, in Glasgow’s East End, in estates such as Ruchazie and Carntyne, in-fighting between rival operators of the vans was close to boiling point. Violence and intimidation were almost daily occurrences as the factions vied for territory.

In the middle of the battle for control of the lucrative routes, Andrew "Fat Boy" Doyle, 18, a driver for the Marchetti firm, refused to be intimidated into distributing drugs on his route - something which had already earned him a punishment shooting from an unknown assailant.

Despite the shooting and a steady campaign of intimidation, Mr Doyle refused to back down and a further "frightener" tactic against him was planned. But it went horrifically wrong.

At about 2am on 16 April, 1984, a door on the landing outside his family’s top-floor tenement flat in Ruchazie was doused with petrol and set alight while the family slept. Within minutes, an inferno swept through the flat. It was home to six members of the Doyle family, but that night they had three guests. In the resulting tragedy, five died. A sixth died later in hospital.

Public outrage over the attack was widespread, placing pressure on Strathclyde Police, who had been nicknamed the "serious chimes squad" over their failure to clamp down on the violence associated with the ice-cream wars.

Days after the murders, William Love, an East End underworld figure, gave the police information that led to the arrest of four men on charges of murdering the Doyle family. Among the men were Mr Campbell and Mr Steele.

At the heart of the case was Mr Love’s claims that he had overheard them plotting to punish Andrew Doyle.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

During a lengthy trial, Mr Campbell described Mr Love as "a desperado" who, for the sake of staying out of prison on bail for a couple of months, would go into the witness box and point the finger at "any one of us". Mr Campbell also said he had been "fitted up" by the police.

In court, Mr Campbell said he had been at home with his wife at the time of the fire. He said he had been taken to Baird Street police station, where he claimed the senior officer told him: "This is where we do the fitting up. I am going to nail you to the wall." Mr Steele similarly told the court he had an alibi for the night of the crime.

But throughout the trial, Mr Campbell in particular was portrayed as a man with a record of violence, who planned a campaign against the Marchetti ice-cream vans and recruited others to execute it. Mr Steele was portrayed as his henchman, a sidekick roped in to help with the dirty work.

Although Mr Love was the prosecution’s crucial witness, it also cited a statement Mr Campbell allegedly made to the police, saying: "The fire at the Fat Boy’s was only meant to be a frightener which went too far."

Most bizarrely, the prosecution’s final piece of evidence was a map of Ruchazie, allegedly found in Mr Campbell’s flat, on which the Doyle family home was marked with an X.

The only apparent problem for the prosecution was the fact they had no forensic evidence against either of the accused. In the end, it wasn’t needed to convince the jury and the pair were found guilty and jailed for life. The judge, Lord Kincraig, described them as vicious and dangerous.

From their first days in Barlinnie prison in Glasgow, Mr Campbell and Mr Steele protested their innocence, staging a high-profile campaign to try to prove their case was a grave miscarriage of justice. After a failed legal bid for freedom in 1989, the pair focused their efforts on undermining the Strathclyde Police case against them.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The first breakthrough for Mr Campbell and Mr Steele came in February 1992. Douglas Skelton and Lisa Brownlie, two journalists, published Frighteners, a book about the ice cream wars.

When interviewed for the book, Mr Love signed three affidavits saying he had lied in the witness box. He had nothing to gain by this.

At the time the book came out, Mr Skelton said: "The driving force for this is William’s [Love’s] conscience."

After the Love confession, Mr Steele staged a succession of high-profile escapes. In 1993, he launched a rooftop protest while on leave to his mother’s house. He also attracted publicity by gluing himself to the gates of Buckingham Palace.

Meanwhile, Mr Campbell went on hunger strike, a move which brought him close to death on several occasions.

Following protracted legal argument, the pair were finally released on bail in late 1996, pending a second appeal. The case came to court on the strength of Mr Love’s confession that he had lied in the original trial.

But in February 1998, the men were refused the appeal by three judges and returned to jail. The pair tried to overturn that decision, but Donald Dewar, the then Scottish secretary, turned down the bid that December. In his brief refusal to return the case to the Court of Appeal, Mr Dewar said there were not sufficient grounds to allow it.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

But Mr Campbell and Mr Steele vowed to fight on and it was then their solicitor, John Carroll, turned to the Criminal Cases Review Commission.

In November 2001, the commission, which was set up to investigate potential miscarriages of justice, decided to send the case back to the appeal court.

The following month, Mr Campbell and Mr Steele were granted interim freedom, but were told they would return to prison if their appeal failed.

Yesterday, that overwhelming burden was lifted.

There is no doubt that the appeal court verdict casts a long shadow over the Scottish justice system which failed the men and failed the victims, but the real question remains - who really killed the Doyle family?