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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 August 2007, 15:41 GMT 16:41 UK
Nottingham's 'godfather of crime'
Colin Gunn
Colin Gunn was said to have ruled Bestwood
Bestwood Estate in Nottingham was ruled by Colin Gunn - a man who was feared by some and revered by others.

His Bestwood Army policed the streets - and murdered and tortured for revenge and respect, residents said.

He was Mr Big - some would say the Godfather - but he is now in jail serving time for murder and corruption.

Pat Chambers, a community worker in Bestwood, said: "The Godfather - that was Colin Gunn. He was the boss and everybody was frightened of him.

"If you had a problem, you didn't go to the police. You went to Colin and Colin sorted it.

The murder of Joan and John Stirland in Trusthorpe in Lincolnshire in August 2004 was masterminded by Colin Gunn.

He organised their killings in revenge for a murder carried out by Joan Stirland's son Michael O'Brien in Nottingham in 2003.

Police say the two killings are just the tip of the iceberg.

Pat Chambers
But there was tenderness as well - and he had very good PR in the fact that he helped people
Pat Chambers, community worker

He was the head of a drugs network that was out of control.

Nottingham North MP Graham Allen said: "People who were thought to have informed were executed. There was a reign of fear on this estate.

"They have slaughtered and assassinated people."

Gunn's trial in Birmingham was told he was suspected of organising the robbery in which Nottingham jeweller Marian Bates was killed. But he was never charged.

Her widower Victor said: "They have been ignored by the police for years - who have been intimidated by them.

"I have been told by senior police officers that the criminal intelligence of the Gunns was superior to theirs. They were intimidated by the Colin Gunn gang."

A corrupt policeman called Charles Fletcher searched police computer files for Colin Gunn at Radford Road police station - helping him avoid being caught.

It also told him who was informing on him - potentially putting their lives at risk.

A second policeman Phillip Parr also found information that was passed on to Colin Gunn.

'Bestwood Army'

One man who knew of Colin Gunn's power on the Bestwood Estate said: "It's just like Colin Gunn's a god. Colin's not actually going out and shooting anybody himself.

"He is giving out the orders. He is in charge of an army. A lot of boys - 16 or 17 years olds - are given guns by the bigger criminals and told to protect the Firm.

"Kids out there are prepared to shoot people but anyone who said no, they end up in a box anyway. It is either - do as you're told or you're getting it for disrespecting us. I just think he is evil."

Nottingham North MP Graham Allen
MP Graham Allen said he hoped there would be a sense of freedom

Peter Coles, a retired policeman who used to patrol the Bestwood Estate, investigated more than 100 murders for Nottinghamshire Police.

He said: "There is no longer 24-hour police foot presence on these estates. So, surprise, surprise, people like the Gunns have provided some of the services the police used to provide.

"If you have a burglary on an estate like the Bestwoods, do you turn to the police, no you don't, you turn to the Gunns.

"The apologists would say well they only hurt their own but I don't go for that line. Innocent people get in the way like there was in Arnold (where jeweller Marian Bates was murdered)."

Pat Chambers said: "But there was tenderness as well - and he had very good PR in the fact that he helped people. He gave them money for fireworks displays for the kids."

"People loved him. He was a Robin Hood because if you was in trouble financially he would help you out. At any given time he could call on you.

"It took a long time for this culture to turn itself around and now its turned round and we are on the way up."

Operation Kingdom was set up in 2005 and is aimed at stopping other criminal networks from getting a foothold on the estate.

MP Graham Allen said: "There have been analogies with the Kray twins and I hope there will be a feeling of liberation and people will get back to decent life on this estate and more people will come forward with information to bring more convictions."

Full extent of Colin Gunn's reign of terror

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