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Crack House : The Incredible True Story of the Man Who Took on London's Crack Gangs and Won - Harry Keeble

Crack House

The Incredible True Story of the Man Who Took on London's Crack Gangs and Won

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Published: 13th May 2010
Format: ePUB

The bastard offspring of cocaine, crack first entered the UK in the early 1990s. By the end of the decade Britain's inner cities were in the midst of a crack epidemic, with users being responsible for a massive proportion of crime -- 95% of street shootings are crack-related, for example. Communities, especially in London, were crying out for help, but there were only two specialist units in the whole of the capital.

One of them, Haringey Drugs Squad, embarked on a war on crack, aiming to shut down all 100 crack houses in their borough in one year.

Amazingly, they did it. Even more amazingly, in the subsequent twelve months all black-on-black killings in Haringey ceased, and burglaries and muggings fell massively. Narrated by the leader of this team, Crack House describes in heart-stopping fashion a series of breathtaking raids as well as arrests, beatings, stabbings and shootings.

Featuring a colourful team of family men who regularly faced death, Crack House takes the reader into the dark heart of our cities' most violent and terrifying places, showing how the war on drugs can only be won by constant and forceful vigilance.

About The Authors

Detective Sergeant Harry Keeble has almost twenty years experience in inner-city pro-active policing. In 1999, Harry joined Haringey drugs squad, planning and leading 100 raids on fortified crack houses. Appalled at the number of abused children he encountered, Harry joined Hackney's Child Protection Team. In five years he brought dozens of child abusers to justice, managing several international police investigations related to child abuse across the world. He currently works for Specialist Operations at New Scotland Yard.

Kris Hollington is a freelance journalist and author living and working in London. Kris is the author of five books including, with Harry Keeble, Crack House and Sunday Times bestseller Baby X.



Dawn in Tottenham is not a sight to stir the soul, more like sicken the stomach. As I drive to our target I see the stolen purses discarded in gutters, the last gangs of stragglers staggering home through the cold wet streets, the pools of blood clotting in alleyways, the fluttering cordons of police crime-scene tape. I park on the edge of a decrepit council estate. Across the street two Jamaican men in hooded sweatshirts stand guard in front of a four-storey Victorian house controlled by a man they call the Prince of Darkness. They're protecting everything that's going on inside, a 24-hour operation. If our struggle against drugs is a war, then these streets are the trenches and the crack houses the fortresses - secured with steel and iron, supposedly impregnable.

We're about to attempt the impossible: to storm the crack house using brute force; beat those inside into submission, drag them down to the station and close their operation down. It won't be easy. Those Victorian doors are held in place by thick bars of iron and steel which are fixed to the floor and wall, the windows are nailed shut and wire mesh covers the glass. Lurking inside are crack-addicted hitmen who kill for as little as £200 (known as 'Bics', like the plastic razors of the same name, they are cheap and disposable; if they ever wind up in court their evidence is seen as unreliable). Besides the Bics, the house is full of dozens of addicts, whores and gangsters armed with God knows what.

Before we move, we wait for the crack to arrive. It's on its way, the last leg of its spectacular journey from Totopahana to Tottenham.

In the early autumn of 1999, as she picked leaves in a remote coca farm in the Totopahana region of Colombia, twenty-year-old Olinda Giron stepped on a 'paw-breaker' blast mine. She was lifted six feet into the air; particles of dirt travelling faster than bullets ripped off her clothes, stones and bone fragments searing through her skin - one pebble smashed into her left eye. Deafened, she struggled to climb to her feet in the crater but her left leg now ended in a jagged bloody stump just above the ankle. In shock, she struggled to find her foot, scrabbling though the earth with her hands, looking for it with her one good eye. If she could find it, she thought, doctors might be able to reattach it.

Olinda was still a teenager when she joined her father and uncle to work for eleven hours a day picking leaves in a remote jungle farm three hours from the small town of San Pablo. Her family was one of thousands who had been forced to find work on cocaine farms after they lost their crops to fumigation as part of a $1.6 billion US-sponsored programme called Plan Colombia, a misguided effort to eliminate coca fields from the air. The poisonous chemicals dropped by US-supplied planes did not distinguish between different crops. Yucca, plantain, pineapple and maize crops were all destroyed and the soil and water poisoned. Some farmers cut down more jungle in an effort to replant; others who could not afford to gradually starved and became sick drinking polluted water. The fumigation programme provided guerrillas with more recruits who were desperate to avenge the atrocities that cost them their livelihoods.

Olinda's employer, who lived with his workers in a collection of wood and straw huts, employed thirty raspachinos (pickers), working eleven hours a day, six days a week on his six-hectare farm. He paid them £8 per day with full board and lodging. He also paid a tax of £18 per hectare to the left-wing FARC (the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) guerrillas, and a further £60 on each kilo of coca base produced, which he then sold to FARC's adversaries, the right-wing ELN (National Liberation Army) paramilitaries, for £600 per kilo. The ELN works closely with corrupt members of the Colombian military to get the coke out of the country.

While Olinda searched for her foot, production continued inside the farmer's coca-cina (cocaine kitchen). Inside the long shed without walls, under the roof held in place by six wooden pillars, a team of workers chopped coca leaves into smaller pieces with strimmers. On a large spread-out plastic sheet, more workers trod cement powder into the chopped leaves and mixed them with petrol in large black drums. The resulting coca base, a viscous white fluid, was drained off and treated. The six-hectare farm on which Olinda's family worked turned out fifteen kilos of cocaine base per week - the Totopahana region alone is home to some 60,000 hectares of coca.

The coca-farm owner agreed to help Olinda's father to get his daughter to the nearest hospital, two and a half days away - if they agreed to take a delivery of cocaine with them. The farmer had been squirrelling away a couple of kilos every now and again which he would sell for double the price the ELN paid to an independent trader from Honduras. Olinda's injury gave him the perfect excuse to have them transport the coke to his buyer in Bogotá; it would also give them a good chance of sneaking it past various military and guerrilla checkpoints.

Giron and his daughter were accompanied on their journey by the farmer's son, who drove the small truck in which the coke was hidden. He would also pay the necessary bribes and take them through the secret jungle pathways. At first they bumped and bounced their way along the calle-coca for three hours, a straight dust road that cut through the green jungle like a line of freshly chopped coke. Then they passed through an army-controlled checkpoint on the outskirts of San Pablo. The soldiers made a show of searching everyone and everything but at some point a bribe exchanged hands and the small sack of coke passed through unmolested. From San Pablo, they drove to Cuatro Bocas only to discover the village had been deserted. Ten of its inhabitants had been butchered a week earlier by ELN paramilitaries who accused them of siding with the FARC guerrillas.

The farmer's son left his truck in the village and then removed the coke from its hiding place; they boarded a motorized canoe and travelled down the Magdalena River to ELN-controlled San Lorenzo before moving onto El Bagre, a FARC-controlled village. Guerrillas, suspecting he was a government spy, dragged Olinda's father and the farmer's son out of the truck and beat them until they were convinced by the maimed Olinda that they were simple raspachinos. Further down the river they were searched by a police unit which had just dug out twenty-eight kilos of cocaine from a ferry boat's fuel tank. With just six policemen, their presence was largely symbolic. Determined traffickers could easily stop a little way upstream, carry their merchandise through a few kilometres of jungle, then reload further downriver. When they saw Olinda, who had by now developed fever from an infection, they sympathized. Most of the victims of landmines tend to be policemen. They were even able to provide some rudimentary treatment at their medical post before sending them on their way.

Finally, fifty hours after she lost her foot, Olinda and her father arrived at University Hospital, Bogotá. In front of the building there stands a statue of a soldier with a metal detector in his hands, a strange symbol perhaps, but the hospital is constantly overwhelmed with landmine victims, and about 1200 mine-clearing soldiers and policemen are on the waiting list for an artificial limb. Colombia has more than double the mines in its rich earth than Iraq does in its deserts and is third in the list of countries with the greatest number of mine victims, after Cambodia and Afghanistan (and it's catching up fast). The Colombian military claims that it is no longer sowing mines, but it has an estimated 20,000 in place. Both the FARC and ELN sow about 26,000 new devices each year, planted to booby-trap the coca fields. They kill three Colombians every single day.

Somehow, despite developing a terrible infection, Olinda pulled through. Unable to return to the coca fields, she found work at the same clinic that fitted her with an artificial leg, moulding and polishing hundreds of prostheses for other land mine victims - children, policemen, even members of FARC and the ELN. Her father returned to the coca fields.

The farm-owner's son sold his coke to ex-gang member Geofredo Cortes Ortiz, who was branching out on his own after leaving the all-powerful MS-13s. While the farmer's son made the dangerous trip home, Ortiz took the cocaine to the town of San Pedro Sula in Honduras, walked into a greasy downtown bar and waited for his buyer. A few minutes later two ornately tattooed members of the MS-13 gang walked up behind Ortiz and cranked up the volume of the TV set. One had a tattoo of a grenade on his right shoulder and five tears drawn under his eye, the sign of an expert bomb-maker who had taken the lives of five people. The other man bore the design of a long machete, its end marked red with blood; a series of equally grim tally marks had been crudely scratched underneath using a prison-made kit.

They had come to kill Ortiz. He had made two mistakes. The first was his failure, while leading the MS-13 inside San Pedro Sula jail, to defend his members against an attack by rivals from the 18th Street gang. It had been the worst prison massacre in Honduran history; while the MS slept on the floor of their cramped dormitory, the 18 had sneaked in with homemade knives and steel pipes and turned the prison into a slaughterhouse, butchering eleven of Ortiz's homeboys. The attackers then gutted their victims and triumphantly strung their intestines along barbed-wire fences like party streamers. They cut off ears and tossed them over the wall for the stray dogs. After it was all over, the 18s laughed and flashed the gang sign at the prison guards who waited for them to return to their cells - they didn't dare intervene.

Ortiz's second and biggest mistake was to start dealing coke on the side once he got out of jail, creating his own chain of supply, hooking up with Colombian farmers directly. He paid the farmers more than the paramilitaries, but by bypassing his own gang he was able to sell the coke on for great personal profit. A few years ago, this wouldn't have been possible: a cocaine mountain had been piling up in Jamaica, the Caribbean funnel for the export of cocaine from South America to Miami, Amsterdam, Madrid and London. The US market was saturated; the price had been falling and border controls had been stepped up. Besides that the MS-13 ran nearly all cross-border smuggling, and anyone treading on their toes was terminated with extremely messy prejudice. But with the growing demand for crack in the US and Europe, most notably from the UK, the temptation to get rich or die trying was all too great.

It was the day of the big Honduras-Jamaica football match and the blasting commentary covered the screams of Ortiz as the two killers dragged him into the bathroom and hacked him to death with their machetes. Once Ortiz stopped moving, they were joined by half a dozen homeboys in the symbolic rite of methodically cutting the dead man's body into little pieces and flushing them down the toilet; all except for his intestines which they saved in a plastic bag, to be strung across a washing line on Ortiz's turf as a warning.

By 1999, crack had all but destroyed civilized life in Honduras, a country that had once claimed to be the least drug-riddled and most politically stable country in Central and South America. A freely elected civilian government had come to power in 1982 and ruled peacefully. Then, in the mid-1980s, came the MS-13 and, with them, crack. The MS-13 gang is named after La Mara Street in El Salvador and 13th Street in Los Angeles, their two main territorial centres. They initially consisted of guerrillas who fought in El Salvador's civil war. As the war neared its end, the gang moved its criminal operations into neighbouring Honduras and rapidly began tearing the country to pieces. Early attempts by the authorities to stamp out the gang were met with brutal responses; in 1988, two MS-13 members armed with an AK-47 and an M-16 stopped a public bus, boarded and emptied their clips into the innocent passengers, killing twenty-eight, including seven children. Eventually the Honduran authorities all but gave up and by 1999 only one police officer, Magdalenys Centeno, covered gang-related crime. She spent her time going to gang funerals and taking photos; just keeping track of who's who in the Honduran gang world was a full-time job. By the turn of the century the country was in a state of permanent war between the government, MS-13, rival gangs such as the 18 and the Junk and the Sombra Negra (the Black Shadow), a group of vigilantes made up of angry cops and local traders who spent their free time hunting and shooting MS-13 members on sight. They had plenty of targets: San Pedro Sula, a city of half a million Hondurans, had over 35,000 MS-13 members, many of them addicts (crack sells for an affordable £1.25 a hit).

The MS-13 moved to the west coast of the United States in the mid-80s, bringing crack with them. Today they are one of the most violently dangerous gangs in North and South America - and one of the most organized, with members in seventeen US states. In the Washington, DC area in 1999, local authorities estimated MS-13 membership to number around 6,000. The most notorious death in the US that year was an MS execution: a sixteen-year-old boy turncoat had both of his hands chopped off and bled to a lonely death in a Washington alley not two miles from the White House.

Ortiz's coke was taken to MS-13 leader Cesar Cortez. The MS-13 used their established smuggling network to ship the coke along with a larger consignment to Jamaica, an island paradise torn apart by the trade in coke and the demand for crack. Jamaica (population 2.5 million) has one of the highest homicide rates per capita in the world, with an average of five murders a day. Jamaica's army and police have been given a free hand to enforce law and order in the ghettos (as a result Jamaica has the world's highest per capita police killings per year). Twenty-seven people were killed in one operation, including several children, when troops backed by helicopter gun-ships and tanks raided a poor neighbourhood torn apart by a gang war. Gang members from all sides united against the police and, most wearing bullet-proof vests, held them at bay for eighteen hours using Uzis, Glocks, Mac-10s, AK-47s and M16s.

In the ghettos of Kingston, the capital, criminal militias are loosely allied to one of two political parties: the left-wing People's National Party (PNP) or the right-wing Jamaica Labour Party (JLP). For decades they have controlled voting in the slums in return for political protection. Drugs had always been part of the Jamaican gang scene but with the arrival of cocaine followed by the crack boom (thanks to the MS-13), the island rapidly became a narco-state. The militias created by the major political parties evolved into highly powerful and extremely violent drug-smuggling networks with an inexhaustible supply of guns. Jamaicans were soon distributing crack all over the US. Areas of Kingston became beyond the control of state authority.

Today, the ghettos are run by drug dons, known as 'community leaders'. They provide potential political patrons with valuable votes, and, since the arrival of crack, valuable financial contributions during election years. In return, the dons expect political protection. One prominent community leader was Donald 'Zekes' Philips of West Kingston. Minutes after his arrest by police officers in September 1998, ghettos threw up barricades and launched a wave of vandalism and looting. When demands for his release were ignored his loyal followers set off on a rampage through Kingston's better suburbs. He was eventually released on the personal order of the prime minister. Although dramatic, Zekes' story is not exceptional.

With an average annual income of just £1500, it is all too tempting for poor Jamaicans to become drug mules who are paid between £2000 and £5000 for each trip to transport between half a kilo to ten kilos of cocaine to North America and Europe. About 65 per cent of all the cocaine in the UK is smuggled through by Jamaican mules. Becoming a drug mule is the most readily available form of employment (unemployment runs at around 20 per cent). It is a job which can earn people more money than most Jamaicans see in a lifetime. Most of the smugglers are women, and many are single parents struggling to raise three or four children and put them through school. Others are coerced by threats of violence.

In late October in 1999, in a flat in a run-down block in Tel-Aviv, a ghetto community in Kingston, Julia looked at the forty 25-gram latex lozenges packed full of Cortez's coke, each about the size of a thumb from the knuckle to the tip. She had done this a few times by now, but it was not something she had, or would ever, get used to. For a start, her life was in the hands of the dealer who wrapped them. The smallest hole, the tiniest defect in one of the lozenges and a lethal dose of cocaine would gradually be released into her stomach and she would die. Julia thought the risks were worth it. She didn't want her own kids to grow up in an area where every child has seen the body of a murder victim by the age of ten; where children as young as eleven or twelve called 'fryers' join the drug posses and act as innocent-looking bagmen before graduating to robbery and then murder. The money she would make from muling would pay for a fresh start in the UK.

Julia examined each lozenge carefully; each was made from the fingers of latex gloves, the ends of which were glued, compressed and heat-sealed, before being tightly wrapped in clingfilm. Condoms used to be the favoured wrapping material but they proved unreliable against stomach acid. Finally satisfied, Julia rubbed a little olive oil over one of the lozenges, placed it in her mouth and gulped. It had to be done with conviction every time - any hesitancy and the package could become caught and the swallower could choke to death. When she first started, Julia spent some time practising with large grapes and then smaller lozenges filled with sugar. Occasionally, one had got stuck and although she freed them each time without too much trouble her throat had wound up as sore as hell. After the last was squeezed down her gullet, Julia washed them down with a constipating agent. An attack of the nerves can prove disastrous on the ten-hour flight from Kingston to London. It's a risky business, but the rewards are high. Julia earned £5000. Dozens of couriers collapse while waiting to board Air Jamaica flights each year; around ten of them die. A few weeks earlier Julia had watched after a bag burst in another swallower's stomach in mid-flight. It was a horrible, agonizing death. The middle-aged woman victim's eyes were full of fear as she writhed in the arms of the stewardess. She had fifty-five bags in her. The stewardesses all knew their plane was full of swallowers (they were the ones who refused food and drink), but there was nothing they could do.

As she travelled by cab to the airport, Julia had to pass by Kingston's dilapidated courthouse. She knew there were dozens of mules awaiting prosecution inside, one of whom was twenty-two-year-old Diane Haddow from Tottenham, North London, who stood in the roasting airless heat of court number five. Detective Constable Conrad Granston explained to the judge how, after opening her suitcase he found thirty-three plastic bottles of 'medicated powder'. Haddow told him that her daughter suffered from an agonizing skin complaint and that they were for her. But the bottles contained one kilo of high-quality cocaine. She was one of a half-dozen mules in court that morning. Her fellow prisoners included a man who had taken a chance smuggling coke the old-fashioned way - in a false compartment in his suitcase - and a woman who had swallowed ninety-nine cocaine pellets.

Smugglers use a wide variety of techniques apart from swallowing. Some of them employ almost James Bond-like methods - tightly packed into the soles of shoes and suitcase handles; stitched into trouser seams. In one memorable case a woman showed particular ingenuity by weaving half a kilo of cocaine into her hair. British citizen Michael Edwards tried to smuggle out liquid cocaine in a bottle of Sorrell, a local drink made from flower petals. For mules caught in Jamaica sentences are light, especially compared with Britain where a first-time mule can expect to serve a minimum of six years. Lisa Walker was caught attempting to smuggle two kilograms of cocaine out of the country; she was released from a Jamaican prison after serving nine months.

The first thing the mules see when they arrive at Kingston's airport is an infamous poster: 'Drug mules beware: it's a plane ticket to hell'. As Julia prepared to board Air Jamaica (aka Cocaine Air) Flight 223 to Heathrow, she was scrutinized by Sergeant Adele Halliman, Jamaica's number-one mule spotter. But a lack of money and staff meant that Halliman was only able to arrest one mule a day; she reckoned that on certain flights the number of mules was as high as eight out of every ten passengers.

In 1999 the UK's Deputy High Commissioner in Jamaica, Phil Sinkinson, sparked a political row by claiming in a conservative estimate that as many as one in ten passengers were attempting to smuggle drugs. That's (conservatively speaking) twenty kilos a flight. There are four flights a day from Jamaica to the UK flying five times a week, fifty weeks a year. To the drug dealers in England anxiously awaiting consignments from Jamaica, a kilo of coke converted into crack is worth more than £60,000 (up to £90,000 if the coke arrives uncut) - so twenty tonnes of coke worth £1.2 billion a year makes it into the UK via Jamaican swallowers alone. If Halliman was right then the true figure may be far higher.

Sadly, not all of Jamaica's police force was as trustworthy as Halliman. In January 1999, 127 Jamaican police officers were transferred after it was discovered that a whole police department had formed an alliance with members of a Colombian cocaine cartel. Eight months later the entire Special Anti-Crime Taskforce was disbanded after its officers were caught smuggling drugs.

On board, Julia buckled her seat belt, closed her eyes and prayed the packets of cocaine in her stomach wouldn't make her vomit during the ten-hour flight. She also prayed she would make it through London customs. While the chances of getting caught at the Jamaican end are quite small, it was a different matter in London, where there are more resources and stiffer sentences, but the odds are still in favour of evading detection. But in a surprise sweep at Heathrow airport everyone was searched and X-rayed for cocaine. Twenty-three swallowers were discovered, including two children (one sixteen-year-old eventually passed fifty-three latex lozenges and a twelve-year-old passed eighty-four). One week later a further nineteen were caught on a BA flight from Jamaica into Gatwick.

The flights were not targeted because of a tip-off, but were chosen at random to give investigators an idea of the problem they were up against, a problem that had been highlighted by Dutch customs at Amsterdam's Schipol airport. They complained that they had been ordered to stop arresting small-time cocaine smugglers arriving from the Dutch Antilles because the courts and prisons could not cope with the high numbers. In 1999 an estimated 20-25,000 drug mules flew into Schiphol, 1200 of whom were caught and convicted, up 60 per cent from the previous year. In a random sweep of one Caribbean aeroplane, Dutch customs officers caught forty swallowers. Julia was the only one to escape the X-ray, although her bags and clothes were carefully searched whilst a Belgian Shepherd sniffer dog snuffled around her. Julia was heavily pregnant. The law forbade the X-raying of mothers-to-be. As a result she was gold dust to the dealers and commanded top dollar for her services. She left the airport a free woman, carrying a kilo of Colombia's finest in her belly, nestled next to her baby. Julia was driven to a nondescript council block in Hanwell, West London, just twenty minutes from Heathrow. That night she was given laxatives and the next day, with the help of a home enema kit, the twenty lozenges were retrieved. Julia returned to Jamaica seven days after she landed. She planned another two trips; she figured that once they were done she'd have enough to start a new life as a single mother with her child in the UK. Two weeks later, however, shortly after an early morning landing at Heathrow, a package spilled its lethal contents into her stomach as she was being driven from the airport. She was found, unconscious, propped up against a wall in a suburban street by an early-morning commuter; her jacket, jewellery, anything that could be used to identify her had been removed. The ambulance got Julia to hospital in time to save her but not her baby. As soon as she was well enough she was tried and sent to jail for six years (one third of all women in prison in England and Wales are Jamaican mules) before being sent back to Jamaica, where she found work as a low-paid clerk for a charity that specializes in mule prevention and rehabilitation.

Julia's earlier consignment of coke was repackaged and taken to the flat of twenty-seven-year-old Asad Malajit in Balham, south-west London. Asad, a barrister, had won a prized scholarship to the bar but when he was unable to find chambers he developed his coke habit into a crack-dealing enterprise. Inside his large apartment, Asad mixed the cocaine with a solution of baking soda and carefully cooked the mixture using his microwave. As he cooked the cocaine, the liquid burst free from the crystals and produced a distinct cracking sound. Once all the moisture was removed, a pure cocaine base remained that, when smoked, gave the user the ultimate hit. In only a few minutes, cocaine, the glamour dust of the 80s, had been boiled down to hard mean little pellets of highly addictive crack, giver of euphoria, taker of lives.

A few minutes later Asad opened his door to former postman turned arms dealer Peter Callum, thirty-six. With crack the demand for guns is extremely high. Callum's Mercedes was full of ammo, ready to be sold in a joint deal with the crack to a man known as the Prince of Darkness, a notorious K-man (the boss of several crack houses) based in north London.

Guns and crack go hand in hand. Most serious UK crack dealers are armed and aspire to own the £3000 Mac-10 machine gun which looks similar to the Uzi 9mm but fires 1000 rounds per minute. An extremely effective sound suppressor makes it a very quiet weapon, and gun attacks often go unheard. The rapid fire makes them difficult to hold, and in the hands of the crack dealers they are wildly inaccurate. The Mac-10 is also known as the 'Street Sweeper' and the 'Spray and Pray', an indication of its indiscrimination. On this deal, however, Callum was selling on a stack of bullets for a set of Walther PPKs that the Prince of Darkness had purchased from two South London arms dealers. They bought decommissioned weapons legally from a Bermondsey trader before converting them using parts bought from B&Q.

They were hardly able to keep up with demand from 'Murder Mile', the Upper Clapton Road area near Tottenham. Seventeen men were shot dead there in 1998 and there were sixty-seven attempted murders - the victims were saved from death only by the poor marksmanship of the gunmen or the skill of the medical crews who treated them - and there were at least another eighty shootings (that we knew about) resulting in minor injury or criminal damage. London was displaying the early symptoms of the violent disease that had wracked Honduras and Jamaica. Indeed, at that time a full-on gang war was being fought in North London between the Lock City Crew and the Cartel Crew, which started with an argument over a parking space outside the Bridge Park Leisure Centre near the notorious Stonebridge estate in Tottenham. Bridge Park had been built for the community with government and lottery funding but by 1999 its storerooms were being used as an armoury.

Back in Tottenham, I watch as a car pulls up and two of the Prince of Darkness's lieutenants get out. One has the crack in a plastic bag. The other holds his hand in his coat, and walks backwards towards the house, watching for an ambush. I sit low in the car, holding my breath. After they enter, the door slams with a heavy clang.

And so that's it. That's how a kilo of crack made its way from Totopahana to Tottenham. And it's all been to feed the insatiable cravings of some of the 50,000-odd addicts on our patch who have spent last night doing whatever's necessary to buy their fix - thieving, mugging, pimping, begging, stealing from each other, selling their bodies, dealing other drugs, hiring out guns, carrying out hits,1 only to hand their money over to the Prince of Darkness and others like him so they can blow it all on guns, cars, designer clothes and, of course, more crack. These 50,000 addicts are possessed by crack. Crack owns them. Teenagers have told me they decided to become addicts after the first time they used it; they spend the rest of their lives chasing that first God-like high. Nothing else matters. One seventeen-year old said to me: 'Sometimes I stare at myself in the mirror and think, "Who the fuck are you?" I have no idea. No fucking clue. The only thing I live for is another blast. And another and another. That's it.' Right now, she's inside the crack house I'm about to raid, whoring to earn her fix.

The house is full of crack whores, one of whom has just given a blow-job to a dealer in return for a £10 rock. Now she is sitting on a filthy sofa in a room full of twenty addicts and armed Tottenham Man Dem gang members, opposite one of the Prince of Darkness's top lieutenants. He is fondling a handgun he used to blast a rival in a drive-by the previous night. She's heavily pregnant (her son, already a crack addict, will be born with spina bifida). She's so addicted the buzz from the crack will barely register. Nevertheless, she lights her little crack pipe with the legend 'I ™¥ London' written on the bowl. I climb out of the car and open the boot. With a grunt, I pick up the enforcer, my trusty thirty-kilo battering ram.

Time I introduced myself.

ISBN: 9781847391520
ISBN-10: 1847391524
Audience: General
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 273
Published: 1st June 2009
Country of Publication: GB
Dimensions (cm): 19.800 x 12.900  x 2.2
Weight (kg): 0.202