THE murder of one of the most feared drug dealers in Leeds was the trigger for a series of shootings that shocked the city.
Clifton Junior Bryan used his power and influence to smooth tensions between opposing criminal factions in Leeds – and avoid attracting unnecessary police attention.
His authority was strengthened by his close ties with drug warlords in Moss Side, Manchester and Liverpool. Opposing factions in Leeds were always mindful that he could call for back-up if disputes got out of hand in Leeds.
The body of 29-year-old Bryan was found dumped in a car in Harehills, Leeds, along with that of an associate, in May 2000.
Detectives believe there is more than coincidence to the fact that a spate of shootings hit Leeds in the wake of his death – and continue.
Bryan, a 6ft 5in giant of a man, who had survived two previous attempts on his life, was shot in the back of the head.
His killing was the catalyst for the outbreak of violent hostilities between Yardies and home-grown dealers known as the Yout’.
Some believe Bryan had already seen the writing on the wall just before he was killed.
It came in the form of a shooting incident on March 17, 2000, in Chapeltown Road, the heartland of his “territory” when he was hit with a combination of bullets and shotgun pellets as he walked along the busy road.
Amazingly, he survived – a factor which added to his reputation as being invincible.
That attack happened shortly after Leeds gangster Frank Birley had been released from prison and had started to “put the squeeze” on Leeds drugs dealers.
His supporters argue that Birley, 33, would never get involved in drug trafficking but was not averse to “taxing” local druggies – extorting money from them in the knowledge they would never complain to police.
Birley, also known as Frank Gatt, was one of the most notorious underworld figures in West Yorkshire and had been out of prison for only six months after serving nine years of a 14-year sentence for his part in a 147,000 shotgun raid on a jeweller’s in Blackpool.
Frank Birley was to be another victim of the gun war in Leeds when he died of a single shot to the head in Sugar Well Road, Meanwood, in April 2000.
It is suspected that shortly after he was shot in Chapeltown Road, Bryan travelled to Manchester to call in a debt – reputedly a six-figure sum. The theory is that his debtors did not have the money so they killed him and his minder.
Bryan may have been calling in the debt – some believe – so he could amass enough money to leave Britain for Jamaica.
In May last year three men were cleared at court of killing of Bryan and his 38-year-old Manchester accomplice.
It was alleged in court the pair were killed at a house in Manchester several weeks before their bodies were found in a car dumped in Harehills.
There followed a spate of shootings across Leeds – but mainly in the Chapeltown and inner city areas – which appear to have their roots in Bryan’s death.
Disputes over territories between Yardies and members of the yout’ have boiled over into virtual open warfare.
Members of Bryan’s gang are intent on becoming top dogs over the Yardies. And, there are even suggestions of a split in the ranks of factions of the yout’.