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Friday, 10 March, 2000, 06:44 GMT
Lived fast, died young

By BBC News Online's Chris Summers

Live fast, die young. That is the ethos of the Hell's Angels.

So what Dutch police discovered in Haarlem's Club Esther brothel in the early hours of 22 February should have come as no surprise.

Four men - one of them a full member of the Hell's Angels, another a "prospect" and two friends - had been gunned down.

The bloody scene was reminiscent of the violent feud between the Angels and their arch-rivals, the Bandidos, which claimed more than a dozen lives across Scandinavia in the 1990s.

The Hell's Angels
Formed in California in 1950s by Ralph 'Sonny' Barger and named after World War II plane.
They spread to Europe in the late 1960s and there are now 100 chapters worldwide
In 1996 a war broke out in Scandinavia between the Angels and the rival Bandidos.
At one point the Bandidos stole a cache of missiles from a Swedish Army base and fired one at a Hell's Angels clubhouse in Denmark.
In September 1997 Angels leader Bent Svane agreed a truce with top Bandido Big Jim Tinndahn.
But the Bandidos are virtually non-existent in the Netherlands and police have had to look for deeper motives.

Unlike the practice in Britain and the United States, detectives in Holland rarely provide details of crimes and refuse to name victims.

'Not nice guys'

A Dutch police spokesman told BBC News Online that two of the victims were aged 39 and from Haarlem, another was aged 32 and the fourth, who came from Gouda, was 37.

He refused to speculate on a possible motive or say whether the dead men had criminal records, saying simply: "They were not nice guys".

In recent weeks Haarlem has seen big funerals for two of the victims.

Some 1,500 people - including 400 bikers - attended the funeral of the Hell's Angel, who was known to his friends as Fakko.

Another 1,200 people attended a Catholic mass for one of the other victims, who came from Holland's tiny gypsy or "Kamper" community.

Hell's Angels
There are Hell's Angels chapters all over Europe
Club Esther, one of three such sex clubs in the north of Haarlem, had changed management in recent months and had become a notorious underworld hang-out.

Jon Oomkes, a reporter with the local Haarlems Dagblad newspaper, said the killings were almost certainly related to drugs or prostitution.

Colombian link

He told BBC News Online: "The Hell's Angels control much of the trade in cocaine, amphetamines and ecstasy in the Netherlands.

"Apparently they have connections with the Kampers, one of whose leaders is very closely linked with the [Colombian] Cali cartel."

Mr Oomkes said it was unclear what was behind last month's killings but suggested it was either part of a power struggle or the result of a disagreement over drugs.

"Maybe somebody ripped someone else off," he said.

He said his paper had spoken to several witnesses who described the killer - a well-dressed man, unlike his leather-clad victims, and possibly of Italian appearance - looking for someone else.

Fear of more violence

"But when he saw the four men he was apparently offended by the sight of them and started shooting," said Mr Oomkes.

The killer went up to each of the victims and finished them off with a final bullet to the head.

The official Hell's Angels website in the Netherlands has been inundated with messages of condolences from fellow bikers, some of whom have mentioned "revenge".

A doorman at the club has reportedly gone into hiding, fearing he will be targeted by the Angels.

Dutch police - who are still guarding Club Esther and searching for clues - are hoping the killings can be solved before they provoke a gang war on the scale of the Angels-Bandidos conflict.

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