Page last updated at 11:41 GMT, Thursday, 21 May 2009 12:41 UK

Botched murder mastermind jailed

Robert Speirs
Speirs was involved in a dispute with David Totton

A security boss who organised a botched execution as he watched a Manchester United football match has been jailed for life.

Robert "Bobby" Speirs, of Prestwich, arranged to kill David Totton at the Brass Handles pub in Salford while watching a game at Old Trafford.

Two hired gunmen fired shots in the pub during the match on 12 March 2006, but were then shot dead themselves.

Speirs, 40, must serve at least 23 years for conspiracy to murder.

Speirs' rival Mr Totton was shot, along with Aaron Travers, when 19-year-old gunman Richard Austin pulled the trigger six times, Manchester Crown Court heard.

Would-be assassins

His accomplice Carlton Alveranga, 20, fired his weapon only for it to jam, and both men were jumped on by drinkers and disarmed.

Inside the Brass Handles pub
You were prepared for the killing to be done in a crowded public house causing real terror to those present
Mr Justice Williams

The court heard a known gangster in the pub was suspected of then shooting the would-be assassins with their own weapons.

Mr Austin and Mr Alveranga staggered outside the pub and died.

Their killer has not been prosecuted and Greater Manchester Police said the investigation into the murders "remains open".

Mr Totton and Mr Travers survived, but refused to co-operate with the police inquiry.

It is believed the planned execution was arranged by Speirs after a dispute with Mr Totton over admission to a nightclub.

Police said they believed Speirs recruited Ian McLeod, a boss of the notorious south Manchester Doddington Gang, who provided the "manpower" in the form of Mr Alveranga and Mr Austin.

'Underworld dispute'

Mr Justice Williams said Speirs had planned for at least one person to be killed in a "professional gangland execution" to sort out an "underworld dispute".

He told Speirs: "You are party to a calculated and carefully-planned assassination. You were prepared for the killing to be done in a crowded public house causing real terror to those present.

Carlton Alveranga and Richard Austin
Mr Alveranga and Mr Austin were both fatally shot

"Although the shooting was targeted there was every risk others may have been injured.

"As it happened those who were to do the killing were themselves murdered."

McLeod, 44, was jailed for life in March 2007 and Constance Howarth, 40, from Salford, was also given life for her role in the incident at the Brass Handles.

Speirs fled to Spain within days of the shooting but was extradited to the UK in August last year.

Andy Tattersall, senior investigating officer at Greater Manchester Police (GMP), said: "The murders Speirs and his associates planned that day did not happen, but two men still lost their lives.

"Alveranga and Austin were overpowered by those drinking in the pub.

"Someone inside the pub then fatally injured both men. This remains an open investigation and we are continuing to try and establish exactly who fired those fatal shots."

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