The latest series of Gangster from BBC Radio 5 Live looks at the rise and fall of one of the UK’s most notorious criminal gangs, The Burger Bar Boys.
Hosted by investigative journalist Livvy Haydock, Gangster: The Burger Bar Boys tells the story of guns and gangs spanning more than two decades.
The series uncovers the true story of the West Midlands gang. There are first-hand accounts of how the ruthless organisation, whose intense rivalry with their arch-enemies the Johnsons, led to Birmingham earning the title of the UK’s gun and gang capital in the early part of 21st century.
Sophie Ellis, daughter of one of the founding members of The Johnsons, Arthur ‘Super D’ Ellis and twin sister of Charlene Ellis, who was murdered during a shooting on New Year’s Day 2003, opens up to Haydock about her experience and how that night still has an impact on her family twenty years on.
Livvy also interviews police officers and journalists who were involved in the Burger Bar Boy investigation. This includes the story of a policeman called Neil Woods aka ‘Woody’ who risked his life to go undercover as a Burger Bar Boys member as their reach threatened to extend beyond Birmingham.
The Burger Bar Boys rose to prominence following Birmingham’s Handsworth race riots of the early 1980s before evolving into the brutal drug-running, machine-gun wielding outfit of the 1990s.
They started out meeting in a burger bar on Soho Road as well as the Johnson Crew in the nearby Johnson’s café. Teachers involved in keeping children away from the streets and doctors who became experts in treating gun wounds talk about how both gangs left a trail of destruction as they battled for supremacy across the city.
Livvy said: “This series delves into the untold story that led to one of Britain’s most horrific drive by shootings, revealing the people that propelled Birmingham to become Britain’s gun capital. Our interview with Sophie, whose twin and best friend Letisha Shakespeare were killed, was a conversation I will never forget.”
The first two episodes of Gangster: The Burger Bar Boys will be available on BBC Sounds from this Friday, 3 November and the other two episodes releasing weekly.