By Russell Findlay
Today’s jailing of Lyons organised crime gang members for trying to kill Daniel rivals is part of a drugs war that has raged for 18 years.
Six men who tried to turn Glasgow into a “war zone” were handed combined sentences of 104 years for trying to murder five targets over a 15-month period.
But the extraordinary and long-running feud began when teenage Lyons gang members – then known as the Club Boys and based at a community centre in the city’s Milton – began dealing in supposed Daniel territory.
A veteran senior detective told STV News that this low-level turf war in 2001 sparked an unprecedented spate of shootings and violence that spread across Scotland and overseas.
David Moran, a former detective inspector in Police Scotland’s Major Investigation Team, is the first policing figure to publicly accept the longevity and extent of the war for control of multi-million pound drugs profits.
He said: “It was all about drug territory.
“The Daniel crime group saw the Lyons as stealing their business from what they believed was their territorial business area.
“It started out with basic intimidation but very quickly moved onto firearms being involved and people getting shot.
“Initially, miraculously, nobody was killed but that was only pure luck – maybe inexperience of using firearms, maybe firearms and ammunition that wasn’t of the required standard, but these were serious attempts to kill members of the Lyons organised criminal group by the Daniels.
“This escalated quickly over a period of maybe six months to a year and all of a sudden you had a full-blown gang feud on your hands.
“It’s been an absolute constant that both of those groups carried out serious acts of violence towards each other and 100% what we’ve seen with these convictions in court are directly related to the origins of what happened in 2001.”
Over the following years Moran says there have been a “huge amount of shootings” by both sides and accepts that police will not know about every incident.
Moran said: “This had a serious impact on not just Glasgow but the whole of the west of Scotland and into the east of the country.
“The terror that this feud has brought, not just to the people the violence is being perpetrated on, but the wider public is horrendous.”
The acts of violence became more extreme, including two non-fatal shootings outside primary schools in front of terrified children and the desecration of a Lyons child cancer victim’s grave.
The school shootings were due to “desperation”, according to Moran, who added: “They are obviously all aware they were targets for the violence and had taken precautions to avoid being the victim which led to desperation by the perpetrators.
“Even to me with 32 years in the police, that someone was shot outside a primary school as he took his child there is just staggering – the absolute disregard for the safety of anyone.”
Two of the most high-profile incidents were particularly shocking murders, also carried out in busy public places and in broad daylight.
In 2006, two Daniel hitmen armed with stolen British Army guns stormed an MoT station, killing a 21-year-old Lyons family member and injuring two others. Four years later, Daniel associate Kevin ‘Gerbil’ Carroll was shot 13 times in an Asda supermarket car park.
The Lyons even corrupted a police officer who was jailed for selling them intelligence about Carroll.
Moran said: “It’s unbelievable the longevity of the feud. Every now and again it seems to die down and then sparks back up again but it has been a constant in the last 18, 19 years.”
There were a record 934 drugs deaths in Scotland in 2017 and last year’s toll is expected to exceed 1000 for the first time.
The Lyons gang convictions come as a senior policing figure warns that more people in the UK are killed by organised crime than terrorism.
Lynne Owens, head of the National Crime Agency, said that Britain risks losing the fight against “chronic and corrosive” high-level criminality.
Moran believes the public may not fully appreciate how much money the drugs gangs rake in.
In the early 2000s, detectives regularly seized cash sums of around £80,000 but since then the gangs’ “drug-dealing operations have expanded beyond all recognition. They’re massive,” said Moran.
“In the case of some of these criminals they’ve now got international links with Colombia, with Spain, with Ireland. We’re talking hundreds of thousands, millions of pounds in profits from their operations.”
Moran is also candid about how better policing decisions could have stemmed the unprecedented Daniel and Lyons bloodshed. While it is difficult to investigate organised crime as victims rarely co-operate, he believes that the police should have kept pressure on the gangs rather than investigate crimes in isolation.
He said: “Where I do think we got it wrong was that having concluded the investigation into each individual crime, we should have maintained the momentum and kept the people in place that were investigating these groups.
“It’s been my view for a number of years, for decades now, it’s been a flaw in the overall strategy of investigating these groups.”
With so much ‘bad blood’ on both sides, there are fears that neither will back down.
Moran added: “It was difficult enough when we first started investigating these two groups. Now there’s so much bad blood, I don’t know where it stops.
“These convictions I would suggest will have a devastating effect on the Lyons organised criminal group. Likewise, several members of the Daniel group have been seriously injured during these events.
“Personally I can’t see them [Daniel gang] sitting back and just taking that. It’s all about saving face here. They’ve lost face severely and I would expect there to be ongoing violence which the police really need to stay on top of.
“The convictions are worth celebrating but 100% it needs cranked up.”
Core members of the Lyons gang became involved in crime as teenage members of the Club Boys gang based at a police backed community centre.
Eddie Lyons Sr ran the Chirnsyde centre in Milton, Glasgow with the support of Glasgow City Council, politicians and police officers – and more than £1m of taxpayers’ money.
Club Boys include Billy ‘Buff’ Paterson who is serving 22 years for the Asda assassination of Kevin ‘Gerbil’ Carroll and convicted drug dealer Ross Monaghan who was acquitted of the same murder.
Two other Club Boys – Brian Ferguson and Andrew ‘Dumbo’ Gallacher – were among the six men sentenced at the High Court today.
Veteran detective David Moran said: “The Chirnsyde community centre was where these boys formed a close association and a loyalty to each other, without a doubt.
“That’s where their association and early criminal activities would have formulated.”
Former SNP councillor Billy McAllister has accused the authorities of betraying community members who stood up to the Lyons almost 20 years ago.
He campaigned to evict Lyons after an innocent dad was almost murdered there in 2000 by another member of the Club Boys.
But Lyons was only removed in 2006 after a triple shooting at a nearby garage in which his nephew was killed.
McAllister believes taxpayer-funded Chirnsyde was a “crime academy” and says that those who spoke out were not only ignored but discredited, destroying community trust in the police.
He said: “It was a gang hut but no-one upon no-one would listen to us. A lot of young lives could have been saved.”