THE STREETS OF FEAR; EXPOSED: How the Yardies are causing terror in a Midland town The murder of a West Midland gang leader has struck fear throughout a community in the middle of a drugs turf war. AMARDEEP BASSEY reports on the violent reign of terror imposed by the Yardie gangs.
Cruising in top of the range BMWs, they flaunt designer gold jewellery and carry automatic guns as a weapon of choice.
They are the Yardies, and the recent death of a Midland 'crew' kingpin has raised fears of an internal power struggle as members battle for his 'Big Man' mantle.
Whitcliffe George Brissett was two years short of the average 35-year-old life expectancy of a Yardie when he was found shot dead in Smethwick on September 4.
Known as Goldie because of his penchant for flash jewellery, the painter and decorator was killed by a single gunshot wound to his head as he sat in a parked car.
Today the Sunday Mercury can reveal the chilling background of drugs, guns, and protection rackets that are the hallmarks of Yardie activity.
And we explain how their influx into the Midlands has led to a Wolverhampton police chief admitting that the town is in the midst of a 'turf war'.
Six months ago, Brissett was just another footsoldier in the expanding Yardie empire. Originating from Jamaica, the term Yardie literally means 'backyard' and is applied to Jamaican-born gangsters in the UK.
Operating mainly from London, the relatively small and incohesive gang is believed to be responsible for more than 90 murders in Britain since 1986.
But ever since a 1998 Metropolitan Police crackdown named Operation Trident in the capital. they have spread to areas like the Midlands and the North West.
Known for their lack of discipline and 'live for the moment' philosophy, Yardie killings are worn by members as a 'badge of honour.'
But the cycle of violence is such that a Yardie never stays on top very long - as Brissett found out to his cost.
Having settled in Wolverhampton, Brissett used to run a designer clothes shop in Bushbury - while dealing in drugs and acting as a Yardie 'enforcer'.
The separated 33-year-old eventually became close friends with the local Yardie crew leader Carl Gowe, known as Nico.
Last year Gowe, 38, of Low Hill, Wolverhampton, was charged with attempted murder after carrying out an horrific machete attack which left his victim almost crippled and blinded in one eye.
In April this year, Gowe was jailed for life at Stafford Crown Court, which was surrounded by armed police after a threat that key witnesses would be assassinated.
Gowe's conviction saw Brissett emerge as the 'Big Man' - a term used by Yardies to describe a leader.
A close associate and Yardie insider said: 'His rise to the top was quite sudden but because of his close links with Nico, he was seen as the main man when Nico went down.
'But he was never well-liked because of his brash manner and the way he flaunted his riches. He would drive around in a Mercedes car and was full of himself.
'He thought he couldn't be touched. He was wrong.'
Last month, Brissett was believed to be behind a savage machete attack which left a former Midland DJ fighting for his life.
Rudi Hutchinson, 32, was attacked in Heathtown, Wolverhampton, which - along with the town's Whitmore Reans district - is fast becoming a Yardie stronghold.
'Goldie was questioned about the attack but was released,' said the insider. 'He was eventually confronted by police again as he tried to make his way to Jamaica from Manchester Airport. That was the day before he was shot dead.'
After his death, police appealed for a black man spotted with him shortly before his death to come forward. They also revealed a blonde woman was seen near the car. The woman is believed to be one of Brissett's many girlfriends.
West Midlands Police say they are no closer to solving the 'suspicious death' and remain tight-lipped about Brissett's involvement in the Hutchinson attack - fuelling suggestions that Brissett was a police informant.
Yardie relationships with the police hit the headlines in 1997 when a TV documentary exposed police tactics to infiltrate the gangs. The World In Action programme revealed how officers overlooked a series of violent crimes carried out by Yardie informers in exchange for intelligence.
'It was becoming common knowledge that Goldie was an informer and he was getting nervous,' said the insider. 'Despite their tough exteriors, Yardies are known to crack under pressure and turn informants.'
The Yardie phenomenon in the UK was first noted in the late 1980s and their rise is linked to that of crack-cocaine in which many trade.
Massive profits from crack dealing have seen areas like Whitmore Reans in Wolverhampton become a lucrative 'patch'.
Spiralling violence in the area since last May led Superintendent John Colston to suggest that the area was being 'menaced' by Yardies in dispute with local, mainly Asian, gangs.
But he stressed that police were having success in taking guns out of the hands of gang members.
He later told a meeting of the Wolverhampton West Police Consultative Committee: 'There is no doubt that there is a turf war going on between drug dealers.
'There are a number of Jamaican nationals - Yardies - and on the other side, the existing Home Boys.'
Wolverhampton Labour councillor Milkinder Jaspal believes that Yardies may also be behind a protection racket in the area which has seen shots being fired at family homes.
'I have handed over two statements from Muslim families who say they have been asked for regular payments with threats of kidnap and violence,' he told the Sunday Mercury.
'This has been going on for the last year, but the families have refused to pay up - resulting in their houses being shot at while they were inside with children.
'The police have been saying the shootings, both in Whitmore Reans, are drugs-related, but I have evidence to prove otherwise.
'But I do believe the weapons are being provided by Yardies in the Wolverhampton area where they have been growing in influence.
'They have a presence all over the town now, particularly in the more rundown areas where demand for drugs is high like Low Hill, Park Village, and my ward of Heathtown.'
Superintendent Tom Duffin, operations manager for police in the Wolverhampton West area, said: 'The police respond positively to concern about drug dealing and the criminal use of firearms.
'Since April 1 there have been 43 drug trafficking offences detected in the Wolverhampton West region.
'Handguns, shotguns and ammunition have also been recovered and some of these investigations have involved the deployment of armed police officers.'
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|Publication:||Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)|
|Date:||Sep 24, 2000|
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