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Hells Angels vs Outcasts: The UK biker gang wars

A man in jeans and a biker vest rides a Harley Davidson bike
Image: F. Muhammad / Pixabay

In the UK, biker gangs don't often hit the news headlines. The Hells Angels, the biggest motorcycle club in the world, rarely slip out from behind the cover of the fact that, by and large, they are, first and foremost, just a motorcycle club. Anything else comes second, and whatever that is, it’s rarely known about, save a close circle of members, their associates, the authorities, and maybe those who cross them.

The story is a little different in Europe, however. The infamous Nordic Biker War was a conflict that took place between the Bandidos and the Hells Angels from January 1994 until September 1997 in Denmark, Norway, Finland, and Sweden. The clash resulted in the death of nine bikers and the attempted murder of 74 more.

If you think that this was some sort of amateur shoot-out, you’re very much mistaken. The weaponry used included machine guns, hand grenades, and car bombs. Even an anti-tank missile attack was directed at the Hells Angels clubhouse in Copenhagen on 6th October. Two people were left dead and nine more suffered serious injuries.

Still, there has been some activity in the UK, most notably the murder of Hells Angel member Gerry Tobin in 2007. How a Canadian motorcycle mechanic wound up shot dead on the side of the M40 on 12th August needs a bit of context, and for that, we’re going to have to go back to 1997.

Up until this moment, clashes between the two rival gangs, the Outcasts and the Hells Angels, were relatively unheard of outside those involved. In fact, the HA even had a good relationship with the Outcasts, a patch club whose UK presence had grown in size throughout the ‘90s. According to some sources, this led to the American Hells Angels instructing their UK counterparts to combat the rise of the Outcasts.

The conflict arguably began when the Outcasts were snubbed by the Lost Tribe, a small biker club in Herefordshire who, in the summer of 1997, patched over to the HA instead. When two heavily armed Outcast members were stopped by the police, apparently intending to attack members of the HA in November 1997, it was obvious that things were getting serious.

A few months later, on 31st January 1998, the HA killed two members of the Outcasts, David Armstrong and Malcolm St Clair, outside the Rockers Reunion, an annual gathering of bikers at the Battersea Arts Centre. In November of that year, Ronald Wait was jailed for 15 years for his part in the Battersea attacks. However, this was just a sideshow because war had been declared.

Back in 1987, the HA began an event for bikers called the ‘Bulldog Bash’. Despite being organised by the club, this was an event open to all bikers, although rival patch clubs were obviously not welcome. It featured a bill of circuit and drag bike racing, motorcycle stunts, rock bands, food, beer, and entertainment of a more ‘adult’ variety.

Held in Long Marston, just outside Stratford-upon-Avon, the Bulldog Bash had been a peaceful event up until August 2001 when, on leaving the event via the M40, a Canadian member of the Hells Angel was shot three times in the leg as he rode home. The rounds were fired from a weapon out of a passing saloon car. However, because of the code of silence that exists in all patch clubs, the anonymous victim (who survived the ordeal) refused to press charges. For the next six years, there were no major incidences reported, but it would seem plenty was going on behind the scenes.

Exactly six years to the day after the previous shooting, Gerry Tobin, also a Canadian national and a member of the Hells Angles, was shot and killed on the same stretch of road. But this time, a combination of poor planning and in-fighting led to seven men; Sean Creighton, Dane Garside, Karl Garside, Simon Turner, Dean Taylor, Ian Cameron, and Malcolm Bull convicted for Tobin’s murder.

The planning for the hit culminated in the seven men lying in wait in three separate locations for any random Hells Angel member leaving the Bulldog Bash event. Sean Creighton, Dane Garside, and Simon Turner were parked in a layby on the A46, Karl Garside, Ian Cameron, and Dean Taylor were further up the motorway, while Malcolm Bull was by himself to act as support for the two other teams of men.

After filling with fuel, Tobin led two other bikers onto the M40. He was followed by the car carrying Sean Creighton which drew alongside the bikers. Creighton shot Tobin twice: one bullet killed him instantly and sent his customised Harley spinning 200 feet up the road.

From the point of view of the Outcasts, the attack was a success, but when police found the burnt-out Rover linked to the shooting, Sean Creighton was arrested shortly afterwards. He’d used his own vehicle to carry out the execution.

While Creighton pleaded guilty, the six other men denied any involvement. If it wasn’t for Malcolm Bull who broke the bikers’ code of silence by speaking to the police, it’s possible that only Creighton, Garside, Turner, and Bull himself would have been sentenced to life in prison. In the end, all seven were handed life sentences, with minimum time spent behind bars ranging from 25 to 30 years.

But one of those convicted has been sentenced to a full-life term. Malcolm Bull isn’t just at risk from the Hells Angels, but from his former fellow Outlaws by breaking a strict code of silence that is at the very heart of one-percenter biker culture. The Outlaw’s motto is ‘God Forgives, Outlaws Don't’ and it's unlikely Malcolm Bull will be allowed to forget that anytime soon.