Merseyside Police bares its teeth as crime bosses flee to ‘foreign villas’
Plus: Liz Truss, about to become our new prime minister, isn’t talking about levelling up
Dear readers — Britain will get a new prime minister tomorrow. Liz Truss triumphed over Rishi Sunak in the Conservative leadership race earlier, and will soon be in Number 10.
In her speech Truss spoke of a “bold plan” to slash taxes and heaped praise on outgoing PM Boris Johnson. But significantly, she made no mention of levelling up, one of Johnson’s flagship policies. There will be grave doubts on Merseyside and across the North as to how serious Truss’ new look Tory party will be about regenerating deprived parts of the country.
Meanwhile, since the killing of nine-year-old Olivia Pratt-Korbel two weeks ago, Liverpool has been experiencing a mass crackdown on organised crime. Today’s briefing looks at the response of Merseyside Police, who have been running a campaign of raids and arrests in the fight against violent criminality.
Our weekend read focused on the community in Dovecot that has been sent into grieving. “A thought provoking piece that captures the reality of life in areas like this,” said one commenter.
To help us do more journalism like this, that reflects the nuance and depth of serious topics, please do join us as a member now. You will get all our members-only editions and be able to comment under any Post story.
Last week we sent out two great stories to our members. On Tuesday we published a piece by Jack about an NFT (these are non-fungible tokens, used to store artworks digitally) art gallery that ran in Wavertree for four months this year. Despite making virtual waves in the NFT world, gallery owner Amir Soleymani was disappointed by the lack of local impact. Indeed, it was empty when we paid a visit.
On Thursday Mollie spoke to Peter Wilding, the man who coined the term “Brexit” despite not being a Brexiteer. Quite the opposite in fact. Wilding grew up in Liverpool but became that rarest of things: a scouse Tory. He was media director of the Conservative Party under David Cameron — responsible for devising a narrative to promote Cameron’s European policy — and describes his work since the Brexit referendum he inadvertently helped bring about as a form of “penance”.
As Dovecot resident Andrew Hubbard said in his tweet thanking us for our weekend read: “please continue to work with us.” We wish to be able to do that, but dedicating ample resources to follow communities over an extensive period, rather than rushing in and out for a quick story, can be time-consuming and expensive. We’ve had excellent growth at The Post recently and are well on our way to 600 subscribers and hope to keep this up, so if you know someone who you think would enjoy the work we produce, do consider sending on this email and spreading the word.
This week’s weather
This week’s weather forecast is sourced from the Met Office and it’s for Liverpool.
The big story: Merseyside Police bares its teeth in organised crime crackdown
Top line: Merseyside is experiencing a mass crackdown on organised crime. Since the killing of Olivia Pratt-Korbel two weeks ago, 88 warrants have been executed, almost 1000 stop and searches have been carried out and 349 arrests have been made as the police force attempts to get to grips with a harrowing few weeks.
Context: Last month, an Inspectorate rated Merseyside Police as “outstanding” at disrupting organised crime. This was based on a 2021 inspection which also praised the force for reducing crime and keeping people safe. Within weeks the city was reeling from a sudden outburst of violence that claimed four lives. Liverpool’s need to clamp down on violent criminals was then being raised with the candidates for prime minister at a London hustings.
Fighting talk: The force says “those involved in serious and organised crime are being significantly disrupted and are fed up and frustrated by the increased policing activity”. There is now a large police presence on the ground in Dovecot and the surrounding area conducting raids. “I said we would bare our teeth and that is precisely what we are doing,” said the police spokesperson.
Warning signs: However, our reporting about the shooting brought up an interesting detail. Peter Mitchell, who runs the Big Help charity which owns The Drive (a centre in Dovecot where much of the post-shooting community liaison has been run) told The Post that he had warned local authorities, including the police, about increasing violence in the area over the summer and he believes this was not acted upon. Further details on this point are expected to come to light.
Despite the success of Operation Venetic — a campaign which has seen over 200 Merseyside criminals arrested — Sicarius McGrath, a former criminal who set up an illegal gun factory in Liverpool bringing hundreds of firearms to the city, believes the task will be huge.
McGrath praised Merseyside Police for their efforts so far but told The Post that the area’s criminals are often “the best connected in the country” and that these connections could aid them in evading capture.
“I do think there’s something different about crime in Liverpool, yeah. Obviously the port and the guns coming in have something to do with it, but it’s also a mentality thing. Everyone wants to be in with Merseyside criminals so they’ll have links all over that they can use,” he said.
Rush to the exit: The Daily Mail reported last week that several of the bosses of organised crime groups in Liverpool had fled abroad to “foreign villas” following the death of Olivia. “Right now they will be worried about having their homes raided. There will be a lot of sudden holidays to Spain and Turkey,” Dr Simon Harding, director of the National Centre for Gang Research, told the paper.
And Rob Hesketh — a criminologist at John Moores University — told The Post that he expects the upper echelons of criminals to be on the run. “The guys with the posh houses and nice suits who live in Southport will be trying to avoid the heat because of this,” he said. Hesketh explained the power structure within organised crime in Liverpool, where leader figures are significantly detached from the “dispensable” lower-level figures who tend to be first in the firing line during police crackdowns.
“You won’t find them [the bosses] standing on the street corners. A lot of them will probably go abroad to where they own villas and keep out of the way,” he added.
Your Post briefing
Liz Truss is about to become prime minister after she beat Rishi Sunak in a vote of Conservative Party members. The result was perhaps closer than expected, with Truss winning about 57% of the votes cast (significantly less than the 66% won by Boris Johnson in 2019 or the 68% who voted for David Cameron to become Tory leader in 2005). Her winners’ speech mirrored the low-tax message of her campaign, as well as dismissing the possibility that she might call an early election. And there was no mention of levelling up. Despite saying in her campaign that she would double down on the Johnson-era idea about rebalancing the economy, many commentators expect it will be sidelined.
A 34-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of the murder of nine-year-old Olivia Pratt-Korbel. He was detained in the early hours of Sunday morning in Runcorn, and further arrests were made of men aged 29 and 41 on suspicion of assisting an offender. He is currently in custody being questioned by Merseyside Police. As has been widely reported, Olivia was shot in Dovecot after a man chased convicted drug-dealer Joseph Nee into her family home. Neither of the men had any links to her family. Olivia’s funeral will be held on 15 September in Dovecot, with her family requesting that mourners wear a “splash of pink” for the service.
Castore, the premium sportswear brand backed by Sir Andy Murray and owned by Liverpudlian brothers Phil and Tom Beahon, is now valued at £750 million. Despite being set up on Merseyside, the company relocated to Manchester last year, prompting disquiet from private sector leaders in Liverpool. Castore were noted by The Post in our piece on companies leaving Liverpool last month. One private sector source told us at the time that it was “obvious they were going places, but they were never contacted by the council.” The source felt that the council should have “[got] their claws into them” in order for the city not to lose a potentially huge employer.
Staff at Reach PLC’s wage department in Liverpool have been made redundant with their work to be outsourced, according to reporting in Private Eye. Journalists at Reach — which owns the Liverpool Echo along with national titles such as The Daily Mirror and The Daily Express — went on strike last month in a dispute over pay, and have further dates in the diary for industrial action this month. Meanwhile the London-based company said last month it was sitting on a cash balance of £43.8 million and would be shelling out £14 million in dividends to shareholders. Its share price has tanked this year, falling by around 75% so far.
Home of the week
This semi-detached St Helens cottage has three large bedrooms and a log-burner with a brick fireplace. It’s on the market for £325,000.
🎷 Rising to prominence in 1970s Ethiopia, accordionist, keyboardist and bandleader Hailu Mergia has become a legendary figure in the world of jazz. He’s playing at Future Yard in Birkenhead on Tuesday. Tickets are £16.
✍️ Three scripts written by amateur writers aged 17, 15 and 11 have been selected from a pool of thousands to be turned into live theatrical performances at the Shakespeare North Playhouse in Prescot (with the aid of screenwriter Frank Cottrell-Boyce). Watch them this weekend.
🗣️ Our friends at the South Liverpool Debating Society are never ones to shy away from controversial topics. This week they’re dipping their toes into the murky waters of cancel culture, with the debate: “This House Believes Young People Are Now More Restricted in What They Can Say”. Join them on Thursday from 6:30pm at Keith’s Wine Bar on Lark Lane for the pre-dinner debate.
📷 Organised by Emily Bessick, Tate Liverpool are putting together an archival collection of family photographs of Liverpool’s East and Southeast Asian (ESEA) communities. Asia has a significant place in the history of Liverpool, with its Chinese community the oldest in Europe. Members of ESEA communities are encouraged to bring along their own photos to add to the display. It’s free.
Our favourite reads
Sine Missione divides opinion. As Liverpool’s answer to Banksy (according to the most generous appraisals), the street artist is seemingly omnipresent in the city, his moniker noticeable at every turn. This opinion piece in The White Pube, bluntly entitled “Sine Missione is a load of shit,” defiantly makes the case against. Describing his practice of stencilling quotes with a free love or vaguely anti-establishment ethos onto telephone boxes (Knowledge is power etc) across Liverpool as “mindless celebrity-piggy-backing appropriation,” the author voices frustration that Rennies — the art gallery on Bold Street which announced its closure this month — is unable to retain its place in the city centre whilst Missione’s shop remains. It also criticises his social media output, which shares conspiracy theories about Hungarian-American businessman George Soros.
What can Liverpool learn from New York? This piece in 98Republic calls Liverpool’s regeneration into question (and even nods to our own reporting on the matter) by wondering what cues might be taken from the other side of the Atlantic. “Often, tenuous connections between NYC and Liverpool are made,” it reads — such as the transatlantic shipping and passenger lines, the number of boroughs or the music and art scenes, but the writer believes Liverpool should learn from New York’s “outward-looking” approach, its management of its own narrative and its leadership structure. It’s an article that many are sure to have disagreements with, but still absolutely worth a read.
Fergus Butler-Gallie — an author and priest — looks at the cost of living crisis through the lens of the church and food banks being run by faith organisations in Liverpool, in this great piece for New Statesman. He describes how soaring utility bills are also making it more difficult for some churches to even run at all. He writes: “The Church’s possession of beautiful ancient buildings is in many ways a blessing but, while 11th-century stone vaulting might look stunning in the background of your wedding photos, heating it to a level whereby it is usable for the wider community has always been a challenge. Now it is becoming practically impossible.”
“Fluffy unicorns and other kitsch prizes? Check. Thumping dance anthems and male dancers in curly blond wigs flinging glow sticks into the crowd? Check. Bingo? That’s right. Actual bingo,” begins this piece in The Wall Street Journal about how Liverpool lifted bingo out of the nursing home and made it a 3,500-person party. Bongo’s Bingo — started by Jonny Lacey and Joshua Burke — began life as a series of pub quizzes in Liverpool before expanding into “England’s wildest party” according to the WSJ. The pair have put on shows across the country as well as abroad in Dubai and Ibiza.
Letters from readers
An honest and penetrating look at the real experience of living in Dovecot, on the frontier where respectability and community meet violent crime. If only national commentators and reports could see the failure to invest in these abandoned communities as the backdrop to both the terrible events and the community spirit, as Jack's careful journalism has. (‘Liverpool is grieving’), Natalie
Suppose it's all about how the user sees or values them [NFTs]. Personally I can't get worked up about them, but it's the same with a lot of "art". From the few articles I've ever bothered to read elsewhere, beyond the headlines, it still seems like they're really pushing to get this into some kind of "mainstream" but without very much success, and it's like some kind of club trying to gain recognition. (‘Over a million pounds of art and no visitors’), Baz