The gang-related revenge killing or ‘tit for tat’ feud accounts for a very small proportion of murders in London. It is however one of the most disturbing, conjuring up echoes of the American mafia as represented by The Godfather and other films.
This type of murder appears to flourish when when those responsible seem to be getting away with it. The intended victims or targets seek revenge outside of the justice system and potential ‘hitmen’ are emboldened by the failure of detectives to solve a case.
The worst recent example is the ‘war’ between two gangs in north London, the Hackney Turks (Bombacilar) and the Tottenham Turks (Tottenham Boys). Between March 2009 and April 2013, five men were shot dead. Although most of the victims were members of the two gangs, one of them was entirely innocent.
Strikingly, none of the ‘hitmen’ who fired the shots were brought to justice until July 2014 (see below). Up until then, any convictions were restricted to the co-conspirators who enable the gunmen to carry out the murders: getaway drivers, spotters etc.
Although there have been previous incidents involving the two gangs, prosecutors have traced the feud back to a brawl at the Manor Club in Finsbury Park, north London, on 24 January 2009.
That night Kemal Armagan, the leader of the Hackney Turks, was injured in the fight and vowed to kill anyone who attacked him, including Mehmet Senpalit, a Tottenham Turk.
The feud that followed was described in court by Edward Brown QC in this way:
This feud has resulted over the last few years in murder, attempted murder, beatings, threats and damage to shops and the like belonging to those perceived to be associated to one gang or the other. It has therefore been a bloody and lethal campaign by each side. From relatively minor origins, this feud became a dreadful sequence of revenge attacks – not just a beating here or a punch there, but determined killings and attempts to kill.
A brief timeline:
- 8 March 2009: Kemal Armagan’s brother Ali Armagan is shot and injured, along with fellow Bombacilar Kenan Aydogdu.
- 22 March 2009: Ahmet Paytak, 50, is shot dead at Euro Food and Wines in Hornsey Road, Holloway, a store owned by Mehmet Senpalit. Kemal Armagan, who fled the UK shortly afterwards, is believed to have ordered the hit.
- 2 October 2009: Oktay Erbasli, a 23 year-old Tottenham Turk member, is shot and killed while driving in Tottenham.
- 5 October 2009: Cem Duzgun, a 21 year-old Hackney Turk member, is shot dead at a social club in Upper Clapton Road.
- 15 August 2010: An attempt to kill Kenan Aydogdu, a close friend of Ali Armagan.
- 1 February 2012: Ali Armagan, 32, is shot dead in his car near Turnpike Lane tube station. Kemal Eren, the leader of the Tottenham Turks, is believed to be responsible.
- 1 December 2012: Kemal Eren is shot and seriously injured in Elbistan, Turkey.
- 18 April 2013: Zafer Eren, 34, Kemal Eren’s brother, is shot dead in Southgate.
UPDATE: In July 2014 Jamie Marsh-Smith was jailed for at least 38 years for the murder of Zafer Eren. The judge John Bevan QC said: “The use of the streets of this city for fighting a Medieval turf war using hired hands as hit-men is as intolerable as it is unacceptable.”
North-east London’s Turkish mafia – London Street Gangs website
What lies behind murderous Turkish gang feud? – BBC Online
Other tit-for-tat feuds over the last few years have tended to involve teenage/youth gangs:
TN1 vs GAS – Zac Olumegbon (TN1) and Kwame Ofosu-Asare (an innocent victim)
GMG vs DA – Negus McLean (DA)