Episode 4

Tattoo parlours, clubs and firebombs

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In brief

The Cornerman

In this four-part true crime investigation, the Cable unmasks one of Britain’s most elusive crime bosses - the Cornerman, so-called for taking a corner out of every crooked deal that came his way and hurting those who don’t pay up. 

Firmly on the police’s radar ever since his name was linked to two notorious and still unsolved gangland murders twenty years ago in London, the Cornerman has used his connection with one of the capital’s most successful crime families to build a network extending along the M4 corridor to Bristol.

Cast of characters

Meet the cast

Photograph: PA images

The background

No longer untouchable?

Detectives suspected jury nobbling when the Cornerman walked free from prosecutions for kidnapping, murder and extortion of a championship football club owner. At least ten men, women and children, including the mother of his first born, have been taken into witness protection on the police’s insistence. 

Meanwhile, the Cornerman continued to cash in by cosying up to big players in the world of sport and from providing security for the men behind high society nightclubs loved by the young royals and A-list celebrities.

But last December, justice finally caught up with him after detectives bugged his car and that of his loose-lipped enforcer. As is the way with these things, what finally did for the Cornerman was a relatively minor crime by his standards - a cocaine deal and blackmail conspiracy against Bristol businessmen.

In this exclusive series the Cable reveals the rise and fall of a gangster whose whispered name induced fear from London’s glitzy West End to the West Country.

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Behind the scenes

The making of

Making the Cornerman

A spate of unusual crimes caught our attention. Sources passed us sensitive information. Local people and businesses confided their fears and suspicions.

A painstaking dot-to-dot began to reveal the driving force behind protection rackets and violent crime scourging local communities in the South West. That force was the Cornerman.

The Cable teamed up with journalist Michael Gillard, who has long been shining a light on organised crime and corruption. What started as a Bristol story was, in fact, national in scope. Gillard offered encyclopedic insights into the London-end of the Cornerman’s criminal enterprise. Together, we traced his footprints along the M4 crime corridor with months spent in court, analysing records, interviewing gangsters, former detectives, business associates and victims.

Thank you to all those who helped. This type of public-interest journalism would not be possible without your support.

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Name:
Andy Baker
Rank:
Head of South West OCG
Status:
In prison

During his recent trial, Andy Baker, 52, claimed that efforts to become a draughtsman in the building trade were dashed by the recession in the early nineties. Like many criminals, he apprenticed as a doorman in the nightclub business where he rode the coattails of Gilbert Wynter and made contacts with influential entrepreneurs servicing the more genteel clubbers of affluent west London.

Those who worked with the Cornerman said he liked to boast of his involvement in crime, including the murders of Wynter and Nahome. His association with the Adams was another boast used to increase his reputation as he built a security empire along the M4 corridor.

Baker moved to Bideford with his first common law wife, Vanessa Heather, in the late nineties. They had a son together. Heather left Baker, apparently after catching him in bed with a stripper. In 2004 he moved to Bristol with his new partner, Kate, with whom he has six children. Heather is one of at least ten people who the Met police took into witness protection between 2003 and 2009 after giving information or evidence against Baker.

His acquittals in three major trials - for kidnap, blackmail and murder offences - may have encouraged his cocky performance at Bristol Crown Court in 2018 where he often entered the dock singing. One day, Baker was brought to court from prison shackled and in an escape suit after showing off to his barrister in front of a security guard how easy it was to slip his handcuffs.

Some associates suspected that Baker’s charmed criminal career was because he traded information with the police. A former senior police source, however, said Baker was suspected of having corrupt police contacts.

The taxman bankrupted the Cornerman after an investigation into his income tax payments from 1993 to 2013. Baker had to sell a house to pay back taxes. At the time of his arrest in March 2018 he had large five figure deposits in his bank account from well-known businessman and was renovating his family home.

Name:
Adam Hoddinnot
Rank:
Drug dealer and enforcer
Status:
In prison

Bath-based Adam Hoddinott, 48, was Baker’s main enforcer in the south west. He wanted a kilo of cocaine to sell but couldn’t pay £36,000 up front. Jon Gordon agreed to supply the cocaine because Baker said he would act as “guarantor” that Hoddinott, his “extremely muscular, twenty-stone man”, would pay.

Hoddinott was also involved in an ecstasy factory running out of a residential house in Bristol. But his loose lips were in many ways the undoing of the whole criminal network. Unlike Baker, Hoddinott talked freely about criminal activity in his car, which the police had bugged. This and surveillance led him to plead guilty. Hoddinott had 25 prior convictions for violence and drugs and had only recently finished a prison sentence for similar drugs offences.

His guilty plea meant a reduced sentence but caused Baker and Gordon serious difficulties as the prosecution no longer had to prove the conspiracy to supply cocaine had taken place. Hoddinott also pleaded guilty to blackmail with Baker of three Bristol businessman. Not the brightest of criminals, he left his name and number on a threatening voicemail to one victim.

Name:
The A-team
Rank:
UK organised crime group (OCG)
Status:
Active

The A-team are an old school family-based organised crime group originally controlled by three brothers from an extended Irish Catholic family who grew up on the Barnsbury Estate in Islington, north London. Terry Adams is oldest and the nominal head of the family, but Patrick and Tommy are equally dedicated crime figures who will operate separately but together became the dominant OCG in 1990s London.

The Adams brothers started out running protection rackets, robbery and fencing stolen goods through Hatton Garden, the capital’s jewellery hub. Detectives watched Tommy outside Farringdon tube station collect what they suspected was gold bullion stolen from the £26m Brinks Mat robbery at Heathrow Airport in 1983. He was acquitted in 1985.

By the nineties, the A-team were moving vast amounts of contraband tobacco, cannabis, cocaine and ecstasy into the UK. They formed associations with other UK and international crime groups. 

In 1995, the police began a sustained covert operation (codenamed Trinity) against the crime family after a shoot out with a rival Islington firm. Tommy fell first in 1998 for organising a large cannabis importation from a black cab that he used as an office and which the police had bugged. 

Terry was arrested in 2003 and driven to Bristol for his arraignment because of concerns about police corruption in London. He finally pled guilty to money laundering and was jailed in 2007. 

Patrick was sent down in 2016 after going on the run for shooting an associate. In 2017, Tommy was back in jail for money laundering offences and last year younger brother Michael was convicted of cheating the taxman.

The extent of the A–team’s wealth is impossible to accurately quantify but could run into tens of millions of pound. Some assets are in the names of their wives or associates, but strict financial reporting requirements make it hard for the brothers to access cash. Police intelligence files link the A-team to a number of beatings, shootings and murders but evidence has proved allusive.

Name:
Andrew Wylde
Rank:
Car dealer and debt collector
Status:
In prison

Andrew ‘Ginge’ Wylde, 50, is a second-hand car dealer and garage owner from Bristol. The prosecution described him as “the pleasant face” of the blackmail conspiracy with Baker and Hoddinott. 

Ginge and Baker became friends in 2004 through their common law wives who went to school together in Bristol. Baker visited Ginge’s New Cheltenham Road garage almost every day. 

Ginge’s common law wife, Ellie, is the daughter of John ‘Goldfinger’ Palmer, and the car dealer used the connection when trying to persuade a businessman to pay up. Another businessman was told that “geezers from London” would come up if he didn’t pay.  

Ginge was furious that Baker “put him in the shit” during his evidence in the blackmail conspiracy trial in November 2018. Ginge was taken to hospital with suspected heart problems just before taking the stand. He returned the next day to give a combative performance and felt afterwards that he had torn the prosecutor “a new one”. But his barrister had to carry out acute reconstruction surgery on her client and told the jury that Baker had “used” Ginge. 

Name:
Carl Newman
Rank:
Drug factory host
Status:
In prison

Carl Newman’s Warmley home was used to store the cocaine brought from London and house the ecstasy factory. Newman, 38, struggled with employment over the years, was brought up in care and became a carer for the mother of his three  children. His barrister said he was “effectively a storeman”. He pleaded guilty to both the ecstasy and cocaine charges.

Name:
Danny Bond
Rank:
Drug courier
Status:
In prison

Scaffolder Danny Bond, 46, of Surrey also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply cocaine. Bond, another coke addict, was nicked with Justin Green at Reading services where they stopped for a loo break on the way back to London.

Name:
David Duff
Rank:
Former gangland lawyer
Status:
In Witness protection

David Duff was the former chairman of Hibernians Football Club and business partner of Tory party donor David Rowland. Duff was later struck off the solicitors’ roll after an unrelated conviction for mortgage fraud. On his release from prison in the early nineties, he immersed himself in moody property deals and through a Bristol licencing agent met Gilbert Wynter and Andy Baker. Duff helped Terry Adams, Wynter  and Solly Nahome in the sale of the lease of the Connaught Rooms. He also provided crooked financial advice to Baker’s OCG.

However, the pair fell out in 2003 and Duff was taken into the witness protection scheme after police received intelligence of a plot to have him killed. He was debriefed about the Cornerman’s criminal activities, the disappearance of Wynter and murder of Nahome and gave evidence against Baker and three others accused of involvement in the fatal stabbing of off-duty prison guard, Aaron Chapman, in December 2002. Duff remains a protected witness.

Name:
David Woolley
Rank:
Drug dealer
Status:
In prison

The one-time head of the infamous Aquila Motorbike club in Plymouth, David Woolley, 54, was jailed for his involvement in the cocaine and ecstasy conspiracy. He planned to shift the drugs in Plymouth. 

He was well known for running a tattoo business in the city and was the annual organiser of the Plymouth Tattoo Convention. Woolley suffered burns when his home was firebombed during a spate of arsons in the city between suspected rival gangs. He was jailed for 9 years in 2015 for repeatedly stabbing a man in the back of a Plymouth taxi.

Woolley befriended Adam Hoddinott in prison, who shared an interest in motorbikes, tattoos and drug dealing. The two worked closely together once released.

Name:
Gilbert Wynter
Rank:
Enforcer
Status:
Missing, presumed dead

Gilbert Wynter was one of the Adams’ main enforcers and a key link to criminals in London’s black communities. Wynter carried a stick after claiming the police caused an injury to his leg.

He lived in Tottenham, north London but sometimes stayed at the Chelsea flat of an Adams associate near to Embargo, the nightclub on the Kings Road. Wynter claimed to be a silent partner of the club’s owners, Rusty Egan, the new romantic Dj, and landlord, Jeremy Norman. Howard Spooner bought the club out of administration in 1994 and inherited Andy Baker as a doorman. Baker was an apprentice to Wynter, who wanted to set up a door security training company.

In 1997, Wynter went to Jamaica to visit his mother and was apparently shot in the head. He survived and spent months convalescing before returning to London. The 37-year-old disappeared in March 1998. His body has never been recovered.

Name:
Justin Green
Rank:
Drug courier
Status:
In prison

Justin Green, 45, of Brentwood, Essex pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply cocaine. Adam Hoddinott approached him about buying a kilo and he went to Jon Gordon, who got a guarantee from Andy Baker. Green, a coke addict with 13 convictions, was arrested at Reading service station after delivering the cocaine to Bristol. He refused to give up any names.

Name:
Jon Gordon
Rank:
Drug dealer and enforcer
Status:
In prison

Jon ‘the barber’ Gordon operated in south London and Croydon. He had convictions for violence and blackmail. Baker and Gordon knew each other through door security and a shared love of Crystal Palace football club. Gordon earned his nickname from running a barbershop and for reputedly being good with a knife. He stood trial with Dorling and John Pearson in 2006 for the Chapman murder but was acquitted. Pearson was sentenced to 15 years for a related offence.

In January 2018, Gordon, 47, was observed by the police meeting with Baker at a lorry park in a M25 service station. The men were discussing the supply of one kilo of high purity cocaine to Baker’s enforcer in Bristol. Gordon was found guilty with Baker and others in September 2018.

Name:
John ‘Goldfinger’ Palmer
Rank:
Gold dealer, Timeshare shark
Status:
Dead

Palmer moved from Birmingham to Bedminster where he ran Scadlyn Limited, a gold business involved in smelting some of the bullion from the Brink’s Mat heist. He was acquitted in 1987 after telling the jury that he didn’t know it was stolen.

Palmer went on to run a crooked timeshare empire in Tenerife built on fraud and terror until his conviction in 2001. The gangster associated with international criminals and had developed close links with Russian organised crime after the collapse of the Soviet republic.

He left Marnie, his beauty queen wife, and two daughters in Bristol for Christina, who he met through the timeshare business. Palmer lived with her in an Essex mansion, where in 2015 he was shot dead in the garden by a sniper. The murder remains unsolved and is the latest in a long line of killings of key figures associated with the iconic Brinks Mat heist. Essex police bungled the investigation, admitting six days after his death that Palmer, 64, had not died of a heart attack. At the time of his death Palmer was facing trial in Spain connected to his collapsed timeshare business.

Name:
Liam Waugh
Rank:
Enforcer
Status:
In prison

In August 2017, Liam Waugh, 30, burnt down a newly opened Bath tattoo shop and a barbershop in Saltford. The bodybuilder pled guilty to both attacks and in summer 2018 was jailed for 3 years and 8 months. 

Police surveillance also revealed that Waugh had been also working for Adam Hoddinott as an enforcer and drug distributor. Waugh picked up the cocaine from Green and Bond when they drove up from London. He also met with Woolley, who he knew from prison, to show samples of the ecstasy destined for Plymouth.

Name:
Mark Dorling
Rank:
Enforcer in Baker’s OCG
Status:
In prison

Mark ‘Robocop’ Dorling was a former prison guard who became a doorman and enforcer for Andy Baker. His nickname was due to his physique rather than a dedication to law enforcement. A club manager who knew him said he was a very “angry” man who worked the door at Howard Spooner’s club, the Clapham Grand.

Dorling referred to himself as Baker’s “right-hand man” and collected his cash envelopes from London pubs, clubs and lap dance venues. The 38-year-old was convicted in 2006 of murdering Aaron Chapman. The prosecution case was that Baker had agreed to give Chapman a beating and sent Robocop and two others. But Chapman fought back and later died of multiple stab wounds.

Dorling told the police that Chris McCormack, a feared armed robber and former enforcer for the Adams family, was the man who had approached Baker to hurt Chapman. The prison guard’s crime was to have mistreated the best friend of McCormack’s daughter. Dorling later told the police that the beating was a favour to McCormack, who Baker wanted to impress, and was part of a wider deal to import firearms from Holland.

Dorling claims he was not present when Chapman was stabbed. His appeal against conviction was turned down and in 2015 judges also rejected a referral from the Criminal Cases Review Commission.

Name:
Matthew Sellars
Rank:
Former cage fighter and club owner
Status:
In prison

Matthew Sellars, 40, had got into serious financial trouble as owner of Chasers nightclub in Bristol. The chemistry and law graduate and former MMA lightweight British champion was once head doorman of the club.

Andy Baker agreed to help rescue Chasers but also saw an opportunity to take over the city’s nightclubs from a rival security firm whose boss had fallen out with Sellars over this and a jewellery shop in Bristol.

Baker introduced Sellars to influential businessman and took him to meet the Adams crime family in London. But the Conerman eventually tired of Sellars and mocked him behind his back. 

Sellars, a bankrupt, helped in the cocaine conspiracy. Separately, Hoddinott and Baker tried to extort money from a Bristol businessman who had bought the lease of one of Sellars’ nightclubs.

At his trial, Sellars said he had a breakdown because of his financial predicament and blamed his choice of friends for subsequent actions. His barrister told the judge that from 2010 to 2013 Sellars was in the UK Special Forces Reserves based in Newport but never deployed in action.

Name:
Michael Warman
Rank:
Enforcer
Status:
In prison

Michael Warman burnt down the barbershop in Saltford with Liam Waugh. On the same night in August 2017, Waugh firebombed a Bath tattoo parlour but Warman denied having any involvement. Warman was found guilty of the barbershop arson and of possessing an illegal weapon – a stun gun disguised as a torch.

Name:
Solly Nahome
Rank:
Money launderer
Status:
Dead

Solly Nahome, a jeweller in Hatton Garden, laundered the Adams family’s money through a variety of investments with varying success. Operation Trinity had placed a bug in the offices of his company, Pussy Galore. However, a well-placed police source said the bug suddenly went dead, leading detectives to suspect a corrupt cop or cops had tipped off Nahome. The bug had previously captured several detectives offering help to Terry Adams, according to a 2002 Met police intelligence report on corruption in the force. 

Nahome, 48, kept most of the financial information on the Adams’ money in his head. In November 1998 he was shot dead outside his north Finchley home where he lived with his wife, Joanna. The couple were close friends of Terry and Ruth Adams.

Bugs in Terry Adams’ home revealed the crime boss was distressed at the assassination and having to locate his criminal assets. Gilbert Wynter was still missing when Nahome was killed fuelling speculation about a fall out within the Adams family. Alternatively, it was suggested that Wynter and Nahome had fallen out with gangsters outside of London over a real estate deal in Lancashire.  

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