Skip to main content

Manchester's most notorious criminals

View of Manchester tallest building Beetham Tower, reflecting in Manchester Canal.
Image: Beetham Tower reflecting in Manchester Canal |

Manchester might be a beautiful city known for its history, culture and Curry Mile, but there’s also a darker side to the city. When it comes to the UK’s infamous criminals, a few of them have one thing in common: they called the city their home.

Murderers, gang members and rapists, these are some of Manchester’s most notorious criminals.

Dale Cregan

A one-eyed killer whose eye may have been lost during a fight in Thailand or removed by other gang members, Dale Cregan was known to be dangerous by locals in Manchester long before the murders he became infamous for.

In 2003, he shot and killed Mark Short, a member of a notorious family involved in a bitter feud with another known gang family who Cregan was acquainted with. Fearing retaliation from Mark’s father David, Cregan murdered him as well, shooting him several times and throwing two grenades. He then went on the run.

It was another gun and grenade attack that led to the murders of Nicola Hughes and Fiona Bone, the first incident of female police officers being killed on duty in the UK. The officers were called to the site of a burglary, but when they arrived, they came under immediate attack from gunfire and another grenade. One woman died on the scene, the other a day later. It turned out, the burglary call was orchestrated by Cregan to lead the officers into a trap. In 2013, Cregan was sentenced to spend his whole life in prison.

Harold Shipman

One of the world’s most prolific murderers, Harold Shipman worked as a GP in the Greater Manchester area. Throughout his career, he is estimated to have killed at least 250 people, between the 1970s and 1990s. Of his victims, 171 were women and 44 were men.

He managed to evade imprisonment in part by altering his medical records and patients’ causes of death. The alarmingly high death rate of his patients—almost 10 times higher than that of other GPs— was noticed by local undertakers, but it wasn’t until the forged will of one of his victims, Kathleen Grundy (changed to leave everything to Shipman) was found, that a proper investigation into Shipman was held, leading to his arrest.

The Moors Murderers

Between 1963 and 1965, Ian Brady and Myra Hindley raped and murdered five children: Pauline Reade; John Kilbride; Keith Bennett; Lesley Ann Downey; and Edward Evans, their bodies were buried on Saddleworth Moor. The oldest victim was 17; the youngest, 10. Brady was arrested a day after the murder of Evans, Hindley four days later. They both died in prison, in 2017 and 2002 respectively.

The Noonan Brothers

The Noonan brothers, Desmond, Dominic and Damien, were an organised crime family who operated in Manchester for over 20 years, ‘ruling the city’. They began their careers working as security for nightclubs, but their crimes included drugs, murder, robberies, intimidation, blackmail, tampering with juries, and in the case of Dominic, sexual offences against boys as young as 10.

Their reign began to end when Damien was killed in a motorcycle accident in 2004. Desmond was then stabbed in Manchester the following year and Dominic was imprisoned in 2015 for arson, blackmail and perverting the course of justice. A further 11 years were later added on for historical cases of sexual offences.

Paul Massey

Paul Massey was a figure involved in organised crime in Manchester. A big man with a big reputation, he was known as one of Europe’s top gang leaders. He was also known as a Robin Hood figure who famously brokered peace between two rival gangs in the 1990s.

Much like the Noonan brothers, he began his career running security for Manchester’s nightclubs, but after serving a 14-year prison sentence in the 90s for stabbing a man in the groin, who he left for dead, he became a central figure in the infamous gang the 'A Team'. He was gunned down on his doorstep in 2015.

Reynhard Sinaga

A student at Manchester University, Reynhard Sinaga was crowned by the CPS as 'the most prolific rapist in British legal history'. The investigation into his crimes was the largest rape investigation in UK history. Sinaga targeted young men, most of whom were heterosexuals and local students. Sinaga lured them back to his flat, on the pretence of charging a phone or waiting for a girlfriend, then drugged them with GHB. Once they had passed out, he raped them.

Many of the victims woke up remembering nothing of the night before and had no idea they had been assaulted until they were approached by police. 48 victims appeared in court (over multiple trials) and Sinaga was convicted of 136 rapes, but police believe the true number of victims could be at least 190. He was jailed for life in 2020 and deemed by the judge as too dangerous to ever be released.

Salman Abedi

The suicide bomber who carried out an attack on Manchester Arena in 2017, 22-year-old Salman Abedi was responsible for the deaths of 23 people, including himself, and injuring thousands of others. Abedi entered the arena as people were leaving the concert, detonating his homemade explosives in the foyer, where many people were waiting at the time.

It was the deadliest terror attack in the UK since the 7/7 London bombings in 2005. Abedi’s brother, Hashem, was found guilty of helping to plan the attack and was sentenced to a minimum of 55 years in prison.