Not an account of drugs in Blackpool but a sketch of how drugs have played in life and crime in Blackpool.
JANE NICHOLSON 1895
The first drugs death that I know about was in 1895 when Jane Nicholson aged 37 died after taking opium which she bought at a shop in Foxhall.
TONY LEES 1980
Tony Lees 26 of King Street was fatally stabbed in a house in Park Road on October 18, 1980. Tony was described as a “punk rocker” and a “skinhead.” Alan Biggs admitted in court that he was “a layabout.” Alan Biggs was found not guilty however a man who was involved in attempting to conceal the weapon was jailed for 18 months for supplying morphine to 25 year old Aidan MacFarlane who died. Tony Lees has an elaborate tombstone in Layton Cemetery where he is buried with his sister who drowned at Norcross.
CHRIS HARTLEY 1997
Chris Hartley was only 17 when he was murdered by Stuart Diamond. Chris was from Burnley and he had come to Blackpool looking for work. He had found a job on the Pleasure Beach and had a girlfriend. He took to taking heroin and cannabis and lost his job and his girlfriend and became homeless. Stuart Diamond found Chris Hartley wondering the streets in the early hours and lured him to Stuart’s flat in Park Road where Stuart Diamond decapitated Chris Hartley and dismembered his body in the bathroom and then carried the body in three parts to a bin at the back of the New Century Hotel in Reads Avenue.
CHARLENE DOWNES, PAIGE CHIVERS, FRANK CHIVERS 2003- 2015
Charlene Downes disappeared on November 30 2003. She has been murdered and her body never been found.
Did Charlene Downes use amphetamines? The latest photographs show her as gaunt and
with tooth problems. Thanks to a moderator of Real Justice for Charlene for pointing this out to me. You can see a contrast between the earlier and later Charlene.
Amphetamines are available and cheap, they are an appetite suppressant and cause dental problems. The unreality and euphoria of amphetamines might nable the hectic sleazy life involving many older white men and take away workers… on two occasions she was driven to northern towns and was paid after encounters with take-away staff. We know from girls of a similar age that drugs were part of their lifestyle.
When I wrote City of Darkest Night I wrote about the death of Paige Chivers: “Her (Paige’s) father was murdered in an unrelated incident.” Briefly Paige was murdered by Robert Ewing and her body has never been recovered. Robert Ewing far right paedophile had befriended Paige Chivers. The world he offered was a world of peace and calm contrasted with life at home where her father managed to reprimand her for using drugs whilst using use drugs. Paige’s mother had recently died. Perhaps to deal with unbearable grief both Paige and her father turned to drugs. They had an argument over money… and Paige stormed off into the welcoming home of Robert Ewing. Paige used amphetamines, cannabis and alcohol. Robert Ewing welcomed Paige and other young girls to his home in Bispham where they took drugs. Paige was last seen at the bus-stop in Bispham with an older man.
Eventually Robert Ewing was convicted of the murder of Paige Chivers. Gareth Dewhurst was convicted of helping dispose of the body. Gareth had confessed to his girlfriend’s 16 year old son under the influence of cannabis. This gave the Police the evidence needed to scrutinise Robert Ewing.
Frank Chivers had lost his wife Sheila and his daughter. In spite of Frank’s rows with Paige they may have loved one another. Frank Chivers was murdered on 11 August 2015 at his home in Walter Robinson Court following a fight with another addict about money.
ALAN ROSSER 1999
In November 1999 Alan Rosser was shot in the head at his garage in back Eaves Street. It is the only case I know about in Blackpool that was a contract killing. Alan Rosser, 34, had a conviction involving cannabis. He was a keen clubber going to clubs in Manchester, Sheffield and Wolverhampton. In the words of the detective leading the investigation he was: “Well known to DJs and door staff.”
Was he involved in drug-trafficking? Did he owe money?
He had been kidnapped by ten men, beaten with iron bars and left by the side of the M55. His garage had been robbed of £40,000 of equipment.
By the time three men were tried for kidnapping in December 1999 it was explained to the jury that Alan Rosser had died “in an unrelated incident.” Which makes you think that either Alan was enormously unlucky or that the incidents weren’t all that unrelated. One man was acquitted, Jason Gillard and Jason was a colourful character.
Jason helped a garage owner and drug dealer called Roger Ormsby buy a garage worth £200000 for £86000 from Mr X. Roger Ormsby was found shot dead in his BMW in January 2000. Jason turned his attention to Mr X. In the course of negotiations for the garage somebody had torched Mr X’s home. Mr X had received insurance and Jason started to brood… wasn’t he entitled to the insurance? He threatened Mr X including a threat to “cap” him. Mr X contacted the Police who used phone-tapping to record threats. In 2003 Jason Gillard was imprisoned for eight years. In 2011 he was again imprisoned for his part in a 2 million pound cocaine distribution racket.
Alan Rosser the thought: “out of his depth.”
MARK WHITE AND NICHOLAS TYLDESLEY 1993-2001
On Christmas Eve 2001 James Docherty a heroin addict murdered another heroin addict Nicholas Tyldesley aged 46 in Layton. Docherty had already been convicted for his part in the murder of Mark White in 1993. Gary Ward and James Docherty were working as doormen and they were convicted for the murder and manslaughter of Mark White. The attack was notably savage. Gary Ward has since claimed that he was intimidated into confessing by James Docherty. He has maintained his innocence… a claim that has delayed his release.
At the second trial of James Docherty the judge commented on the similarity between the two attacks. James Docherty a serial killer? Is it possible that Gary Ward is innocent? How probable is it that two people died in similar ways , one man is present at both attacks and there are two different perpetrators?
Miscarriage of justice? I don’t know.
SOPHIE JONES 2014
Sophie Jones aged two died after she drank stored Methadone at her home in Blackpool. Her father and his girlfriend were jailed for 8 years. The Methadone was being hoarded and resold and kept in a children’s mug.
Heroin is the drug most associated with overdoses… a former addict told me that they should have a memorial plaque on the toilets of the Dinmore Pub in Grange park dedicated to the addicts who have died there. The Dinmore isn’t there any more, when it was being demolished a body was found…. a man had been hiding out from the Police. I don’t want to paint too bleak a picture of the Dinmore its country and western nights were a thing of wonder and I recall when a rag and bone man used to leave his horse and cart in the car park…
The toilets at Cocker Street have seen two groups of two addicts found dead from heroin overdoses.
In the New Beverley Hotel in Pleasant Street six addicts died in two years.
Talk to any heroin addict or former addict and they will tell you of numbers friends who have died.
WHAT DID IT MEAN FOR BLACKPOOL
There are at this moment dozens of people walking around desperate for money. Anything that can be stolen will be. Addicts go into supermarkets and steal as much as they can. It isn’t unusual to read about an addict being chased by a security guard along Central Drive carrying 17 pieces of cheese. The craving trascends values. A girl who knew Charlene Downes claims her mother… an addicted prostitute… sold her when she was twelve for £250. The daughter became a prostitute and addict.
In some American cities traditional prostitution has vanished because of the number of addicts . I have had maybe a dozen bikes stolen and mostly they will have been stolen by addicts. Chemists, surgeries, hospitals are targets.
Blackpool was never a model of law and order but addiction coincided with the decline of Blackpool as a holiday resort and the running down of the Police Service, under all kinds of pleasant sounding phrases (community policing) the proportion of Police Officers to the public has been diminishing. Police have been displaced by Security Firms evolved from protection rackets… recall Mark White was murdered by two doormen working for a security firm.
The money to be from heroin, cocaine and cannabis and other drugs is in a different league from other crime. In the eighties bank robbery had become more unusual. The optimists said it was because of improved design and security but it was because the profits in drug smuggling were greater and easier. Some people… baggage handlers at Heathrow, Metropolitan Police and Liverpool Dockers lived in mansions. It was said the if you weren’t dishonest it was no good applying for these jobs. The onset of containers, the skimpy customs checks and of globalisation meant that something like one lorry in three thousand entering the UK is checked. Economic prosperity means unchecked trade. The global centres have moved, Turkey, Thailand, Marseilles, Amsterdam. Some countries benefit from smuggling. Whatever their other failings the Taliban were effective at limiting poppy growth so that when they were overthrown the global price of heroin went down and its purity increased… our warlord allies who were keen poppy growers. Camp Bastion was neighbour to a poppy growing enterprise.
A nightclub culture and a population of young isolated single people and holiday-makers out for a good time make Blackpool a lucrative target for drug dealers. Liverpool was the drugs wholesaler of the UK and you could make a living buying drugs in Liverpool and selling then elsewhere. Importers sold to big dealers who would divide the market amongst smaller dealers. At street level there was competition and the shootings and stabbings that followed. Vulnerable children are recruited. Drug marketing sometimes brought structure and meaning into the lives of young people. An unarmed drug dealer is a vanishing species… with exceptions: around universities there has been little violence. The fiercest violence is among young men in existing gangs in deprived estates close to prosperous areas. Competition over drug supply has intensified previous gang tension. Council estates in London adjoining million pound homes where cocaine in the new chardonnay.
Blackpool has seen surprisingly little competitive violence amongst suppliers. By now there are so many drugs and supply chains that anybody with the skills could set up with little to fear, We have gone from a monopoly to a free market.
With the retreat of policing in the UK security firms filled the gap. The core of the new security firms was a previous protection gang. There is not much difference between taking money from a nightclub owner to providing door staff. Gangs could launder money through the business. Some gangs found that business was more profitable than crime. Billy Hill the fore-runner of the Krays made more money running a casino than he had through his crime empire.
But imagine. We are talking about the time of trance music. You could be in a nightclub and 50% of the dancers have taken ecstasy or something similar. And many of them have bought it in the club. The doormen grant monopolies to their drug- dealers. . In his book Blackpool Rock Steve Sinclair takes us on a journey into the life of a Security employee. Some of the work is legitimate, most of it involves recovering debts or providing protection for a drug deal. Drugs and nightclubs are fundamental.
Blackpool attracted the attention of Arthur Thompson.
Arthur Thompson ran a state within a state in Scotland. Arthur Thompson provided weapons for Loyalists in Northern Ireland and the security services used this to persuade him to become an informer. Arthur Thompson was no softy… his specialism was nailing people to the floor, but if you supplied weapons to Loyalists your life expectancy would be the duration of an aircraft flight from Belfast.
Just to get a picture of what Arthur was like: a car bomb intended for Arthur killed his mother in law. Driving around Arthur saw two men in a van he thought were responsible. He drove straight at them and they were both killed trying to avoid him. His wife Rita forced her way into the home of one of the widows and stabbed her.
Arthur set up his son Arthur Jnr called Fatboy in Blackpool in the 1980’s. Fatboy was imprisoned over a heroin deal that went wrong and on a visit home from prison he was shot and died in his father’s arms. Fatboy’s sister had recently died of a heroin overdose.
Paul Ferris was tried for the murder of Fatboy and the attempted murder of Arthur Thompson. The intelligence services helped gather evidence it was said because they had sophisticated listening devices. But possibly because the Police were unreliable. Paul Ferris was acquitted and ran a security firm amongst other things providing security for Dunbarton Sheriff Court and a Nursing Home where 14 of the residents died in a fire.
Paul Ferris’s brother Billy escaped from Prison and came to Blackpool where he became involved with the sister of Steve Sinclair. He was one of the “most wanted.” Eventually he was recaptured by armed police in Blackpool. After his release he killed somebody else…
So where did all these drugs come from? Well there were so many routes into the United Kingdom that the only way that drugs were seized was on the basis on intelligence. One route was through sea-going yachts. A yacht would voyage from the Netherlands or Spain to a marina such as Fleetwood where there would probably be minimal customs checks. This became a hobby for wealthier types… it got so that a middleman would arrange the yacht hire, the concealment, the route and the collection. The downside was that it might be that the middleman was buying immunity by giving intelligence. You can see the temptation… you have no criminal record and one trip could net you a million.
Alan Brooks from Blackpool operated a smuggling network from Marbella. He had been a coalman and a car dealer in Blackpool and he bought his first house when he was 20. He had a history of fraud. His yacht sailing from the Caribbean was intercepted off the coast of Cork with !50 tons of cocaine aboard and he was jailed for 28 years in 2012. The cocaine was worth 150 million.
I can’t resist including the story of Cocky Warren. Cocky was in the Times Rich List. He began as a doorman and became a successful and inventive smuggler. I used to watch a fly on the wall documentary called Mersey Blues about police in Liverpool and I saw some of this nearly as it happened. There was an old school detective called Elly Davies. He was disgruntled because he had been overlooked for promotion. It seems that Internal Investigations routinely monitor phone calls of police officers. At least that is what was said I’m not sure if I believe it. Anyway Elly got a phone call from Cocky Warren asking him to help out with a case where a friend’s son had shot a bouncer… the point was to discredit the evidence. Probably the point of contact was Elly’s flatmate Michael Ahearne. Michael was a warrior on the Gladiator TV programme and he had worked with Cocky as a doorman. It is said that Elly loved Michael like a younger brother. Elly Davies was jailed for five years.
THE PHARMACEUTICAL INDUSTRY.
Recently life expectancy fell in the USA for the first time in living memory. One reason was the opioid crisis. An 2016 it was estimated that 16 million Americans misused opioids and 2 million were addicted. A New Scientist Article reports that opioid deaths have been chronically underestimated and the accurate number is 450000 since 1999. Or American casualties in eight Vietnam wars or 150 9/11s. The pharmaceutical industry aggressively marketed painkillers which were not addictive. Except they were. Recall that opium, heroin, morphine, amphetamines and barbituates were all introduced as pharmaceutical products. Vicodin and Pecocet were two of the products that doctors were… how can I put this tactfully… bribed… to prescribe. The government subsidised painkillers through Medicare. It was a marketing triumph and a human tragedy. When prescriptions stopped many used heroin or more dangerously fentanyl as a substitute. Perdue Phamaceuticals faced a corporate lawsuit but went bankrupt after the family had taken payments. One of the most promising drugs in dealing with heroin and opioid addiction is Buprenorphine which has been impressively successful in reducing deaths in France. It eliminates the craving in addicts. It has a “ceiling” so that if you double the dose you do not double the effect and it is also almost non-toxic. Perdue Pharmaceuticals showed an interest in developing it.
From 1999 to 2017 the American Pharmaceutical Industry killed more people than it saved.
Walking around I often see these silver cylinders everywhere and I wondered what they are. A little research… they contain nitrous oxide… “hippy crack.”
I was in my off-licence and a man came in and bought ten canisters of butane.
Waiting for a bus I saw a young man frozen like a statue in the middle of the road the traffic going round him. After a while he went into a very upmarket jewellers. I wonder what happened next?
You smell marijuana on the streets.
A manager of a hostel for homeless people told me he would much rather deal with heroin addicts than people who use spice because the behaviour of spice (synthetic marijuana) users is so unpredictable.
There are so many kinds of drug in use and so many suppliers that the price is at rock bottom. There are drugs like spice which is cheaper than alcohol (and you can get pretty drunk for £2.00 using industrial strength cider) or there are high end drugs like cocaine which has social cachet. I don’t think people in the golf club would use spice but the racier members might do some coke.
And there is skunk, genetically engineered super strong cannabis, and MDMA the form of LSD that young people use. And use it they do. A third of university students regularly use class A and B drugs, In student areas of Leeds there are professionally printed cards that give prices… you ring up and the drugs are delivered.
SO WHAT SHOULD WE DO?
I used to think that all drugs should be banned and the law enforced doggedly but I no longer think this can be done. I applauded when “head shops” were banned. You could buy products closely linked to illegal drugs. But I now think I was wrong. The same product is used but its supply is unregulated. I think the immediate treatment for an addict is to supply the substance they crave. This used to be done in England and was briefly revived in Liverpool where heroin was prescribed to addicts in a form where it was smoked rather than injected. This enabled addicts to work and the death rate and crime rate went down. The experiment was closed down it is said because of objections from the American Government. In Switzerland addicts are prescribed maintenance doses and the death rate is low. This was not because the Swiss are ultra-liberal: following an epidemic of addiction and AIDS infection they tried severe prohibition and it didn’t work, they turned to tolerance on a pragmatic basis and deaths and infections fell.
Many banned substances have low toxicity… there has never been a death associated with magic mushrooms which are a Class A drug. If you had a loved child you would have much more reason to worry if she took up smoking or drinking than if she popped a few magic mushrooms at weekend.
Opium was used 7000 years ago and was one of the first crops to be farmed.
My former drug dealer friend told me he sold ecstasy at night clubs and regular customers were from the drug squad. If we make our aim the reduction of harm we should allow purchase of drugs at licensed premises with advice on use. Many deaths are caused by the use of heroin with unpredictable levels of purity. Apart from the deaths caused by drugs there are also deaths caused by competition amongst gangs and the only reason gangs exist is because of the profits and the profits only happen because of the prohibition. No profits no gangs. The sums of money swirling through the system through profits from drug dealing are corrupting. One strange issue is that London is a major money laundering centre. Drug dealers like London because the strong law enforcement and financial services and legal representation mean that they can live safe lives in houses bought through shell companies operating out of say the British Virgin Islands. But now I’ve had a rant I’ll stop and go back to Blackpool.
Blackpool has the highest rate of heroin and morphine deaths in the UK. 4.7 per 100000 compared with the English average of 1.7. It may be that these are associated with Trainspotting Generation… the average age is 49.
Like many people although I try to be liberal left kind of person I feel a shrinking from addicts, a feeling that they are not quite the same as me. And I am right they have slipped the guide rope and experienced joys and sorrows I can never know. I recall talking to an ex-addict who had lost two girlfriends to addictions. Only an ex-addict would have that kind of memory. Addicts are people first and the cause is poverty. Blackpool has the most deprived communities in the UK. Why should poverty make you take drugs? Relief of pain. I think I remember reading about George Orwell being is some god awful place (Rochdale? Wigan?) he went into a pub and said to the barman: “What’s the fastest way out of here?” And the barman said: “Bottle of gin.”
Imagine you have heroin addiction. You need £50 a day. Your choices are dealing, prostitution or theft. Or rehabilitation but there are long waiting lists so how do you manage until you get a place? And isn’t the prohibition promoting gangs and corruption? A recent case involved HMRC who had a previous good record. HMRC were running a participating informant. That is an informant who was involved in smuggling. An HMRC officer planned to use intelligence. However the would-be importer needed money to order the drug so the HMRC officer allowed him to sell heroin as seed money for a later operation. See the problem? The organisation tasked with preventing the sale of drugs is selling drugs.
Aside from the corruption Police Officers are tied up enforcing laws that cannot be enforced while areas of crime, internet fraud for example, are not investigated.
These are my views at this second. Always subject to change