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Sheffield Gangs

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Wrong place wrong time

'I reckon it spoiled me suit!’
- Gang member Frank Kidnew’s defiant statement to police after being slashed with razors over a hundred times
On top of gambling and confidence tricks, the gangs made their money wherever they could. Protection money was expected from pubs in order to minimise ‘breakages’. Some gang members would wait outside factory gates on payday to collect a cut of the workers’ wages. After a day of intimidation, gang members would take a taxi home. The driver would of course not expect payment.
But as intimidating as the gangs were to the public, it was nothing compared to the violence they meted out to rival gang members.
GAMBLING TO GANG WAR
One Saturday night in April 1923, Mooney’s gang tried to make a pre-emptive strike on the Park Brigade. They attacked one, Bill Furniss, in his bed. Despite being severely injured from being beaten by hammers, he never reported it to the police. He didn’t want justice, he wanted revenge. The gang wars had started.
Two days later one of the Park brigade, Frank Kidnew was leaving a tossing game. He was slashed with razors over a hundred times. Despite being interviewed by the police at the infirmary, he too refused to name names. His concern was only with how the razors and his blood had ‘spoiled’ his suit.
So the Park mob retaliated by attacking the main man, Mooney, at his home. Mooney and his crew defended themselves with guns. One attacker was shot in the shoulder. When the police arrived, they found a double-barrel shotgun, a rifle, a revolver, and ammunition. Despite being in a fire-fight that wounded another man, Mooney was simply fined. His fine for possession of firearms was £10.
During 1923, Garvin’s gang were in the ascendency. Mooney’s mob imploded.
On 18 May 1925, Mooney’s home was again attacked. An elderly bystander was hurt and several attending police officers required medical attention. Only one assailant was caught. Again, there was only a small fine.
On Christmas Eve, the Park mob stormed Mooney’s home. They terrorised Mooney, his wife and six children. Mooney escaped by hiding in a cupboard. After this, he fled Sheffield. He would not return for a year.
With Mooney’s gang in decline, Garvin could have sat back and enjoyed the spoils. Instead, he became embroiled in a pointless killing that would cost him his empire, and his freedom.

THE PRINCESS STREET MURDER
Accounts differ as to what caused William Plommer to be fatally targeted. One source suggests he’d helped a lady rebuff the unwanted advances of a Sam Garvin gang member. Another has Plommer witnessing the Sam Garvin Park Brigade inflict a vicious beating on a Mooney man, Liversidge. After they’d finished, Plommer helped the man to his feet. Local historian JP Bean states that it was, in fact, Plommer helping up a beaten to the floor Sam Garvin man, Wilfred Fowler, which caused offence.
Plommer’s helping hand was seen as an insult to the gangster’s wounded pride.
Whatever the cause, Wilfred and his brother Lawrence Fowler, along with eight others, tracked Plommer through the streets. More gathered for the final assault. Estimates vary as to how many attacked Plommer. Some suggest six, others twenty. All agree Plommer stood alone.
The unarmed Plommer was beaten with pokers, coshes and a piece of lead on a string. He was also beaten with ‘Life Preservers’. These weapons, often chair legs hollowed out and filled with lead, were intended to inflict injury, not death. This time, however, they would not live up to their name.
Bleeding heavily, Plommer tried to crawl back home. As he dragged himself through the streets, he was pounded repeatedly. When others came to his aid they found Plommer had severe head injuries and two great wounds resembling bayonet thrusts through his stomach and side.
He was taken to the Royal Infirmary. Within minutes, he was dead.