Page last updated at 15:55 GMT, Sunday, 29 June 2008 16:55 UK

With the child gunmen of Liverpool


Panorama: Young Gunmen will be on BBC One at 7.30pm on Monday 30 June 2008.

By Graham Johnson
BBC Panorama

Since last October, on and off, I've been closely following the Moss Edz, a 20-strong gang from the Page Moss neighbourhood in Huyton. Their leader Lee is 14.

The Moss Edz fight with their rivals called the Dovey Edz, from the neighbouring Dovecot area, just a few hundred yards away along Liverpool Road.

Asked why they fight each other, the boss of the Dovey Edz gang said: "Because they're scumbags. They rob our women. They rob anyone who has got anything - they will rob it."

The tit-for-tat violence also acts as a training school from which older gang members, aged between 17 and 21, graduate to street and mid-level drug dealing.

Their gang is everything. That's their family
Lee's father

As they move up through the ranks, the superstars are recruited by Liverpool's notorious global drug cartels, with hubs in Amsterdam, Spain and Portugal.

Lee's parents split up eight years ago but his father still lives locally.

He says the young gangs have taken over Page Moss attacking the homes of those they dislike, and driving them out.

Lee's dad said: ''It's not our area, it's not the adults' area anymore, it's the kids' area. They say who can come in and who can't come in; if they don't like anyone's face they'll make sure he's gone.

"Their gang is everything. That's their family - that's their main family. It's their own little army. They have little generals and all like that.

"They'll back each other up to the death, right to the death - I know they will. I know they will, that's the way the kids are now."

During my time with the gang, 17-year-old Scott Elliot was jailed for nine years, for shooting up a house owned by the grandfather of the Dovey Edz gang boss.

An imitation firearm
Gangs frequently post videos of their guns on the internet
In the same attack, another Moss Edz gang member, nicknamed Fuji, shot himself in the foot with his own shotgun, by accident, while he was threatening the younger brother of the Dovecot boss.

Fuji, like British soldiers in Afghanistan, carried an SA80 army-issue assault rifle. He kept it under his bed - along with a pump-action shotgun.

Police said the SA80 had recently been used to "spray up" a house in an unrelated shooting.

One night one of our team was invited to meet an anonymous gunman from the gang, at a pre-arranged place.

He pulled out a shotgun from his tracksuit bottoms and a pistol.

Brandishing the weapons, he said: "If the beef (trouble) come down here they get blasted, lad."

Lee's mum thinks her son will end up dead or in jail. Even Lee's 10-year-old brother hangs around with the gang and says he's held a gun.

You don't think your kids could pick a gun up or a knife But I know for a fact they would
Lee's mother

The mother-of-five said: "You can just see it coming with them all. It's all coming to a head. There's little gangs here and little gangs there. They're not backing down - they're not backing down from each other.

"You don't think your kids could pick a gun up or a knife - you wouldn't think that they could do that. But I know for a fact they would.

"We can all point the finger at someone. I mean, do you think I like my son going out, picking a gun up and shooting someone else? I brought him up like that? I don't think so.

"People can look into this - people don't live in these estates, people don't see, you know, how we live. There are a lot of other agencies out there who could have seen this coming years ago. And could have done something years ago."

It's too late for Donna Smith. Her son's head was blown off with a shotgun.

Donna said: "They've took my baby off me and no mother should have to go through it, no mother at all should have to go through it."

Two years ago, her son, Liam "Smigger" Smith - a member of the Noggadogz gang from Norris Green - was visiting a friend at the local prison when a trivial row broke out with an inmate who was a rival gang member.

Liam Smith
Liam "Smigger" Smith was visiting a friend in prison when he was shot

Insults were exchanged with the Croxteth Crew and within minutes, a gunman had been summoned using a smuggled mobile phone.

As he left, Liam was shot in the head at point blank range.

Donna said: "Why do they have to go round with guns…? I'm not saying Liam was innocent but he didn't deserve it. Nobody's child deserves to be killed like that."

That was the first and last proper interview Donna gave. She died shortly afterwards of natural causes.

The Noggadogz have been at war with their rivals, the Croxteth Crew, for four years.

They have access to a mind-boggling array of guns, they claim.

Everything from tripod-mounted general purpose machine guns, to nine "milly" pistols, revolvers and John Gottis (shotguns), right down to a home-made "one-shot", constructed from a converted wheel-brace.

They showed me pictures of these guns and spoke about them and how they were sourced in detail - including ballistic details such as the range and power of a .45 handgun.

As with most of the gangs in Liverpool, they take videos and pictures of their weapons on mobile phones, mix them up into a three-minute film using Video DJ phone-stored software, and post it on the internet, scored with a retro rap soundtrack such as 2Pac and Biggie Smalls.

The videos, which are also passed on widely in the playground, have several uses.

To show off, to cement gang identity and most importantly as a deterrent - as a way of showcasing hidden armouries to rival gangs in an attempt to reveal what's in store should they be foolish enough to come "looking for beef".

Panorama: Young Gunmen will be on BBC One on Monday 30 June 2008 at 1930 BST.


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