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4 infamous gangsters from Nottinghamshire

Composite image showing various landmarks from Nottingham with the text ' Nottingham's Biggest Gangsters' in the centre

Nottingham has long been a popular area for gang activity and an increase in gun-related crime at the turn of the century earned it a rather unpleasant reputation.

From the Midlands’ equivalent of the Kray twins to the newer generation of drug dealers who tout their exploits on social media, these are some of the violent mobsters who’ve come to prominence across the decades.

1. The Gunn Brothers

Back in the 1980s, Colin Gunn was, in the words of one Nottinghamshire policeman, just another ‘average, run-of-the-mill petty criminal’ who landed jail time for cheque fraud. Over time, however, Colin and his brother David became the kingpins of the Bestwood Estate in north Nottingham. Extortion was their speciality, with the brothers collecting money from local shops, pubs and clubs, to supposedly guarantee their safety. They also ran drugs through the area.

Bulked up on steroids, fuelled by cocaine and prone to paranoid mood swings, Colin Gunn was a particularly terrifying figure. He deliberately embraced his Scarface-like reputation, having enemies beaten with baseball bats or doused in petrol and threatened with being burnt alive.

David Gunn, who once bit off a man’s lips and eyelids in a bar brawl, was repeatedly sent to prison before eventually going straight. Colin, meanwhile, was finally undone by his vendetta against an ordinary couple: John and Joan Stirland.

It was triggered by the passing of Colin’s nephew, Jamie Gunn. Though the official cause of Jamie’s death was pneumonia, the Gunns believed he’d fallen into a deadly spiral of alcohol and drugs following the fatal shooting of his best friend outside a pub. The shooter in that incident was Joan Stirland’s son, and that was all the reason Colin needed to have her and her husband gunned down.

Plotting this brutal, illogical act of revenge earned Colin a 35-year sentence, finally bringing his infamous reign to an end.

2. The Dawes Dynasty

When Colin Gunn was still in his petty criminal era, he worked for another gang that boasted its own pair of soon-to-be-notorious brothers: John and Robert Dawes. The latter was the bigger figure on the international scene, living in the Costa del Sol and overseeing what police described as an empire based on ‘trafficking, money laundering and murder’.

John Dawes, meanwhile, ran an expansive drugs network in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, making millions and becoming a target of intense police interest. But he was scrupulous about maintaining a distance from the dirty work, keeping buffers between himself and the drugs and lower-level dealers. He also instilled fear in his gang, with one member later telling police he’d been viciously beaten after a stash of amphetamines had gone missing.

John Dawes’ violent managerial approach proved his undoing, as several of his fearful henchmen ended up going to the police. Their testimonies were fundamental in 2005, when Dawes was put on trial and given 24 years for money laundering and conspiracy to deal in drugs. One co-defendant was his father, Arthur Dawes, who got eight years.

Robert Dawes, the biggest fish of the family, was handed a 22-year sentence in France in 2018, after being caught trying to smuggle 20 suitcases of cocaine through Charles de Gaulle airport. He was described by the National Crime Agency as ‘one of the most influential and feared organised criminals in Europe’.

3. Akeem Chand

While the Gunns and the Dawes crime families were very much old-school villains, a different type of gangster has since emerged in Nottinghamshire. More brazen and flashy, these thugs leverage online messaging platforms and social media to both make drug deals and flaunt their celebrity-like status.

A prime example is Akeem Chand, a young but hugely significant player who was implicated in a series of ‘tit-for-tat shootings’ in Nottingham. The incidents played out between gangs trying to carve out their turf in the area, with one of Chand’s rivals being shot in the neck.

Chand himself led a garishly glamorous existence, fuelled by the £16,000 a month salary he generated from running drugs in Nottinghamshire and beyond. He posted rap music videos on YouTube showing him revelling in his loot, flashing £20,000 Rolex watches, going on exotic holidays, and – in the words of the judge at his trial – glorifying a ‘criminal lifestyle which was, in reality, an evil cancer on the community’.

Described by the prosecutor at his trial as having the ‘firepower of a small army’ to protect his network, Chand was eventually sent down for life in 2021.

4. The Stanton-on-the-Wolds drug runners

It’s not just the urban areas of Nottinghamshire that have witnessed organised gang activity. In 2021, the residents of the genteel, leafy village of Stanton-on-the-Wolds were stunned when police busted gang members who had sneakily made the area one of their cocaine-dealing hotspots.

Speaking to the press, one villager called the news ‘unbelievable’, while another claimed ‘everyone on this street plays golf, they wouldn’t dream of engaging in that sort of thing’. However, another local did concede that ‘it is quite a big village, there are lots of places you could probably go to do seedy deals’.

Ten of the men responsible were eventually jailed for a collective 104 years, following a police crackdown on their million-pound criminal enterprise. The revelations around the Stanton-on-the-Wolds dealers serve as a reminder of just how active organised criminal gangs are in the UK, whether on the city streets or in the most unassuming of rural areas.