Page last updated at 16:21 GMT, Wednesday, 24 February 2010

How crime boss Colin Gunn took his revenge

Colin Gunn
Colin Gunn blamed the Stirlands for the killing of a family friend

John and Joan Stirland had fled to the Lincolnshire coast after shots were fired at their Nottingham home.

But they still could not escape a gangland execution ordered by crime boss Colin Gunn.

The couple found themselves in the firing line after Mrs Stirland's son Michael O'Brien killed Marvyn Bradshaw outside the Sporting Chance pub, in Top Valley, in August 2003.

Mr Bradshaw was the best friend of Gunn's nephew Jamie, who was with him on the night and cradled the 22-year-old in his arms before he died from gunshot injuries.

Although Jamie was physically unharmed in the incident, his family said he never recovered from the ordeal. His health declined over the next year and he suffered from depression before dying of pneumonia on 2 August 2004.

Prowler spotted

Gunn was determined to get revenge for the death of his nephew and with O'Brien serving life for the murder, he targeted his mother and stepfather.

Shots were fired at their Carlton home in September 2003 - prompting them to go into hiding.

Stirland's bungalow
The Stirlands reported a prowler near their bungalow

But Gunn tracked them down again at Trusthorpe on the Lincolnshire seaside by contacting a former BT worker, Stephen Poundall.

Poundall contacted former colleagues, Anthony Kelly and Andrew Pickering, who ran a computer search for the Stirlands' address, although they had no idea why he wanted it.

Kelly and Pickering later admitted computer misuse and were given suspended jail sentences. Both were sacked by BT.

Two gunmen then went to the Stirlands' home of eight months and shot them at least 10 times.

On the day she was killed, Mrs Stirland had called police because a neighbour had seen a prowler.

It was three hours before an officer rang her back and it was to be another seven hours before a Lincolnshire officer turned up at the bungalow - by which time the couple were dead.

Errors of judgement

An inquest jury has returned an unlawful killing verdict, saying police failures contributed to the couple's deaths.

The jury at Lincoln Crown Court said Nottinghamshire Police failed to share intelligence about the threat posed by Gunn's gang.

Michael O'Brien (left) and Marvyn Bradshaw
The killing was triggered by Michael O'Brien's murder of Marvyn Bradshaw (right)

But it cleared Lincolnshire Police of failing to protect the Stirlands after they were asked to call in on the couple hours before they were killed.

An investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), released in February 2008, had decided it was impossible to say if the killings could have been prevented if officers had acted differently.

However, it too found the Nottinghamshire force's sharing of intelligence with Lincolnshire Police was unacceptable.

The Lincolnshire force was given only the barest of details about who the Stirlands were and communication between the two forces was not as good as it could have been, the report said.

The IPCC also found Nottinghamshire Police's investigation into the attack on the Stirlands' Nottingham home fell below acceptable standards, adding the problems were not serious misconduct but errors of judgement.

The probe found officers with little experience of protecting people were initially given the responsibility for the couple's safety.

Before his arrest, Gunn used an intermediary to approach corrupt police officer, Charles Fletcher, and ask him how the investigation into the Stirlands' murders was progressing.

Fletcher had carried out numerous searches of the police computer for Gunn in the past. He pleaded guilty to corruption charges and was jailed for seven years. It emerged he had been given designer suits by Gunn as payment.

Gunn, 40, of Nottingham, was jailed in 2006 following his conviction for conspiracy to murder the Stirlands.

Co-defendants John Russell, 29, and Michael McNee, 22, were jailed for 30 and 25 years respectively, in 2006.

O'Brien was convicted of murdering Mr Bradshaw and jailed for life in July 2004.

His accomplice Gary Salmon was also convicted of murder and given a life sentence in January 2007 after going on the run for two-and-a-half years.

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