Thu - 27th February 2003
Glasgow - Riddrie
The white courier truck with its blacked-out passenger windows on the sides had the appearance of being armoured. It was a sheep in wolf’s clothing. In the cab, protected by no more than toughened glass and the engine compartment sat the two-man crew.
For them, it didn’t matter what the passenger’s name was. One day it might be two or three prisoners on the way to begin their sentences, and on another day it could be a single prisoner being taken to court from a police station holding cell.
On this day the passenger was Martin Cameron. He sat hand-cuffed in one of the five secure cages in the box-body of the truck. The other four cages were unoccupied. The private security firm’s vehicle had departed the gates of Barlinnie Prison with no fuss or publicity.
There had been no gaggle of photographers running alongside pressing lenses against the blacked-out windows. Likewise, there was no police escort - it was a straightforward trip for one man to make a court appearance.
Prison Officer (PO) Brian Delaney was the duty escort for the prisoner’s brief court appearance in Glasgow City Centre. Brian was seated at the rear of the vehicle, just inside the back doors. When the vehicle left the world-famous prison it turned onto Cumbernauld Road and headed towards the city.
Even in heavy traffic the journey would normally take around 20 minutes. PO Delaney pulled out his notebook and looked at the timings he’d noted earlier. He smiled, as he considered that he could be back at the prison in time for lunch.
It was still early days for him at Barlinnie, but he had put on a brave face with the inmates and it seemed to work. The man under escort on this trip was dangerous, but PO Delanay had eyeballed him and assured him he was merely another loud-mouthed gangster who had been caught.
Five minutes after setting off, the prison courier approached a set of traffic lights near Alexandra Park. A few car lengths before the lights, a large quarry truck pulled out in front of the courier and forced the courier driver to brake sharply. The driver sounded his horn to let the trucker know he wasn’t impressed.
In his cage, Martin Cameron was thrown sideways, but he grinned. He didn’t have to see outside to know what had happened. He took a breath and lifted his feet onto the bench as he turned his back towards the direction of travel. He was grateful that there were no ankle chains as used in the American equivalent of his situation.
There was a loud crash as the 18-ton quarry truck reversed into the front of the prison courier. It was only then that the courier driver realised that there was also a large truck immediately behind his vehicle. The prison vehicle was crushed from both front and rear before the heavy truck at the rear pulled clear.
Both truck drivers left their cabs. The pair were wearing black overalls and ski-masks, but more worrying to anyone watching - they were both carrying sawn-off shotguns. The weapons would be low on accuracy, but high on damage.
The man from the front truck ran back and stood near the buckled doors where the driver and his buddy were trapped by their legs in the cab. Both men were screaming for help, but were merely offered a blank stare and a command not to touch the radio.
When the second truck driver climbed down, he went to the back of the prison vehicle and wrenched open the damaged doors. The prison officer was kneeling on the floor dazed, blood oozing from a head injury. The armed man aimed the shotgun at Delaney’s face.
“Release him,” spoken with a Glasgow accent. Two words were sufficient.
PO Delaney knew his duty, but it didn’t include dying in the street. He complied.
From the traffic behind the rear truck, three black motorbikes raced past and stopped alongside the immobilised courier van. None of the bikes had pillion riders, but all three had a spare helmet strapped where the pillion rider would sit.
By then, the already injured prison officer had been head-butted and repeatedly punched by Martin Cameron. The prison officer fell from the back of the crippled truck onto the ground. The escaped prisoner stood over the injured man and kicked him repeatedly.
Cameron said, “What did you say earlier Delaney?” he paused and watched the man’s bloody face turn around towards him. “You said I wasn’t that fucking hard; didn’t you, you fucking pig?” Cameron took the shotgun from the rescuer who stood watching.
Cameron held the weapon at arm’s length from the injured man’s wide-eyed stare, and squeezed the trigger. The murderer handed the weapon back and turned to the first of the three motorbikes. He took the leather jacket and crash helmet he was offered.
The masked man who accepted the shotgun back from Cameron stared in disbelief at the man with no face, spread-eagled on the ground. It was expected that the prisoner would be angry and relieved at the same time, but it wasn’t envisaged that he would kill an unarmed man with such disregard.
Peter Henderson, blinked several times and shook his head. It took all of his self-control not to puke inside his ski-mask. He realised that the first two bikes had departed and his ride was right alongside, engine revving. Henderson rammed the shotgun inside his leather jacket before he grabbed and pulled on his helmet. He leapt aboard the bike.
In less than five minutes from the courier van being stopped, the three motorbikes had crossed the road and were racing through Alexandra Park, frightening the children who were playing the light layer of snow.
Folk who were out for a leisurely stroll leapt aside in fear as the bikes roared and skidded across the park and a section of the golf course. All three pulled onto Provan Road and headed north towards the multiple motorway junctions.
Around 15 minutes after the trucks crushed the prison van, the first bike took the M80 north-east. The second bike headed west on the M8, and the third took the M8 east. Once separated from each other the bikes blended into the regular traffic and virtually disappeared. Individually they looked perfectly normal.
An hour after leaving the prison gates on his way to court, Martin Cameron was in the back of a Range Rover getting changed into regular clothes. The man who had been riding the lead motorbike for Cameron was now driving the car.
Norrie Simpson was a big man but quietly spoken. “I’ve got a couple of cigars in the glove-box if you’d like one Martin.”
“That would be a nice touch Norrie,” Cameron said. “Thank you, I will.”
Phil McKenzie stood at the large office window, gazing out across the River Clyde to the south side of his hometown. The office was situated on the top floor of a modern glass and steel block on the corner of Bothwell Street and Douglas Street.
Phil, aka Hawk, sipped his coffee and turned when he heard the announcement of the latest news bulletin on the TV. Seated opposite each other across the large square table in the main room were Annabel Strong and Rachel Donoghue. All three BTL associates watched the screen in silence.
‘Good afternoon. I’m Sarah McVicar reporting for Glasgow Today, your local TV news programme.’ The dark-haired 28-year-old glanced over her right shoulder as her cameraman panned across the scene of devastation. Traffic had already been diverted and there were copious amounts of blue and white police incident tape in use.
‘According to eye-witnesses the escape was completed in around five minutes.’ Sarah was working hard at sounding officious, but had difficulty hiding her excitement. ‘The two large trucks that were used to crush the prison van had been carrying loads of concrete and other rubble which increased their weight.’ The camera focused on the front truck and then moved back to where the prison vehicle was covered with a large white tarpaulin. The abandoned trucks and the crippled van between them had caused traffic chaos.
‘As yet,’ Sarah continued. ‘There is no confirmation about the condition of the security vehicle crew or the prison officer, but it is believed that there is at least one fatality.’
Phil lifted the remote control and reduced the volume to a whisper.
He said, “At least one fatality. I’ll be bloody amazed if either of those two guys in the front survived the shunt by an 18-tonner.” He looked across the table. “Rachel, what’s being reported online?”
The 30-year-old had her laptop powered up already, waiting for the question. She hit a few keys. She glanced at the screen before giving her boss an assessment.
“The most recent report suggests there were three motorbikes and two quarry trucks used. The bikes turned up as the two trucks crushed the van. When the truck drivers got out of their vehicles they were carrying sawn-off shotguns. An onlooker said that all three bikes had a spare helmet strapped to the rear seat.”
“Okay,” Phil said. “Three bikes in use and there were no pillion riders when they arrived. That means that they knew there was only one prisoner in that van. One bike was to get him away and the other two were to get the truck drivers away.” He turned to his partner, both in life and work. “What’s your assessment Annabel?”
“I don’t think we’re going to see our man Cameron for a long time. If he can organise this from inside Barlinnie Prison, then he’ll be out of the country within hours.” Prior to being a member of the BTL Enterprises team, Annabel had worked for both MI5 and MI6.
She was a capable operative and in terms of logical thinking was rarely far from the mark. At 39, she had seen and done things that would cause revulsion to many people. She was attractive, had a fuller figure and the most confident woman Phil had ever met.
Rachel said, “Breaking news online boss. Three motorbikes have been discovered in locations several miles apart in Glasgow. All were torched before being abandoned. There is no sign of helmets or weapons, but it’s assumed that they were the getaway transport.”
Annabel nodded. “The weapons will no doubt end up in a breaker’s yard and the helmets will be burned in a private location to ensure there is no trace of DNA. The entire team were wearing gloves and ski-masks, and both the trucks and the bikes were stolen in the last 24 hours, so the police will have very little to go on.”
“Okay,” Phil said. He paused as he considered possible missing links. “Didn’t Cameron’s wife stay on in their bungalow?”
“She did at first,” Annabel said. “If you remember, after his trial and incarceration in ’92, his wife only stayed in the house a short time and then headed to their villa in Spain.”
“The house was just outside Kirkintilloch wasn’t it?” Phil asked.
“Yes,” Annabel said. “We know that Mrs Cameron left for Spain, but she did return a couple of times to prepare the bungalow for sale.”
“If it was either of you, would you expect the husband to turn up in Spain?”
“No,” Rachel said. “I think the wife will be aware of the escape attempt, so she’ll be primed to be on the move. You know, so they might meet up somewhere else.”
Annabel said, “She might also be primed to do absolutely nothing. They might expect the British police to get officers over there with a possible reunion in mind.” She paused. “Of course as we know, it can take days before the wheels are put in motion.”
“Good thinking,” Phil agreed. “I think we’ll try to get a step ahead of the authorities on this one. We’ll trace the wife and then try to keep tabs on her movements.”
“Sounds good,” Annabel said. “We could get working on that side of things now.”
Rachel said, “Do we have any assets in Spain?”
“Are you volunteering?” Phil asked and grinned.
“Well I’ve got a passport, I can read a map, and I know a few useful phrases.”
Phil turned to Annabel, who smiled and nodded. He looked back to Rachel.
“You’ve got an hour to impress me with what you can find out, and then we’ll make a decision on whether to follow up.”
The keys on Rachel’s laptop were already clacking away as she brought up all she could trace on Martin and Lorraine Cameron.
Annabel said, “I’ll fix us all up with a fresh coffee.” She winked at Phil and looked back over her shoulder at her protégé.
Fort William, Scotland
It was mid-afternoon when Simpson steered the Range Rover into the large public car park and walked off to locate the nearest fast food takeaway. He was back within 15 minutes with fish and chips, and coffee for himself and his passenger. The pair eased the seats further back in the already spacious vehicle and enjoyed their hot takeaway lunch.
Simpson said, “This is a better view than the one you had at the start of the day.”
“Aye, it is indeed mate,” Cameron said. “If everything goes to plan I’ll be back in the summer and have a different view again.”
“I remember when you were banged-up, your right-hand man was one of the witnesses for the Crown. That must have pissed you off.”
“It did mate, and that is a debt that will have to be repaid.” Cameron stared out across the loch as he spoke. His gaze was as cold as the water to his front.
“Have you got a new lieutenant for your operation?”
Cameron swallowed the piece of cod he was savouring, and then glanced at the big man beside him. He nodded as he considered how calm and capable Simpson had been under pressure, and it was he who had organised the escape.
“I’ll tell you what we’ll do Norrie.” Cameron sipped his coffee and gazed across Loch Linnhe at the snow-covered hills on the other side. “When we continue our journey, we’ll have a wee chat about my expectations for my right-hand man, and obviously the rewards.”
“It’ll be a couple of hours before we reach the port,” Simpson said. “Do you think that will be time enough?”
“That will be more than time enough Norrie.”
The two gangsters fell into a companionable silence as they continued with their lunch and looked out over the wintry landscape before them.
Glenbrittle, Isle of Skye
It was getting colder and windier as the journey had progressed north and west, so in the dark, early evening when the two men arrived on the south-east coast of Skye, it was not an inspiring sensation for Cameron to climb out of the comfort of the Range Rover.
There was little sign of life in the tiny coastal town of Glenbrittle, but that was just as the two gangsters would have wanted it to be. They both pulled on woolly hats and then heavy duffle coats once outside the vehicle.
“Hey boss,” Simpson called in the chilling Atlantic breeze. “If you want to give your wife a call, this is the time.” He held out a mobile phone. “I’ve punched in the contact number in Spain.”
“What about the memory?”
“You can take that phone with you and drop it over the side. I’ve put a decent new one in your baggage.” The two men went to the rear of the vehicle and Simpson lifted the tailgate. He pulled back a holdall which he’d prepared for the man he now treated as his new boss.
Cameron unzipped the large bag and poked around inside. Apart from footwear and an assortment of clothing, there was a small plastic wallet. He opened the wallet to find a passport and American Express card in his new name, a wad of banknotes and new mobile phone. He nodded with satisfaction and re-zipped the holdall.
As Cameron walked to a sheltered area to make a brief call, Simpson lifted the holdall and made his way down the short coastal path to a small natural pier, squinting into the driving cold spray. He stopped at the gangway to the small vessel that was tied there.
A small man in fisherman’s wet-weather garb crossed the deck and accepted a buff-coloured envelope from Simpson. The sailor opened the envelope, made a quick appraisal of the contents and then nodded towards the man making the phone call.
“Is that our passenger?”
“Aye,” Simpson said. “Advise your crew to steer clear of him.”
“They’ve already been told.”
A few metres away standing in the shelter of an overhanging rock, Cameron dialled and the number rung only twice before his wife answered.
“Hello,” Cameron said without use of a name, or any hint of emotion. “I only have a couple of minutes, and it’s fucking freezing here, so listen.” He paused before continuing. “Everything has gone according to plan so far.” He stopped again when he heard his wife asking questions, but then he butted in.
“Listen. This is imperative. Tomorrow is the second stage; the name change. Get it done and get used to it. Get the third stage in motion by tomorrow afternoon. I’ll be in touch.” He hung up and pocketed the phone.
“Okay boss?” Simpson asked as he held out the holdall.
“Aye Norrie, everything is fine. You call Metcalfe from a public call box in the next 48 hours and tell him where you want the money paid in. He’ll be giving you enough so that you can pay the whole team for today.”
“I’ll take care of it.” He paused. “Is there anything else?” The two men were forced to turn away from the wind to continue their conversation.
“Keep an eye on my interests while I’m away Norrie. I’ll make it worth your while.”
The two men shook hands and blinked against the strengthening wind and rain. They looked into each other’s eyes with a mutual respect that only hard men can give.
Norrie Simpson watched as Cameron was grabbed at the handrail and helped onboard the small fishing boat. It was already lolling around as the sea became more lively, and the ride would get worse before the tiny vessel reached Cameron’s next transport - a freighter which was sitting 100 miles off the west coast of Ireland.
Before the fishing boat was out of sight, Simpson had already set off for a hotel on the east coast of Skye. He would enjoy a couple of beers and a good night’s rest before heading back to Glasgow. The big man smiled as he considered how well the day had gone. He was also looking forward to commencing the tasks on which his new boss had already briefed him.
The first would be to meet and assess Lawrence Metcalfe, the bent lawyer who had been released from prison only six months earlier. Another key person to check out was his new boss’s wife. It would be fair to say that Norrie Simpson was a happy man.
Friday, 28th February 2003
Rachel grinned as she slid behind the wheel of her pre-booked rental car. Even after being a member of the BTL Enterprises team for seven years, she still preferred the thrill of taking a car without permission, but there were times to keep things legal.
She was pleased to be getting away from the British winter for a couple of days. Following a quick check of her map, she set off for the A3 and the route south-east to the coast and Valencia.
Sunday 6th May 2018
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