BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese Welsh

 You are in:  UK: England
Front Page 
Northern Ireland 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Tuesday, 12 March, 2002, 18:44 GMT
Fight like 'scene from Braveheart'
Jason Jameson (left) and Graham Russell
Gangleaders Jason Jameson (left) and Graham Russell

By BBC News Online's Robert Fielding

On 18 March 2000, Sunderland Association Football Club were playing at home to Middlesbrough.

As usual, for safety, Newcastle United had been scheduled to play away.

But on a tiny Tyneside street called Ferry Mews more than 70 hooligans attached to the rival clubs took part in some of the worst football related fighting ever witnessed in the UK.

When five minutes of violence ended at the North Shields passenger ferry landing point, the "Seaburn Casuals" parted from the "Newcastle Gremlins" - leaving onlookers shocked.

'Respectable' violence

Weapons were left lying around, pools of blood were visible, and one man was permanently brain damaged.

As Kingsley Hyland OBE, special case work lawyer for the Crown Prosecution Service put it: "It was violence and disorder on a massive scale."

At the resulting trial, the jury heard it likened to a "scene from the film Braveheart".

Such incidents provide huge logistical problems

Kingsley Hyland OBE, Crown Prosecution Service

One of the police officers investigating the trouble said many of the men involved were apparently respectable.

Among them was a former Royal Navy diver, a soldier and a tax inspector.

Some of them had travelled from Manchester that day to side with the Seaburn Casuals.

Others had previous convictions for football related violence and had fought at England matches, and a number of the men were well known to police "spotters" - who use video cameras to film trouble makers at football grounds around the country.

Mobile phone
The fight had been pre-arranged by mobile phone

Mr Hyland said "Such incidents provide huge logistical problems for both the police and prosecutors.

"It is not so much the scale of the disorder, but the difficulty in proving who has done what.

"It was not possible for us to establish to the necessary standard that all those arrested actually participated in the violence or were present encouraging it."

Although the Newcastle gang gained an upper hand in the sickening display, the fight almost never happened.

Mobile map

The Sunderland hooligans had arrived to find nobody waiting for them, and they had already searched nearby pubs and decided to go home.

Later, as Falklands war veteran, father, and leading "Gremlin" John Sharp, 39, was being arrested, on the other side of the River Tyne police waited for the "Casuals".

They were seized getting off the ferry at South Shields.

Most of those arrested on both sides had mobile telephones which were subsequently examined, and in order to find the ring leaders of the organised bloodshed, detectives drew a map to show exactly who called who, when.

Click here to go to Tyne
See also:

12 Mar 02 | England
Football gang leaders jailed
Links to more England stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more England stories