/Drug bosses controlled street soldiers in urban gang war

Drug bosses controlled street soldiers in urban gang war

A major fall out between two crime groups over a drug debt led to a spate of shootings across the region.

Notorious individuals ordered gang members to target rivals in residential areas over a disputed drug debt.

Warrington drug boss Leon Cullen was at the centre of the fall out that led to a wave of violence across the North West.

READ MORE:EncroChat dealer boasted of ‘mayday’ airport smuggling scheme

Cullen, who grew up in the Longford area of Warrington, was jailed for 22 and a half years earlier this year after he admitted drug and firearm offences.

Liverpool drug dealers Alan and John Tobin have admitted organising the shooting of 56-year-year-old David Barnes in Warrington.

Cullen and the Tobins represented rival factions of a gangland dispute which raged across the region. Both sides ordered gang members to carry out shootings at family homes in Warrington and Bolton.

The ECHO has previously revealed how the gang war began when Leon Cullen fell out with a faction of violent Salford criminals who had been linked by police to the murder of underworld figure Paul Massey.

Massey, 55, who was branded Salford’s ‘Mr Big’ by a councillor in the early nineties, was murdered by Mark Fellows outside his home in Clifton, Salford, on July 26, 2015.

Fellows is currently serving out a whole life sentence for killing Massey and his close friend John Kinsella.

Leading members of the same Salford crime gang organised a spate of shootings in Warrington when they targeted associates of Leon Cullen after a drug related fall-out.

On January 11, 2019 a former boxer, close to Leon Cullen, was targeted in a street shooting.

The convicted drug dealer was not injured but the incident shocked locals on Monks Place.

Paul Massey was gunned down outside his home by Mark Fellows in July 2015
Paul Massey was gunned down outside his home by Mark Fellows in July 2015
(Image: Manchester Evening News)

On February 25 a car was set on fire twice in a single night near a pub on Bewsey Road and then, on April 15, an improvised explosive device was left in a front garden on Birtles Road in the Orford area.

The bomb squad was called out and carried out a controlled explosion on the device and police said the targeted incident was linked to serious organised crime.

Prosecutors and police believe the leader of the Salford gang collaborated with the Tobins on the EncroChat phone network to target a key associate of Leon Cullen in the Warrington area.

The Salford gang boss who was based overseas communicated directly with Alan Tobin on the encrypted phone network about targeting associates of Leon Cullen.

The intended target was convicted drug dealer Liam Byrne Junior, but when Byrne’s step dad opened the door to a gunman disguised as a pizza delivery boy he was shot four times in the leg. Mr Barnes suffered life changing injuries to his leg.

Liverpool men Aaron Bretherton, Anthony Morris and Lewis Fitzpatrick carried out the shooting on behalf of the crime bosses.

Bretherton was the gunman, Morris the driver and Fitzpatrick the ‘fixer.’

In the run up to the incident the well known Salford man sent messages to Alan Tobin which read: “I’m gonna do them all soon.”

Alan Tobin responds: “I’ll get on it today.”

Alan Tobin agreed to identify the homes of Byrne and his dad. The Salford gang boss offered £10,000 to anyone prepared to fire the gun.

Later Alan Tobin, who used the Encro handle “Caperocket,” sent out a photo of Byrne Jnr and another of his dad.

He provided satellite pictures from a mapping website to help with the hit and the picture of the Orford house was shared among gang members.

After the shooting on April 24 last year Alan Tobin shared screenshots of news stories about the incident with the Salford man.

The Salford man responded with the message: “I done two same time.”

Earlier this month Liverpool Crown Court heard John Tobin actually sourced the address, who then provided it to his brother Alan.

John and Alan Tobin have both now pleaded guilty to participating in the activities of an organised crime gang (OCG).

However Leon Cullen, who had fallen foul of the Salford gang boss and the Tobins, was also the orchestrator of violence in the region.

In June Bolton Crown Court heard how Cullen was behind a gun attack on a house in Hilden Street, Bolton.

Drug and gun trafficker Leon Cullen
A mugshot of well known Warrington criminal Leon Cullen
(Image: Cheshire Police)

Warrington drug dealer Shawn O’Malley organised the shooting and travelled to the Hilden Street address on September 9, 2019 with Lewis Sinclair and Andrew Johannessen – Sinclair was the gunman and Johannessen the driver.

Prosecutor Andrew Scott told the court that O’Malley organised the shooting for Cullen, which was linked to a “long standing organised crime group dispute.”

O’Malley, also acting on Cullen’s orders, then arranged for the handgun used in the shooting to be planted on an innocent man to settle a personal grudge.

O’Malley, a well know drug dealer from Warrington, later fled to Dubai while he was still on licence from prison.

Police suspected he was in touch with Cullen, has was also hiding from police in Dubai at the same time.

It later emerged that O’Malley’s partner Annie Webster was sending large amounts of cash to the criminal in Dubai.

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On March 6, 2020 police executed a warrant at her home in Warrington, when she was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

On January 11 this year Webster pleaded guilty to concealing, disguising, converting, transferring or removing criminal property.

Webster, of Cumberland Street, appeared at Bolton Crown Court on June 29 when she was sentenced to a two-year community order with a 25-day rehabilitation activity requirement.

O’Malley, now back in the UK, has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to discharge a firearm and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

He will be sentenced later this year at Liverpool Crown Court.

Greater Manchester Police told the ECHO that Leon Cullen will not face charges in relation to the shooting on Hilden Street.

Alan Tobin admitted conspiring to cause grievous bodily harm and John Tobin admitted participating in the activities of an organised crime gang. They will be sentenced in September in relation to the shooting of Mr Barnes alongside Bretherton, Morris and Fitzpatrick.

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