Alan Rosser was 34 when he died.
He was treasured by Mods or Retro Mods for “Modding Up” Vespa Scooters. He was hard-working and owned his own business, Imperial Engineering. In March 1999 equipment worth £40000 was stolen from his garage, Imperial Engineering, at back Eaves Street in North Shore.
A model citizen, then?
In other respects he was not such a model citizen. He had a committed a series of traffic offences and one conviction for cannabis possession.
On Friday November 12, 1999 at 6.30 pm he was shot in the head at close range with a .45 revolver and died the next morning in Preston. And we do not know who did it or why. Was it a contract killing? If it was it is the only contract killing that has ever happened in Blackpool ( as far as we know). There is a lot to think about: the influence of drugs, organised crime, the nature of contract killing and who becomes a contract killer.
Blackpool was always a drinking town but when drugs ( I suppose alcohol is a drug) were added the criminal landscape changed utterly. If you look at crime cases dealt with at the local Magistrate’s Court more than half involve drink or drugs. And Blackpool has the highest incidence of deaths involving heroin in Britain. The term “lethal cocktail” was so frequently used by the coroner that it became a dark joke: “Can I have a lethal cocktail?” The term “cocktail” is so unusual, so middle-class, I doubt if any of the victims of a “lethal cocktail” had ever had a non-lethal cocktail.
A sketch of drugs in Blackpool: when I was writing about Paige Chivers, who used amphetamines, fell out with her father over money, and was murdered, I noted that her father was a heroin user: “Paige’s father was murdered in an unrelated incident.” He was murdered in an argument over £20.00. Paige was excluded from school over drug-use . Her father threatened her over money which led to her leaving home and her death. Her father died in an argument over money. One of the men involved in her murder confessed to his former girlfriend’s son when he was deeply influenced by marijuana.
Alan Rosser was a keen clubber. He travelled to Wolverhampton, Manchester and Sheffield. The officer in charge of the investigation said: “He was well known to DJs and door-staff.”
Alan had a conviction for cannabis possession. Why go clubbing in Sheffield Manchester and Woverhampton when there are umpteen clubs within walking distance? Could Alan Rosser have been involved in drug trafficking? Because Alan Rosser’s death looks like a contract killing it suggests a link with organised crime and drugs. The investigators believed that Alan could be involved in drug trafficking but at a low level.
This suspicion about drugs and gangs and debt grows stronger when we learn that he was kidnapped and beaten in March 1999, eight months before his death. He was kidnapped from his garage by a gang of eight to ten man gang, beaten with iron bars and left on the side of the M55.
Why? The most likely reason would be that he owed money. Why did he owe money? We don’t know.
Putting together a ten man kidnap gang, transporting them to Blackpool , finding Alan Rosser’s place of work, and kidnapping him all need a level of organisation and resources. Even stranger is the fact that the gang stole forty-thousand pounds worth of equipment from Alan Rosser’s garage.
THE MURDER INVESTIGATION
Following the murder there was an investigation involving 75 detectives. Detectives interviewed many people and built up a picture of Alan Rosser’s life.
It was assumed that the murder and the kidnapping were linked and involved debt and drugs.
Four men were tried at Carlisle Crown Court for the kidnapping in March of Alan Rosser. The jury were told that Alan Rosser had died since the kidnapping in an unrelated incident. The kidnappers had been investigated in connection with the murder and they were not suspects in that case. In December 1999 three men were convicted and one was found not guilty. Jason Gillard was the man who was found not guilty. The crucial fact in the case of Jason Gillard was that an eyewitness was unable to identify him. We will return to Jason Gillard.
Eyewitnesses saw a man running from near the garage on Dickson Road and along Carshalton Road towards Sherbourne Road. This man looked frightened and was concealing something. Probably his car was parked in or near Sherbourne Road. The man was tall and thin. There was an identikit drawing.
The Police had their work cut out. Because of his wide travels Alan Rosser’s acquaintances were widely spread. The Police said he was: “Well known to DJs and doormen.” As often with Alan Rosser you feel that they are keeping something back. If it was a contract killing Alan probably did not know his killer. People nearby said they heard shouting before the shot. So the killer probably lives somewhere else altogether and did not know his victim which makes it difficult to connect him with the crime.
In March 2000 two men from Manchester were briefly detained but they were released. So the case was and is unsolved.
You will recall that Jason Gillard was found not guilty for the kidnapping of Alan Rosser. He was alleged to have been the leader of the gang that kidnapped Alan Rosser. The evidence against him was a partial fingerprint at the Imperial Garage and DNA from a cigarette found in the van. The DNA only meant that Jason had been in the van. The partial fingerprint was too unreliable.
Jason Gillard led a full and interesting life.
In May 2003 at Minshull Crown Court in Manchester Jason Gillard was sentenced to eight years for two charges of blackmail. His victim was “Mr X”. Mr X was a businessman and garage owner. In 1996 he was persuaded to sell a garage worth £200000 to Roger Ormsby, a businessman, garage-owner and drug dealer.
He sold the garage for £86000. It is likely that he accepted this deal because Jason Gillard had threatened to torch his business and did set fire to his home. “Negotiating skills they don’t teach you at the Harvard Business School.”
Roger Ormsby, Jason’s colleague and the person who bought the garage from Mr X , was found shot dead at the wheel of his BMW in an alley in Moss Side in January 2000. (It tells you something about the area that somebody else was killed there the same year and this led the council to install better lighting.)
You might think that having helped Roger Ormsby secure the garage for £86000 when it was worth £200000 from Mr X Jason Gillard would feel satisfied.
This was not the case. He got to thinking that he had torched Mr X’s home and that Mr X had claimed insurance. Surely he, Jason Gillard, was entitled to that insurance money? After all he’d done the work of actually setting fire to Mr X’s home. The injustice of it rankled. So he went to see Mr X and told him he owed him money. Mr X gave him £1000. Hoping that Jason would go away. Jason then asked him for £2000 or Jason would “cap” Mr X. Mr X took that to mean that Jason would shoot him. Possibly the example of Roger Ormsby, shot in his BMW, gave this threat credibility. Mr X contacted the Police. The Police installed listening devices and were able to link a threatening telephone call to Jason Gillard.
There are many things here that give pause for thought. Jason Gillard was involved in two unsolved shootings and also threatened to shoot Mr X. He was a garage owner (like Alan Rosser and Roger Ormsby and Mr X) and he could use the equipment stolen from Alan Rosser. He was involved in drugs. He had a relentless need for money… we have to wonder why: was he an addict, did he collect Ming china? In the case of Mr X he only gained a thousand pounds and he went down for eight years. Even with remission he would serve a year for every £250. The sad likelihood is that Alan Rosser died over a trivial sum.
That is not to say that Jason Gillard had any part in Alan Rosser’s death and the police will have looked at this aspect to such an extent that it is near certain that Jason Gillard was not the killer of Alan Rosser. What it does illustrate is the world of organised crime linked to drugs. This is the world in which Alan Rosser might have become involved. There are not many contract killers around… I will come to this… it is possible that the same person killed Alan Rosser and Roger Ormsby.
Prison did not have any reformative effect on Jason Gillard. In 2011 he appeared at Plymouth Crown Court. He had been arrested earlier when he was part of a team thought to have distributed cocaine worth £2 million. He skipped bail, fled abroad and was arrested later when he contacted Police and returned to England.
WHO ARE CONTRACT KILLERS?
When I were a lad I used to drink at a pub where everybody knew the crime hierarchy and there were always rumours that there was a contract out on the local boss. It was all rubbish.
In fact contract killings are pretty rare. An academic study by by David Wilson investigated 36 contract killings. There was a wide range of competence and David Wilson believes that although the claimed cost of a hit is £15000 this is an overestimate and the true cost is about £3000. This is a staggering low amount considering the risks.
Many of the would-be killers are amateurs. In 2005 in Manchester two contract killers walked into a pub in Manchester and pointed a gun at their target. The gun jammed and they were both shot dead with the gun they had brought.
David Harrison was convicted of a contract killing in 2015. He was 63 and it is very possible that he committed many similar crimes. He may be the nearest thing to a professional contract killer.
CCTV, mobile phone tracing, automated number plate recognition all make this kind of crime more difficult than in the past. David Harrison’s location was tracked through his mobile phone.
A word of warning: although contract killing is the least detected murder don’t try it. Over and again ordinary people seeking contract killers ending up talking to undercover policemen (or policewomen obviously). Criminals are looking for a negotiating tool that they can use with the Police so if they can turn somebody in it is win/win for the Police and the crooks. In effect the criminal becomes an informant and therefore protected.
Alan Rosser’s workshop called “Imperial Engineering” is named after the Imperial Hotel, it is opposite the Imperial Hotel across Dickson Road, a whole area derived a living from the Imperial Hotel. Waiters, chefs, porters… and drug dealers, prostitutes, rent boys. It is interesting to think that it was here in the Imperial Hotel that another contract killing was planned. The attempted killing of Norman Scott by Tony Newton illustrates the unreliability treachery and sheer mind numbing stupidity which without moral considerations make using a contract killer a very dodgy proposition.
The average fee for a professional contract killing is £15000 but it can be as little as £200. You get what you pay for. There aren’t enough contract killings in the UK to keep even one contract killer in business.
There are probably a small number of effective contract killers who do it as part of business which might involve other crimes. Contract killings are often used in connection with marital difficulties and debt. It is hard to understand the circumstances of Alan Rosser’s killing because it made payment of a debt impossible. It could have been a combination of debt and rage. It could have been to prevent Alan Rosser giving evidence in the kidnapping case. Many gangland killings are intended to intimidate, but it is difficult to understand how this could apply to Alan Rosser.
This is Alan Rosser
Alan Rosser’s death has been the starting point for a journey but he was a living person. Like ourselves he might not have considered it deeply but he enjoyed his life. He was a hard worker. He was still at work at 6.30 pm on Friday evening when his life was ended by a man who probably didn’t know him for reasons we don’t know.
And a mother lost a son, a sister a brother and a brother a brother. And almost certainly over a trivial sum. At the centre of some acts of crime is an truly disorientating disproportion. A criminal values his own advantage at an utterly different level from somebody else’s disadvantage.
It is easy for me to write this because I was brought up in good circumstances. Imagine you were surrounded by violence and terrible need and had to compete relentlessly for everything. Would you…?
We are dealing with minds different from our minds and with a parallel state with its own codes.
Is there hope of justice for Alan. Is it possible seventeen years after the event to interview the three people convicted for the kidnapping and ask them if they want to say more ? It might clarify the circumstances. Or could improved forensics elicit more from the partial fingerprint?
Other than that it is unlikely we will know and we are filled with sadness for Alan Rosser who may have got mixed up with people beyond his imagining, people at the very edge of our own understanding.
Almost all the information came from the Blackpool Gazette. Thanks to that invaluable source Blackpool Local History Centre where local newspapers are available on microfilm.