Glasgow Ice Cream Wars

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File:Ice cream van adjusted.jpg
Ice cream vans, such as this one, announce their arrivals at the stops along their "runs" with musical chimes, played via loudspeakers.

The Glasgow Ice Cream Wars was a turf war in the East End of Glasgow in Scotland in the 1980s between rival criminal organisations selling drugs[1][2] and stolen goods[1] from ice cream vans. Van operators were involved in frequent violence and intimidation tactics. A driver and his family were killed in an arson attack that resulted in a 20-year court battle. The conflicts generated widespread public outrage, and earned the Strathclyde Police the nickname the "serious chimes squad" (a pun on Serious Crime Squad) for its perceived failure to address them.[3][4]


Drugs and stolen goods

The conflicts, in which vendors raided one another's vans and fired shotguns into one another's windscreens, were more violent than might typically be expected between ice-cream salesmen. Superficially, the violence appeared disproportionate, and the situation appeared farcical.[4] However, more than just the sale of ice-cream was involved. Several ice-cream vendors also sold drugs and stolen goods[1] along their routes, using the ice cream sales as fronts, and much of the violence was either intimidation or competition relating to these.[5]

Arson attack

The culmination of the violence came on 16 April 1984 with the murder by arson of six members of the Doyle family, in the Ruchazie housing estate. Eighteen-year-old Andrew Doyle, nicknamed "Fat Boy", a driver for the Marchetti firm, had resisted being intimidated into distributing drugs[1] on his run, and attempts to take over his run – resistance that had already led to him being shot by an unidentified assailant through the windscreen of his van.[1]

A further so-called frightener was planned against him. At 02:00, the door on the landing outside the top-floor flat in Ruchazie where he lived with his family was doused with petrol and set alight. The members of the Doyle family, and three additional guests who were staying the night in the flat that night, were asleep at the time. The resulting blaze killed five people, with a sixth dying later in hospital: James Doyle, aged 53; his daughter Christina Halleron, aged 25; her 18-month-old son Mark; and three of Mr Doyle’s sons, James, Andrew (the target of the intimidation), and Tony, aged 23, 18, and 14 respectively.[3]

Court case

Chronology of the court case[6]
  • 1984: Campbell and Steele convicted.
  • 1989: The first appeal fails.
  • 1992: Love states that he lied under oath.
  • 1993: Steele escapes from prison and stages a protest by supergluing himself to the railings outside of Buckingham Palace.
  • 1993: Steele stages a rooftop protest at his mother's house whilst on leave from prison.
  • 1997: Secretary of State for Scotland Michael Forsyth grants interim freedom to Campbell and Steele, pending a second appeal.
  • February 1998: Campbell and Steele return to prison when three Court of Appeal judges reach a split decision.
  • December 1998: Scottish Secretary Donald Dewar rejects a petition to refer the case to the appeal court again.
  • July 2000: The new Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission goes to court to request all Crown documents.
  • November 2001: The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission refers the case to the appeal court for the third time.
  • December 2001: Campbell and Steele are again freed by Lord Justice Clerk, Lord Gill, pending the outcome of the appeal.
  • March 2004: Campbell's and Steele's convictions are quashed by the Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh.

The ensuing public outrage in Glasgow at the deaths was considerable. Strathclyde Police arrested several people over the following months, eventually charging six of them. Four were tried and convicted of offences relating to the vendettas. The remaining two, Thomas "T C" Campbell and Joe Steele, were tried for the murders, convicted unanimously (unanimity is not required in Scotland)[note 1] and sentenced to life imprisonment, of which they were to serve no fewer than 20 years according to the judge's recommendation. Campbell was also separately convicted (again with the jury returning a unanimous verdict) of involvement in the earlier shotgun attack, and sentenced to serve 10 years in prison for that.[4][7]

What ensued was a 20-year court battle by the two men, one of the more contentious in Scottish legal history, and, in the later words of Campbell's solicitor, Aamer Anwar, speaking in 2004, "20 years of hunger strikes, prison breakouts, demonstrations, political pressure, solitary isolation, prison beatings, [and] legal fight after legal fight".[2][4]

The Crown's case against Campbell and Steele rested on three pieces of evidence:[4][7]

  • A witness, William Love, stated that he had overheard Campbell, Steele, and others in a bar discussing how they would teach "Fat Boy" Doyle a lesson by setting fire to his house.
  • The police stated that Campbell had made a statement, recorded by four officers, that "I only wanted the van [windows] shot up. The fire at Fat Boy's was only meant to be a frightener which went too far."
  • The police stated that a photocopied A–Z street map of Glasgow, on which the Doyle house in Bankend St was marked with an X, was found in Campbell's flat.

According to the Crown, Campbell was a man with a record of violence (he had already served several years in prison in the 1970s, and had been back in prison from 1982 to 1983) who had entered the ice cream van business in 1983, and who had been keen to protect his "patch" against the rival Marchetti family; and Steele was Campbell's henchman, a sidekick recruited to help with the dirty work in Campbell's planned campaign of violence against Marchetti drivers and vans.[3]

The defence rejected the Crown's evidence during the 27-day trial, and afterwards Campbell continued to assert that he had been "fitted up" by both Love and the police. Campbell described Love during the trial as "a desperado" who had been willing to be a witness, pointing the finger at (in Campbell's words) "any one of us", to avoid going to prison himself, having been granted bail in exchange for testimony. Campbell denied that he had made any such statement to the police as was claimed, asserted that the police had planted the map in his house, and claimed that when he had been arrested and taken to Baird Street police station, a senior police officer had told him "This is where we do the fitting up. I am going to nail you to the wall.". He stated that at the time of the fire he had been at home with his wife. Steele also stated an alibi for the time of the fire.[3][8]

After conviction, Campbell and Steele tried to have their conviction overturned in 1989, but failed.

Several years later, in 1992, two journalists, Douglas Skelton and Lisa Brownlie, wrote a book, Frightener, about the conflicts and the trial. They interviewed Love for the book, who stated, and later signed affidavits attesting, that he had lied under oath. In Love's own words "I did so because it suited my own selfish purposes. The explanation as to why I gave evidence is this: The police pressurised me to give evidence against Campbell, who they clearly believed was guilty of arranging to set fire to Doyle's house.".[3][4]

As a result, both Campbell and Steele engaged in campaigns of protest to attempt to publicise their cases. Steele escaped from prison several times, to make high profile demonstrations, including a rooftop protest and supergluing himself to the railings at Buckingham Palace. Campbell protested whilst remaining in Barlinnie prison, going on hunger strike, refusing to cut his hair, and making a documentary. After a lengthy legal argument, the Secretary of State for Scotland referred the case to the appeal court, granting Campbell and Steele interim freedom pending its outcome.[3]

The appeal failed. The three appeal judges reached a split decision on whether the fresh evidence relating to Love's testimony (and relating to a potentially exculpatory statement made to the police by Love's sister, which had not been disclosed to the Defence at the trial) would have significantly affected the outcome of the original trial, and thus should be heard. Lord Cullen and Lord Sutherland both opined that it would have not, with Lord McCluskey dissenting. Campbell and Steele were returned to prison.[8][9]

The legal fight continued. A further petition was presented to the Scottish Secretary asking for the case to be referred back to the Court of Appeal. Donald Dewar refused to refer the case, because he did not "believe that they present[ed] grounds for a referral of the case to the appeal court". Solicitors for Campbell and Steele then took the case to the then newly created Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission, which then took up the case.[10]

The Commission first requested and received material from the Crown Office. It then went to court to obtain further Crown paperwork relating to the case, including government correspondence. The Crown fought against the release of the paperwork, on the grounds that the Commission had not justified it gaining access to the paperwork and that the papers were in the same category as paperwork that the Commission had already been denied access to by Scottish Executive's Justice Department. Lord Clarke ruled in favour of the Commission being granted access to the paperwork, stating that "The commission [has] a statutory obligation to carry out a full, independent and impartial investigation into alleged miscarriages of justice." and that "Legislation under which [it acts] was clearly designed to give the widest powers to perform that duty.".[11][12]


The Commission decided that the case should be referred back to the appeal court. Pending the outcome of the appeal Lord Justice Clerk, Lord Gill, granted Campbell and Steele interim freedom a second time.[8]

Three years later, the appeal was heard by the appeal court, and it succeeded. Lord Gill, Lord MacLean, and Lord Macfadyan quashed the convictions as a result of hearing new evidence and because of what they stated to be significant misdirection of the jury by the judge at the original trial. The new evidence, which was not contradicted by the Crown, was from Brian Clifford, a professor of cognitive psychology, who testified that the recollection of Campbell's statement by the four police officers at the time of the original trial was "too exact". Clifford had performed studies where he tested people in Scotland and England on their ability to recall things that they had just heard. His results were that people only recalled between 30% and 40% of the actual words they heard, and that the highest score obtained by anyone trying to recall what Campbell was supposed to have said was 17 words out of the 24 used. He concluded that people process utterances for "meaning rather than [for] actual wording". He stated that these results "strongly suggested that it was not at all likely" that the officers would be able to record Campbell's statement "in such similar terms". The appeal judges concluded that "any jury hearing Prof. Clifford's evidence would have assessed the evidence of the arresting police officers in an entirely different light" and that the evidence "is of such significance that the verdicts of the jury, having been returned in ignorance of it, must be regarded as miscarriages of justice". Campbell (represented by Maggie Scott QC) and Steele were freed.[2][3][7][13]

The original trial judge, Lord Kincraig, who had told Campbell and Steele in court at the original trial that he regarded them as "vicious and dangerous men", at that point in his 80s and having been retired for 18 years, spoke out against the ruling of the appeal court days afterward, stating that he could not "accept there was a conspiracy among the police". At the original trial he had instructed the jury that to believe Campbell and Steele's assertions was to accept that "not one or two or four but a large number of detectives have deliberately come here to perjure themselves, to build up a false case against an accused person" and to accept the implication that there had been a conspiracy by police officers of the "most sinister and serious kind" to "saddle the accused wrongly with the crimes of murder and attempted murder, and a murder of a horrendous nature". After the convictions were quashed, he criticised the appeal court for "[usurping] the function of the jury" in that "The function of the jury is to decide questions of fact not law." and that the appeal court "seem[s] to have said that evidence is not believable, which is the jury's province. That's a decision in fact. The court of appeal has decided in fact the jury was wrong.".[13][14]

Campbell called for a fresh investigation of the murder of the Doyle family, accusing Tam McGraw both of the original murders and of instigating a campaign over 20 years to ensure that Campbell remained in jail and was silenced, including repeated attempts on Campbell's life. But commentators considered it unlikely that a fresh investigation would be launched as a result of the convictions being quashed and the fresh evidence that had been presented since the original trial. This was in part because claims by Campbell against a man whom he is viewed to clearly hate are viewed with scepticism (His stabbing in 2002 was believed at the time to be part of a long running tit-for-tat feud between the two men.), and in part because two police officers who had been heavily involved in the case had since died. Detective Superintendent Norrie Walker had been found dead in his fume-filled car in 1988, and Detective Chief Superintendent Charles Craig, head of the Criminal Investigation Department at the time of the murders, had died in 1991.[13][14][15]

In popular culture

The Bill Forsyth movie Comfort and Joy (1984) is a fictional comedy about two Italian ice cream vendor families in Glasgow in a conflict very similar to real events.[16]

See also



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 ""Ice-cream wars" verdicts quashed as justice system faulted". The Scotsman. Retrieved 2015-01-16. The events [began] as rival gangs fought for the control of lucrative ice-cream van runs used as a front for distributing stolen goods and heroin"; "Andrew "Fat Boy" Doyle [...] refused to be intimidated into distributing drugs on his route – something which had already earned him a punishment shooting from an unknown assailant.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 "Ice Cream Wars pair win freedom". BBC News. 17 March 2004.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 Dan McDougall and John Robertson (18 March 2004). ""Ice-cream wars" verdicts quashed as justice system faulted". The Scotsman.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 Alan Taylor (30 September 2001). "A hard man who's still fighting". The Sunday Herald.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "When the Ice Van Cometh". The Sunday Herald. 14 May 2006.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Glasgow Two". Innocent.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> — a history of the case, and a photograph of Joe Steele supergluing himself to the railings of Buckingham Palace in 1993 in order to protest his innocence
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Jason Bennetto (18 February 2004). "Ice-cream wars confession "unreliable"". The Independent.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 "Ice Cream Wars duo freed for appeal". BBC News. 11 December 2001.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "Back Ground: The Glasgow Two".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "Ice Cream Wars campaign goes on". BBC News. 2 December 1998.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "New move in ice cream wars case". BBC News. 10 July 2000.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "Ice cream wars papers "closer to release"". BBC News. 29 August 2000.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 Ian Johnston (21 March 2004). "Ice cream trial judge slams appeal verdict". The Scotsman.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. 14.0 14.1 Ian Johnston (21 March 2004). "Who did kill the Doyles?". The Scotsman.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. "Ice Cream Wars convict stabbed". BBC News. 29 April 2002.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. Comfort and Joy on IMDb

Further reading

  • Jammy Dodgers is a fictional crime novel depicting the scene in Glasgow at the time of the Ice Cream Wars.
  • Douglas Skelton and Lisa Brownlie (18 September 1992). Frightener: Glasgow Ice Cream Wars. Mainstream Publishing. ISBN 1-85158-474-9.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • "Glasgow "ice cream war" case". The Scotsman.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> – The Scotsman's index of its coverage of the Glasgow "ice cream war" case.
  • Robin Johnston (June 2004). "Ice cream verbals". The Journal. p. 22.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> — a detailed study of Clifford's research and testimony, its analysis during the appeal hearing, its consequences, and several related cases
  • David Leslie (October 2002). "Crimelord: The Licensee": The True Story of Tam McGraw. Black and White Publishing. ISBN 1-84596-166-8.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> – McGraw was arrested as a suspect for the killings of the Doyle family at one point.
  • Robert Jeffrey (October 2002). Gangland Glasgow: True Crime from the Streets. Black and White Publishing. ISBN 1-902927-59-1.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Tom Wall (February 2003). "Justice on Ice". Socialist Review.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • T.C. Campbell and Reg McKay (11 April 2002). Indictment: Trial by Fire. Canongate Books Ltd. ISBN 1-84195-235-4.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> – Campbell's own account of his trial and subsequent incarceration