BBC podcast to delve into unsolved murder of North East doorman Viv Graham

Tyneside hardman Viv Graham
Tyneside hardman Viv Graham -Credit:Newcastle Chronicle

A hit podcast will delve into the criminal underworld and murder of the 'North East's hardest doorman'.

The BBC 5 Live podcast series, Gangster, returns with a new series which tells the story of the unsolved murder of the ‘North East’s hardest doorman’ 30 years on. The podcast tells the dramatic story of the rise and fall of an enforcer who ran a protection empire which dominated Tyneside’s pubs and clubs.

Presented by investigative journalist Livvy Haydock, the first two episodes of the six-part series titled ‘Gangster: The Story of Viv Graham’ will be available to hear on BBC Sounds on May 24. The series takes listeners on a journey across the North East’s criminal underworld of violence, drugs and ultimately, murder.

Viv Graham was a 17-stone man with a fearsome reputation to match his imposing physique. He controlled the doors of Newcastle’s pubs and clubs with terrifying violence. The dad-of-four was shot dead on New Year's Eve 1993, after leaving a pub in the Tyneside town of Wallsend.

No-one has ever been brought to justice for the murder and the killing remains one of the North East's most notorious unsolved crimes.

Viv's son, Viv Graham Junior, who was four when his dad died, speaks candidly on the podcast for the first time about how his father’s death impacted him and his brother, Dean, who died at a young age from an overdose. He said about Dean: “He understood a lot more. He read into things a lot more, and it's just he was a different kid.

"He wasn't the same kid as I remember being young. He grew up to be something he shouldn't have been. He went to jail a lot of times, he caused a lot of grief in my house as he grew up.

Viv Graham jnr
Viv Graham jnr -Credit:Andy Commins

“He was 24 when he died. He was still young. You know, he had all his life ahead of him. He had a daughter, she was 18 months.

"And it must have been hard for his partner and obviously it's going to be hard for his daughter, growing up hearing stories again. It's like a vicious circle - she hears all the stories about her granda, and now all the stories about her dad.”

Also interviewed in this podcast are Paul Palance, the former doorman turned actor who got Viv his first job as a doorman, Gary Munro, Viv’s boxing sparring partner, Anna Connelly, Viv’s widow, and Chet Sandhu, a former doorman, and gang member.

Chet said: “Viv had everyone in their place. There was order. But once he was taken, other gang families were like ‘now it’s time to rise up.’ Different families started to take over areas and do drugs.”

Produced by the team that created Gangster: The Story of John Palmer, the most popular true crime podcast on BBC Sounds in 2023, and Gangster: The Story of the Burger Bar Boys, Livvy Haydock guides listeners through Viv Graham’s life, from a sleepy village in the country, to the boxing ring and beyond. She talks to his family, friends and former associates, to build a picture of a man who was feared and revered in equal measure.

He had a number of enemies, but also friends in high places including former footballer Paul Gascoigne who was left devastated about his murder.

Speaking of the podcast, Livvy Haydock said: “In this series I’ve delved into the notorious life and brutal death of Viv Graham. I wanted to know how a charming young boy from a village in the sticks grew to become one of the most feared enforcers in the country - ruling over Tyneside’s nightlife with an iron fist.

"How did he do it? What made him stand out? And who was Viv Graham really? What I uncovered was an incredible story of brutal violence, drugs, guns, love, loyalty, and betrayal.”

Episodes one and two of Gangster: The story of Viv Graham are available to hear on BBC Sounds from Friday May 24, with two episodes releasing weekly.