Gun murders in North London linked to Turkish gangs in heroin war
Police have linked three gun murders to a violent turf war between Turkish gangs over control of the heroin trade.
Scotland Yard has set up a dedicated team of detectives under the command of senior officer to investigate the killings and a related series of shootings, stabbings and armed robberies in North London.
Senior police sources said that they were increasingly concerned at the readiness of the rival gunmen to use extreme violence and their total disregard for innocent passers-by. The most audacious attack came just over a week ago when a motorcycle gunman pulled alongside a Range Rover at traffic lights in Tottenham and shot Otkay Erbasli. A five-year-old boy and a woman, 23, who were travelling in the car, escaped uninjured but the shooting, at 4pm on a Friday afternoon, caused rush-hour panic.
Turkish community sources say that Mr Erbasli was the victim of a targeted murder by the Bombacilar (Bombers) gang, which is engaged in a bloody feud with the rival Tottenham Boys.
Three days after the murder, Cem Duzgun, 21, was shot dead in what police believe was a revenge attack on a Turkish social club a few miles away in Clapton.
Mr Duzgun had gone to the club to play snooker and died when two men walked up to the door of the premises and opened fire indiscriminately with a semi-automatic weapon.
At his home, where the Duzgun family have gathered in large numbers for a period of mourning, relatives said that he was an innocent who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. One of his uncles expressed the growing sense of fear in the Turkish community: “How are we going to send our sons out for bread again? We have to go shopping, we have to go out, but we are just so scared now. Who is going to be next?”
Police have confirmed that another victim of the feud, Ahmet Paytak, 50, was “entirely innocent”.
Mr Paytak died when a motorcycle hitman opened fire on him and his son in Hornsey in March.
Mr Paytak was standing at the door of the Euro Food & Wine shop, where he worked, when the bike’s pillion passenger dismounted and opened fire.The gunman continued to fire, hitting Mr Paytak’s son Huseyin, 21, who was inside the shop. He was wounded but survived. Despite the offer of a £20,000 reward and the fact that the killer’s motorcycle was a rare Benelli model — only 112 of which have been registered in Britain — the murder remains unsolved.
The sudden growth in violence is being attributed, at least in part, to the faltering grip of Turkish organised crime groups on the heroin trade in Britain. At the turn of the century, it was estimated that 90 per cent of the heroin smuggled into Britain was controlled by Turkish gangs, notably the feared Baybasin clan, which used to dominate the trade.
The jailing of key Baybasin gang figures and a bloody falling out with the separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party, the PKK — which was part of the supply chain in Turkey — damaged the network.
In recent years, British crime syndicates that once did business with the Turks have been setting up their own supply routes. Merseyside criminals have bypassed the London Turkish gangs to source their own supplies from the Continent, and Pakistani traffickers began to copy their example or obtain supplies directly from Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Sources say that a fall in the usage of the drug has also hit the London Turks, as has increased involvement of Albanian criminals in another of their activities, human trafficking.
The fallout from this power shift in international organised crime is being played out in the form of murder and violence on the streets of London.
The Turkish community in the capital has expressed its concern with marches and is pleading with the police to stamp out the gangs.
Burkay Arslan, who runs a project trying to lure youths away from the glamour of gang membership, says that the need for action is now urgent. “There has been an increase in violence over the past five years and an increase in deaths over the past two years,” he said.
“The public reaction and the police reaction has proved to be ineffective and so the gang members became more brazen.”
Officially, Scotland Yard says that it is keeping an open mind on the motive for the murders but confirms that gang rivalry is a line of inquiry.
Sean O’Neill and Suna Erdem