Point blank

IN the aftermath of the gangland assassination of Kevin 'The Gerbil' Carroll, Glasgow is bracing itself for more bloodshed. Dani Garavelli reports

AT ASDA in Robroyston, early morning customers are wheeling their trolleys up and down the aisles. Here and there a few members of staff are huddled together in hushed conversation, and the occasional shopper takes a sidelong glance at the car parking spaces closest to the front door. A police officer – who looks as if he could be wearing a bullet-proof vest – pauses to glance at the cut-price paperbacks. But, to an unwitting observer, there is little to suggest that less than 48 hours earlier the store was the scene of a gangland hit, brazen even by Glasgow standards.

At around 1.30pm on Wednesday, three masked gunmen shot notorious hardman Kevin "The Gerbil" Carroll five times at close range as he sat in the back seat of a black Audi outside the busy shop, sparking fears that the tit-for-tat turf war that is constantly simmering below the surface of the city's badlands is about to explode onto the streets once again.

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Glasgow is no stranger to cold-blooded executions – even in broad daylight. Carroll, the leader of the "alien abduction squad", so-called because its victims are usually found wandering about the next day, half-naked but insisting to police they have no recollection of what happened to them – is said to have been on several hit-lists.

But its ruthlessness, plus the fact that this killing was carried out next to a busy store just after lunchtime, with dozens of pensioners and children milling about, has made his shooting particularly shocking. Doubly so that it happened in Robroyston, a relatively prosperous suburb dominated not by tower blocks and run-down pubs, but by aspirational new-build estates of four-and five-bedroomed houses nestling below snow-capped hills.

"This shooting was so blatant it seems like whoever was behind it was trying to send a message: that they are fearless and invincible and that they will stop at nothing to get what they want," one underworld source said last week. "But there's little doubt what it means for the area – more blood spilled in revenge."

Like all Glasgow crime stories, the execution of Kevin Carroll has a mythological feel to it. There is the bizarre nickname to begin with. No-one is anyone in Glasgow's underworld without a tag: Tam "The Licensee" McGraw; Ian "Blink" McDonald, Joe "Bananas" Hanlon, and now Kevin "The Gerbil" Carroll – named after Roland Rat's TV sidekick. Then there are the colourful phrases such incidents inspire in the tabloids: "feared kingpin", "a 50,000 bounty" and the "dogs in the street are barking his name".

But strip away all the Wild West mythologising and the story is just as gripping, involving, as it does, rival crime families as entrenched, as ruthless and as destructive as the Mafia, with tentacles that reach far beyond their own communities.

Over the past ten years, the run-down estates of Possilpark, Milton and Lambhill, just a stone's throw from Robroyston, have been the centre of an ongoing battle between two factions: the Daniel family and the Lyons family, each thought to preside over multi-million criminal empires founded on drugs, shoplifting, counterfeiting, stealing cars and racketeering.

Carroll – the long-term partner of Daniel clan chief Jamie's daughter Kelly, and father of two of her children – rose from petty crook to become one of the reclusive crime boss's right-hand men, getting himself shot twice in the process. But recently some believed he was becoming "too big for his boots", exploiting the Daniel name as he launched his own maverick operations across the country.

In particular, he had a reputation for kidnapping local drug dealers in the dead of night, putting a hood over their heads and torturing them before stealing drugs, money or weapons – the so-called "alien abductions". In February 2008, he and another man were arrested in connection with the kidnap of Christopher Logan and theft of a Heckler & Koch gun, already stolen from the Army. Logan later failed to pick them out of an ID parade, but Carroll was sentenced to 18 months, having been caught with the ammunition.

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Even as teenagers, the Daniel family brothers, who own a string of scrapyards, terrorised their Possil neighbourhood – known as The Jungle – stealing car wheels to sell as scrap metal.

In 1969, William Daniel was jailed for killing special constable George Gates. Soon the others – Jamie, David, Norman and Ronnie – graduated to stealing cars, before moving into the drugs trade. The Lyons family – headed by Eddie snr – is less powerful than the Daniel family, but its members nevertheless see themselves as contenders.

The on-off feud between the two factions was rekindled in 2006 when the gravestone of Eddie's eight-year-old son Garry – who died of leukaemia – was vandalised. In November of that year, Carroll was left fighting for his life, after he and Ross Sherlock were shot in Auchinairn.

Members of the Lyons clan were suspected. Just three weeks later – masked gunmen strolled into an MoT garage owned by Lyons' brother David and shot his nephews Michael and Steven, and their friend Robert Pickett. Michael, who was 21, died, and the others were injured. Carroll was questioned, but not charged in connection with the Lyons' murder, but two of his acquaintances, James McDonald and Robert Anderson, were given a minimum of 35 years for the crime.

Ever since word filtered out that Carroll was the victim of the Robroyston shooting, speculation has been rife as to the perpetrators and their motives. The gangster had crossed so many people in his life, there is a sense his death was more or less inevitable.

Still, two main theories have taken root. Some believe Carroll was set up by someone from his own side – perhaps in revenge for "grassing" on McDonald and Anderson. They believe the fact the gunmen knew exactly when and where to strike proves they had inside knowledge.

Others insist he was targeted by allies of the Lyons gang or one of the drug dealers he has intimidated.

But everyone agrees it spells more trouble for the benighted area. "The Daniel family has spent a long time working on its reputation for ruthlessness – its members are not going to stand back and allow themselves to be undermined – they are going to have to show whoever that they will not tolerate such a public attack on their standing," said one well-placed source.

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Among those who fears the worst is SNP councillor Billy McAllister, who has fought a long-running campaign for a clampdown on local gangs. He campaigned to have Eddie Lyons removed from the tax-payer-funded Chirnsyde Community Initiative – which he ran and used as a base – but action was only taken after the shooting at the MoT garage.

In speaking out, McAllister has frequently put himself in the firing line – and, at one point, he had to leave the city after being warned his life was in danger.

"This reminds me of Chicago in the 1920s," said McAllister who is trying to spearhead a summit on organised crime. "Things are out of control. When Michael Lyons was shot it happened next door to a special needs school. And now this – in one of the busiest supermarkets in Scotland. When bullets are flying about in such a public place, it's just luck that no-one else gets caught in the crossfire."

Recently, police have launched a handful of initiatives to crack down on the families' burgeoning crime empires. Late last year police froze 12 properties belonging to the Daniel family, which they believed were bought with the proceeds of crime. Carroll was also facing police and Crown Office efforts to seize assets at the time of his death.

The difficulty for investigators, as former head of the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency (SCDEA) Graeme Pearson points out, is the scale and complexity of the major crime networks combined with the fragmented nature of those many authorities charged with bringing them to book. "These (criminal] groups are generally national or international and the principal figures do not actually get involved in the violence and the crime, leaving it to hirelings instead," he said.

They have also become increasingly sophisticated. The Daniel family, for example, is understood to use counter-surveillance techniques, and to stage dummy drugs runs, to foil police.

Pearson believes the "crime campus" at Gartcosh, which will bring key staff from bodies including the SCDEA, the Scottish Police Services Authority forensic services and the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, under one roof, will allow for more coherence in investigations. But he would like to see one person appointed to take overall responsibility for the investigation of organised crime in Scotland.

Of course, it will always be difficult to eliminate activities that reap such high rewards. As far back as 2003, Jamie Daniel was said to be worth 9 million, to have a 30,000 watch and to own luxury properties in Spain and Florida.

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The price these gangsters have to pay for their wealth is high. Jamie is said to spend his life moving from one safe house to another and to have an ex-military armed guard constantly beside him. And the toll on the Lyons family has been even higher. It has suffered not only the loss of Michael, but that of his father, also Michael, who died, aged 34, when he swallowed drugs when his cocaine factory was raided in 1998, and Michael jnr's sister Kirsten who died of a drugs overdose.

But no amount of policing seems to stop these gangsters plying their trade. Pearson believes highly public acts of violence – like that staged in the car park of the Robroyston Asda – are, in any case, not motivated by materialism. "I have never believed that the driving force behind this kind of incident was money or wealth: they're about power, influence and control – when you have a challenge to status, that's what brings things to a head."

Although at Asda the mobile incident room at the back of the car park is the only tangible evidence of the killing, officers are making progress. On Friday, they revealed they had found the Volkswagen Golf used in the shooting, abandoned in Airdrie. It had been stolen last September and had been given cloned number plates.

As they continue to pursue their lines of inquiry, McAllister is determined not to give up his own campaign.

"I know I can't solve this problem on my own," he says. "But I will keep on fighting and speaking out because it's the right thing to do and because I want these streets to be safe for our children and grandchildren."

From the Godfather to Fatboy, what's in a name?

GLASGOW gangsters are as well known for their colourful nicknames as for their criminal empires and their violent lifestyles.

Some of their monikers are self-explanatory: Arthur Thompson snr, left, was the Godfather, simply because he ruled the roost and exemplified the mythological Mafia don. His son Arthur jnr, below, who carried a bit of weight, was Fatboy. Stewart "Speccy" Boyd wore glasses and Frankie "Doughnuts" Donaldson has a fondness for cakes.

But a few of the nicknames are worthy of more careful analysis. Tam "the Licensee" McGraw won his tag not only because he was involved in the pub trade, but also because – it was rumoured – he was a police informer with a "licence" to commit crime.

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Ian "Blink" McDonald is so-called because it was said he would strike in the "blink" of an eye, while Jamie "The Iceman" Stevenson was cold and unyielding.