‘Gunchester’ generation blowtorch rivals’ ears in terrifying new wave of violence


One victim was kidnapped and tortured for almost a day, his ears blowtorched and knees “ironed”.

A second was found in a street with cable-tie around his neck, his feet bleeding and his eye sockets swollen from being pistol whipped.

And the scene for these horrifying crimes? Not some corrupt, war-torn country but Manchester, where both men were snatched from their homes by the city’s vicious network of gangsters who demanded thousands in return for their lives.

Police say violence is worsening as organised crime groups increasingly target other criminals for money.

And they reveal this new, brazen generation of gangsters are the children and grandchildren of those who ruled in a reign of terror over the city in the 1980s and 1990s, earning it the nickname “Gunchester”.

The thugs move in to abduct the man
The thugs move in to abduct the man
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Det Sgt Julie Connor of Greater Manchester Police revealed shootings and stabbings are now disturbingly frequent but the violent kidnaps are especially “crazy” in number, with monthly cases in double figures.

And gangs, driven by the “high stakes” money, are more likely to carry them out in public, placing ordinary people in the crossfire.

Just last month in four consecutive night shifts her division was alerted to four kidnaps – two in one night.

DS Connor said: “The gangs have roots from gangs around in the 1980s and 1990s.

The gang abduct a man from his home in 2018
The gang abduct the man from his home in 2018

It’s the children and grandchildren of those gang members you are now finding in gangs.

“We are seeing an increase in violence, people being shot in the legs, stabbed, their faces cut.

“With the rise in drugs there is a lot of money floating around in the criminal world so there is an increase in criminals robbing other criminals.”

She added: “The kidnappings are just all the time, it’s crazy really but it’s a lucrative business.”

DS Julie Connor expressed the force's alarm
DS Julie Connor expressed the force’s alarm

Violence within gangs is also heinous, especially towards women.

DS Connor said: “If a girl disrespects a criminal male they will have their head shaved.

“Rape is used as a punishment.”

She was speaking ahead of new BBC series The Detectives: Fighting Organised Crime, which followed police in Manchester over two years.

Paris Bostock was jailed for nine years
Paris Bostock was jailed for nine years

Tonight’s first episode charts DS Connor and her colleagues as they focus on two kidnappings in November and December 2018.

In the first, the victim was snatched in front of his children and taken to a house where he was tortured until he agreed to hand over £34,000.

Just weeks later, a second man was found bleed-ing on a street, his face so swollen that his eyes looked like they had disappeared after being battered.

The upsurge in violence since the Gunchester days is a disturbing development for a city which had managed to put its
notorious nickname behind it.

Gangster Darren Berkeley was Bostock's stepdad
Gangster Darren Berkeley was Bostock’s stepdad

The peak of the Gunchester bloodshed came in 1993 when Benji Stanley, 14, was shot dead at a takeaway in a case that made national headlines.

But by the late 2000s, gang-related gun crime had fallen thanks to successful police operations.

But DS Connor explained the mobs never went away and, as the attention shifted from them, they were allowed to quietly expand.

She said she has dealt with 15 crime gangs, adding: “A lot of the lads in the 1990s grew up and got into international drug dealing, people trafficking.

Elliot Cummings received a six year sentence
Elliot Cummings received a six year sentence

Blake Evers
Blake Evers had no previous convictions

“A lot invested criminal money into businesses and had become semi-legitimate and harder to touch.”

DS Connor believes underlying causes such as deprivation were not tackled and police cuts also played a role.

And the situation isn’t unique to Manchester. Det Chief Supt Jon Chadwick, head of the force’s Serious and Organised Crime Group, said mobs across the country are the biggest threat to the UK’s security.

Moss Sude in 1990 - the area of high social deprivation and drug crime was nicknamed 'Gunchester' because of 'turf wars' and shootings between rival gangs
Moss Sude in 1990 – the area of high social deprivation and drug crime was nicknamed ‘Gunchester’ because of ‘turf wars’ and shootings between rival gangs

Investigating the two 2018 kidnappings, Manchester police gathered evidence that pointed to known suspect Paris Bostock, the stepson of gangster Darren Berkeley.

Last January, Bostock, then 26, received a nine-year sentence for false imprisonment and blackmail connected to the first kidnap.

Berkeley, 43, received 12 years for blackmail, while gang member Blake Evers, then 24, got 19 years for GBH, possession of a firearm, blackmail and kidnap.

He had no previous convictions and the judge remarked on his “terrifying baptism into criminal activity”.

Elliott Cummings then 29, got six years.

But for DS Connor and her colleagues, the kidnappings and their fight continues.

  • The Detectives: Fighting Organised Crime airs on BBC2 at 9pm tonight (Tuesday).

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