By Russell Findlay
One of the men who spent 18 years in prison for the Ice Cream War murders has used his last ever interview to say that justice will never be done.
Joe Steele spoke to STV News following the death of Tommy ‘TC’ Campbell, who was also wrongly convicted of starting the fire that killed six members of the Doyle family in 1984.
Steele, 57, admits that he remains bitter at being “fitted up” by the police and says that his “blood money” compensation was squandered years ago.
He said: “I say prayers to my ma and all the family that’s passed on and I include a lot of people in it and that includes the Doyle family and Tommy.
“The Doyle family will never see justice. Not in my lifetime, never. Most of the main players are all dead now and the police won’t want to open that case.
“I try and put it all behind me. That’s it. Tommy’s passed on now and I want to move on. This will be the last interview I ever do.”
Campbell, 66, was last week found dead of natural causes at his rural home near Dunoon, Argyll.
Steele lives a mile from what was the Doyle family home in Bankhead Street in Glasgow’s Ruchazie. On April 16, 1984, their tenement flat was set alight while they slept. Three generations were killed with the youngest being an 18-month-old baby.
Steele and Campbell were convicted but waged a campaign to prove their innocence. Steele once escaped from prison and glued himself to the gates of Buckingham Palace.
The campaign, masterminded by lawyer John Carroll, resulted in the convictions being quashed in 2004. Central to the case was that detectives gave false evidence.
Steele was awarded compensation but the money is long gone.
He said: “If that’s what you call it? £750,000, is that a lot of money? It’s done and dusted years ago. I don’t care if it’s 750 grand or seven million and 50 – it wasn’t worth the money, I’ll tell you that. It was blood money.
“We never even got a ‘sorry’. I’m still bitter. A lot of lives were ruined through it, a hell of a lot of lives and they [the police] put the blinkers on.
“They weren’t interested in looking for anyone else for the Doyle family. They got bodies and they were happy and they had to fit them up. But they were all the old school and they were steeped in fit-ups in those days. That’s all they knew.”
Over the years, Steele and Campbell had fall-outs with the most serious over Campbell’s move to Barlinnie prison’s Special Unit – in breach of a deal that they would never concede ground to the authorities.
He said: “At the time I was bitter and angry at Tommy taking the special unit. But now that he’s away and he’s passed on, all that’s irrelevant now.”
The father-of-two is relieved that he got the chance to make peace with Campbell in the weeks before his death.
He said: “It was a couple of months ago through another pal and I’m glad I did. What we spoke about I’ll keep to myself. Probably I was more in the wrong anyway and we apologised and things like that so it’s done and dusted and I’m happy with that.
“Tommy didn’t put me in the nick. The police put me there and the witnesses that lied. Tommy Campbell was in the same situation I was in and went through just as much as I went through, maybe even more.
“Apart from rest in peace Tommy, he’s went through a hell of a lot. Tommy’s head was muddled like mine. Not just us but a lot of people involved in the case.”
Steele is adamant that the man who ordered the fire was Tam McGraw, who died in 2007. Nicknamed The Licensee, McGraw became a major organised criminal in Glasgow’s east end and was accused of being a police informant – ‘grassing’ on rivals in order to stay out of prison.
He said: “Tam McGraw – I don’t think a lot about him. The guy just couldn’t do time. He wouldn’t do time. He had no intention of doing time and his way of getting out of doing time was putting other people in his place. He wasn’t a nice man.
“I always knew who ordered the fire but it wasn’t my place to say at the time. The guy was still alive anyway, so it would be like grassing.
“Right or wrong, we were brought up never to tell tales, never to go to the police [but to] deal with our own things and certainly Tommy Campbell was the same.”
He also rejects claims the Ice Cream Wars were over drugs – the truth being McGraw allegedly ordered the fire as a “frightener” because he wanted control of the Doyles’ lucrative van route.
He said: “That was the first time I’d ever heard the word ‘frightener’. He was wanting to take over the run.
“He butchered a whole family over the head of an ice cream run. It’s sad anybody dying in a fire but a whole family, three generations and a baby being murdered – sad, sad, for what? For an ice cream run.”
Steele began taking drugs in prison but is now clean. He believes that the stigma of being falsely branded a child killer and spending years fighting for justice took a huge toll on himself, Campbell and their families.
He said: “I was taking drugs in the prison when I was locked up all those years. The jails were rife then with drugs.
“It affected my life, my family’s life, everything. We know what we’ve been through. We know what our families went through as well. A lot of it would have contributed to Tommy’s death.
“We were locked up in solitary for many years, both of us. Tommy’s health just deteriorated over the years through all this.
“I wouldn’t wish anybody to go through it. There is people that are innocent fighting their case now and I wouldn’t wish it on anybody, even my worst enemy.”