Billy Thompson was found dead last week
THE youngest son of gangland boss Arthur ‘Godfather’ Thompson was found dead last week — marking the end of an era for Scotland’s most feared crime clan.
Billy Thompson, 50, was his father’s last male heir but had battled drug addiction for decades. Sources claimed he was unable to live up to the family name.
His death comes as Glasgow is gripped by a new wave of shootings and attacks as the latest generation of hoods battle for control of gangland Scotland.
Here Scottish crime writer DAVID LESLIE examines a changing of the guard which has thrown the once self-regulated underworld into chaos.
ON a chilly August night in 1991, a young man lay dying on a bloodsoaked bed in a Glasgow hospital and an empire began to crumble.
Next morning, a police officer, wiping away tears as he left the home of the grieving family, whispered to a waiting colleague: “That’s it, over, finished.”
His fellow constable understood. And so did the man to whom he had just paid his respects.
Because Arthur ‘The Godfather’ Thompson knew the shooting a few hours earlier of his eldest son Arty meant the beginning of the end of a dynasty built on fear, terror and ruthlessness.
As much as he loved younger son Billy, he knew he lacked steel and guile. Vultures in the drugs trade swooped on Billy, feeding and fleecing a pathetic victim who discovered the Thompson name was no suit of armour.
At an increasing pace, Billy lost his sense and money, leaving him so broke he couldn’t even afford a bus fare back to the safety of his mother.
Now with his death at 50, the final nail has been hammered in the coffins of the last of the great Scottish underworld families. Since the deaths of Thompson and his old rival Tam ‘The Licensee’ McGraw, the lack of a dominating crime lord has thrown the once self-regulated underworld into chaos with tit-for-tat shootings and slashings taking on the appearance of a television soap.
The consequence of this has been criminal small-fry running amok with guns and a situation that would never have been contemplated in the days of the Godfathers.
Days ago Robert Daniel, nephew of family boss Jamie who died after a long fight against cancer, was shot outside his home.
Arthur Thompson and cronies battled rivals in Glasgow for decades
He was also close friends with Kevin ‘Gerbil’ Carroll, a sadistic enforcer who was murdered in 2010, and Francis ‘Fraggle’ Green, Jamie Daniel’s son and one of the current leaders of the Daniel gang.
Hours earlier Daniel associate Ross Sherlock, 34, was reportedly attacked with a makeshift weapon at Low Moss nick, near Glasgow.
A former McGraw associate, who in his younger days worked for the Thompson family, said: “That pair would never have allowed this.
“The rule was that children, women and non combatants were not to be touched. An attempt to shoot Arthur was called off because his daughter happened to be around.
“The self policing of the underworld ended the day McGraw died. Others had been flexing their muscles until then, but were too scared to let rip. Once he’d gone the gloves were off.
Arthur once gave one of his people a real beating just because he didn’t stand up when Rita came into the room; imagine what he’d have done to punks waving guns outside nursery schools.”
There was always going to be a changing of the guard but none could have predicted the chaos it would lead to.
McGraw was seen as the natural successor to take Thompson’s crown until his death in 2007.
Along the way others had been briefly looked on as possible pretenders to the underworld throne once McGraw was gone.
Glasgow’s East End McGovern family was well connected and powerful until a personal vendetta robbed them of their mastermind Tony at 35 when he was shot dead outside a bar in Balornock in 2000. Flashy Stewart ‘Specky’ Boyd drew too much attention to himself by ordering at least nine murders in the west and north of the city and through reneging on drug deals.
He was killed along with five innocents in a high speed car smash in Spain in 2003; a crash that many still believe was engineered.
Paul Ferris, cleared of the murder of Arty Thompson, was widely looked on as the obvious candidate. Ferris insisted he had no desire for it and, following his release from prison over a gun-running conviction, retired to live quietly.
In the meantime, two rival families from the north of Glasgow began a bloody battle for control. Members of the Daniel crime faction attempted to inflict a crushing blow to the strength of the rival Lyons family in December 2006 when two heavily armed men burst into a garage in Balmore Road, Glasgow.
Bullets flew, killing Michael Lyons and badly injuring Steven Lyons and Robert ‘Piggy’ Pickett.
Police later arrested Daniel associates James McDonald and Raymond Anderson having bugged the latter’s car and overheard incriminating conversations. Both were convicted of the shootings and jailed for 35 years, with sentences later reduced on appeal.
The bungled attack demonstrated that power no longer lay with criminal gangs, but with sophisticated police surveillance methods.
The introduction in 2000 of legislation – the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act — allowed the secretive bugging by police of the homes, properties and even vehicles of suspected wrongdoers.
It was known as intrusive surveillance and McGraw was among the first to warn others of its potentially devastating consequences. Few listened and as a consequence ended in prison.
While suspects were on holiday, on a night out with their wives or simply asleep, police posing as workmen slyly planted devices and sat back to listen.
A shocked architect measuring the home of Kevin ‘Gerbil’ Carroll for a planned extension had to tell the drugs dealer, ‘I think you’ve been bugged’ and produced a tiny device from an upper room.
Carroll, 29, was shot dead in a supermarket car park in 2010.
Now major criminals fearing they are under secretive monitoring increasingly rely on underlings to take risks that formerly would have been personally dealt with by men such as Thompson and McGraw.
Thompson and McGraw both watched potential protégés drown in money and drugs, their thinking and behaviour warped by cocaine and heroin.
The two elder underworld statesmen were powerless to halt the younger element rushing into the arms of police through attracting obvious interest from the law by flaunting their sudden wealth.
Both men had served their criminal apprenticeships as small time crooks before experience and sheer guts placed them in the big league.
Thompson gave up his pubs and clubs for lucrative loan sharking — literally crucifying those who let him down — protection rackets and then went legitimate investing in the entertainment business. The only sign of his wealth was a second hand Jaguar car.
Gangsters like executed Kevin ‘Gerbil’ Carroll, Ross Sherlock, Raymond Anderson and Jamie Daniel have appeared
But it was for a single revengeful act that Thompson is remembered.
He blamed Ferris and associate Bobby Glover for killing his son. Ferris was on remand in prison, but the night before Arty’s funeral local hitman William ‘Billy’ Manson shot dead Glover and pal Joe ‘Bananas’ Hanlon, then waited for Arthur to arrive and put a second bullet into each body.
McGraw, one time leader of the Barlanark Team, a gang of roving robbers, legitimately made money through Glasgow pub El Paso.
He invested into a taxi business before masterminding an even more lucrative venture smuggling drugs hidden in coaches under cover of giving deprived youngsters free holidays abroad.
Despite his millions he was rarely seen in other than a faded blue denim coat — admittedly with a Kevlar bulletproof lining.
Thompson and McGraw knew the value of both keeping in step with and ahead of the law.
The former played host at his home to a handful of trusted police officers and exchanged information with MI5; McGraw too had friends in uniform, mainly traffic wardens who passed on gossip.
A former police officer who knew both said: “The days when one man ruled Glasgow are gone because the crime families that remain, Daniel and Lyons in particular, and their followers, spend most of the time shooting each other or helping the police know what they’re up to by telling tales on social media.
“There are more than 1,000 guys in Barlinnie prison and at least 100 of those have connections to these families; yet for all their numbers they get weaker not stronger.
“A handful of Arthur Thompsons would have put them both out of business in a week.”
Mourners have paid tribute to the son of gangster godfather Arthur Thompson at a memorial service in Glasgow.
50-year-old Billy Thompson, who battled heroin addiction, passed away on March 4 and became the third of four siblings from the notorious crime family to meet a tragic end.
Dozens of people turned out for Billy Thompson’s funeral at Riddrie Cemetery in Glasgow’s east end, with mourners paying their respects as they lay down wreaths and messages.
It is understood a Church of Scotland minister conducted the brief 10-minute graveside service.
Billy’s older brother Arthur “Fat Boy” junior was shot dead in 1991 outside his dad’s Provanmill Road home, The Ponderosa.
His sister Margaret, 26, died from a drug overdose in 1989. He is now survived by sister Tracey Thompson, 51, the last remaining child. It is understood his death was the result of his drug addiction.
Arthur senior was one of Glasgow’s most feared gangsters with links to the Krays in London and was reputed to have made a vast fortune from protection rackets.
He ruled with an iron fist for almost 30 years in Scotland and survived a number of murder bids, including a car bombing.
He died at the age of 62 from a heart attack at home in 1993.
Following Billy’s death, a spokesperson for the Crown Office said: “The Procurator Fiscal has received a report in connection with the death of a 50 year-old man in Glasgow on March 4. “The investigation into the death, under the direction of Scottish Fatalities Investigation Unit (SFIU), is ongoing and the family will be kept updated in relation to any significant developments.” http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/scottish-news/dozens-mourners-turn-out-funeral-10041041
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