• Fri. Sep 23rd, 2022

The Glasgow Ice Cream Wars that terrorized Scotland in the 1980s

ByJanice K. Merrill

Nov 9, 2021


Joe Steele wanted to proclaim his innocence in any way he could. For him, that meant being superimposed on the gates of Buckingham Palace.

In April 1993 Steele, from Glasgow, Scotland, was on probation to visit his mother in Garthamlock, a suburb of Glasgow. himself to the railings outside Queen Elizabeth’s house and using extra strong adhesive to stick his fingers there. It took the fire department an hour to remove it.

During the few days he was free, Steele managed to give several interviews in which he insisted on his innocence from the murder of the six members of the Doyle family – a heinous crime for which he had spent the previous nine years in prison. It is credited with the fact that guilty men who manage to escape from prison often do not stick to their place and the public view.

Steele, the Doyles and many more had all been in the vortex of one of Scotland’s strangest criminal antics. It involved drugs, guns, gangs and murder, but it relied on an illicit underworld trade that was generally off limits to organized crime: ice cream.

The scoop

In the 1960s, Glasgow experienced an increase housing programs, a slang term for the type of low-income apartment building or housing found in American cities. According to Atlas Obscura, these housing blocks were generally devoid of development once the housing was completed: few grocery stores or other stores joined the network, forcing occupants to move from the outskirts of the city to more densely populated areas. to shop.

To meet basic needs, ice cream truck vendors reassigned their vans to sell groceries, toiletries, newspapers and other things people needed on a daily basis. Instead of going to a store, the store would come to them.

It was a novel idea in theory, but it quickly turned sour. If the salespeople were selling conventional products, they would earn a reasonable living. But if they sold stolen goods like cigarettes, they would make even more money. In the 1970s, ice cream trucks offered a different kind of treat with popsicles and fudge bars.

Although there have been isolated cases of drug trafficking, including heroin, these allegations appear to have been grossly exaggerated in the press. Trucks were making enough money selling basic commodities – sometimes with hot items – to keep drugs out.

Yet the illicit industry has grown so large that the local Glasgow task force, the Serious Crimes Squad, became known as the Serious Chimes Squad, after the ice cream truck jingles came out of the speakers.

With the profits came a fierce struggle for the land. Concessionaires saw housing programs as profitable and sought to control “their” share of the action by whatever means necessary. A driver can attack another’s truck with bricks or pieces of wood, in the hope of demolishing their mobile storefront. If you were a driver, you kept knives or axes handy, ready to defend your business. Sometimes the trucks were targeted by low level thugs who just wanted to make a quick score.

Anyone involved in or witnessing the thug clash could see that things could easily take a deadly turn. And in 1984, that’s exactly what happened.

The big thrill

Andrew Doyle, 18, was an ice cream driver in Glasgow just trying to market frozen treats and household items. According to some accounts, the trouble started when he refused to sell drugs; others reported that he was not allowed to operate in housing programs. Either way, Doyle made enemies and was intimidated, threatened, and assaulted. In February 1984, someone shot through his windshield, but missed it.

He refused to back down. It would be a fatal decision.

At 2 a.m. on April 16, 1984, Doyle’s family home in the Ruchazie district of Glasgow was the target of arson; the assailants sprayed part of the apartment with petrol. While this may have come from an attempt to scare Doyle, the ensuing fire killed him as well as his brothers, Daniel and Anthony, his sister Christine, his nephew Mark, and his father, James. (Her mother, Lillian, and two other brothers survived.)

The horrific incident prompted police and the general public to demand that the perpetrators be found. About four months after the investigation began, detectives settled on Joe Steele, 18, and Thomas “TC” Campbell, 22, who they said were responsible for trying to drive Doyle out of the area. . Another ice cream insider, William Love, told police he heard the men admit to the crime. Police also reported finding a map with an “X” above the Doyle House in Campbell’s residence. Although both men claimed they were innocent and there was no forensic evidence to link them to the crime, they were each given life sentences.

Expected appeals aside, Steele went to great lengths to refute the charges. He went on a hunger strike, then fled while visiting his mother. Police found him on a rooftop with banners claiming he was innocent. It was the first of three escapes, including one where Steele and four other inmates slipped through a wire fence during a period of outdoor recreation.

Just before sticking to Buckingham Palace, Steele told a reporter he was using breakouts as a form of expression. “If I had murdered the Doyles, I would have admitted it and done my time quietly and without any problem, to get early release,” he said. “But to get parole you have to admit your guilt and show remorse. I can’t admit my guilt or show remorse for something I didn’t do. “

After Love recanted – his testimony had apparently been an attempt at leniency for his own legal issues – Steele and Campbell both had their cases reopened in 2001 before being exonerated in 2004.

Steele told reporters he had never been involved in the ice cream scene and barely knew Campbell. (Campbell died in 2019 at the age of 66 from natural causes.)

While in prison, the Ice Wars in Glasgow began to subside. More and more stores have opened in the region, making vehicles less and less likely to serve as a front for legitimate business. To date, no one has ever been charged with the Doyle murders, although there have been some suspects. One of them, the late Gary Moore, reportedly confessed on his deathbed in 2010. Moore had been on the police radar but was never convicted due to insufficient evidence. The assertion of his confession was refuted by his widow.

Steele later said he suspected Campbell of knowing who was to blame, but would never share it, possibly for fear of retaliation. Steele himself suspected a gangster named Tam McGraw, who died in 2007 and who Steele says took advantage of the ice cream roads.

“I think TC knew more than I did about who exactly started this fire and destroyed so many lives in the process,” Steele said. “But we both come from a world where we lived by a code of silence no matter what, and he went to his grave with that.”


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