Daniel Gee and criminal brother waged war on north Liverpool's streets

Daniel Gee (left) who ran the Grizedale estate with his brother Darren has absconded from prison
-Credit: (Image: Cleveland Police | Liverpool Echo)

"This was a place removed from the rest of the world - in short, the Gees and their associates created a ghetto."

In the early 2000s, two brothers - Darren and Daniel Gee - turned Everton's Grizedale estate, where they had grown up, into a 24-hour open air drug market. The brothers were among the new generation of young criminals drawn to the drug business through their lack of education and lack of opportunities.

Liverpool's north end has been associated with criminality for decades due to its accessibility to the wharfs and warehouses of the dockland coupled with high levels of deprivation. But at the start of the millennium, young criminals took advantage of the notable mark-up between wholesale drug prices and the price of drugs on the street.

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With that price difference representing pure profit, young men took advantage of gaps in a criminal landscape. But in a saturated market, guns and knives were used to give crime groups an advantage. The Gees, who both had poor experiences in the education system and left school without qualifications, began dabbling in burglary and other petty crime.

However, the pair soon gravitated towards serious crime, controlling their estate and making thousands of pounds a week from dealing class A drugs. Ordinary families, who lived in smart, terraced houses with carefully cultivated front gardens, were forced to look the other way as the Gees and their associates turned the estate into an enclave exempt from law and order.

The brothers were the kingpins of the area, with a crown court prosecutor later observing "the Gees are associated with very serious violence and drug dealing". A former police officer, who was a member of a task force set up to tackle the brothers, said at their height the Gees were earning around £20,000 a week "running a 24-hour class A drugs business" on the estate.

Speaking to the ECHO in 2019, the officer said: "As well as their penchant for violence, the Gees also flourished because of a very parochial situation that allowed them to thrive on the Grizedale. This was a place removed from the rest of the world.

"The Gees become employers, as well as enforcers. They surrounded themselves with people they had grown up with. They used their cash to buy loyalty, protection and security. They paid these young foot soldiers money that they could never earn in the legitimate economy on civvy street.

Darren Gee pictured in Maryport Close, Everton, years on from his conviction
Darren Gee pictured in Maryport Close, Everton, years on from his conviction -Credit:Geoff Davies

"The Gees paid kids to be on the street corner rather than go to school. They created a network. We would see mums and dads selling drugs around-the-clock - and they would have the kids with them as they sold crack and heroin."

Street dealers would operate around the clock with pay-as-you-go mobile phones, taking orders then dispatching outriders on bikes to deliver the illegal product. Youngsters not yet old enough to be tasked with handling the drugs and cash would instead be employed to act as look-outs to spot police and rivals.

The officer added: "It was unimaginably difficult for locals who were not involved in the Gees' criminal enterprises. They became outsiders on their own estate."

In 2003 there were simmering tensions between the Gee brothers and a rival faction of drug dealers from the area. But the fallout escalated the following year, sparking a wave of shootings across north Liverpool. On New Year's Day 2004, there was a double shooting in the Royal Oak pub in West Derby. One man died and another was left fighting for his life.

Relations between local drug boss William Moore and the Gees then deteriorated. On the evening of April 6 2004, the Gees returned to the Grizedale after attending a funeral in Speke. They were parked on Robson Street, when former SAS officer Darren Waterhouse started shooting, riddling their car with bullets.

Craig Barker, 18, was rushed to hospital but died from his injures. Ian Gee suffered life changing injuries. Mark Richardson, an associate of the Gees, suffered a minor wound and ran off. Darren Gee, thought to have been Waterhouse's intended target, was not hurt. Just days later local man Michael Singleton was shot dead. This was followed by the murder of David Regan, who was shot outside a car wash in Old Swan.

Very quickly three men had been killed and dozens more were wounded. The ECHO previously heard how Merseyside Police set up a community action team, based at Walton Lane police station, to tackle the threat of the Gees. The police had to enter areas previously seen as "no go" zones to raid the homes of the brothers.

In a terrifying insight into the realities of life on the estate, the police officer, part of the elite team targeting the brothers, added: "It is not an exaggeration to say you could speak to somebody one day and they would be shot the next". There were major confrontations between the criminals and police as they vied for control of the streets on the Grizedale.

And the unnamed officer admitted the unit was forced to "break the rules". On his point he said: "Yes we broke the rules and fought fire with fire. We worked in a hostile environment and dealt directly with violent, horrible people.

"In the station we referred to this kind of policing as 'the Lord's work.' It was a kind of code for what we were doing. So yes we were unorthodox, but for all the right reasons. In short it was old fashioned, old school policing. We took the fight to the criminals and I stand by this approach because it worked."

The small but tough unit made hundreds of arrests in just nine months, seizing £2.5m in cash and drugs and weapons including a sniper rifle with a telescopic sight. While the unit was disbanded under pressure following complaints of their conduct, the Gees profits had plummeted.

2004 was seen as a catalyst for change in Merseyside. Plans were put in place to introduce the Matrix team - the first of its kind outside of London - to bring a holistic approach to tackling gun and gang crime. Most importantly, police managed to take some key figures in the gang war off the streets.

Darren Gee was jailed for 18 years for organising the murder of Mr Regan in 2006. Darren Gee - now a true crime podcaster and anti-knife campaigner who has repeatedly spoken about how his upbringing on the estate led to his life of criminality - later said he organised the shooting because he wrongly believed Mr Regan was involved in the murder of his friend Craig Barker.

Mr Barker was not involved in serious crime and died because of his casual association with the Gees. The previous year, William Moore and Waterhouse were both jailed for life with a minimum term of 30 years for the murder of Mr Barker.

Daniel Gee continued to terrorise people in his community. The courts heard Gee and his gang had tormented the family of a young teenager called Jamie Starkey, who had learning difficulties, for months. Gee and his associates threw bricks at the Starkey family home, smashed the windows and kidnapped one of his friends.

Daniel Gee pictured following his arrest
Armed police surround Darren Gee's house

It came to a head on New Year's Eve in 2008 when Starkey, fearing for his life and fuelled by alcohol and cannabis, shot Gee in the stomach after being threatened by the gangster and his cronies. Gee suffered serious injuries, but refused hospital treatment. Starkey was jailed for seven years, while Gee was jailed for seven-and-a-half years for his role in running the north Liverpool drugs racket.

However, a clandestine probe later caught Gee conspiring to buy guns and threatening to kill Starkey. In a trial in October 2009, Gee was found guilty of two counts of threats to kill and another two of blackmail. Jurors were unable to agree on the two more serious charges of conspiracy to murder and conspiracy to possess firearms and ammunition. As his second trial was about to start, Gee admitted the second charge.

Prosecutor Ian Unsworth KC said Gee’s desire for revenge “knew no bounds”. Gee was handed an indefinite prison sentence and was ordered to serve a minimum of four years behind bars before his case would be considered by the parole board. The sentence ran at the same time as the seven-and-a-half year sentence he was serving for drugs offences.

Gee's barrister argued during his trial that his client was "frankly terrified" at the thought of an indeterminate sentence and he had only conspired to arm himself because he feared another confrontation with the Starkey family. He claimed Gee had been targeted because of his underworld family name and revealed his greatest fear was receiving an indefinite sentence because he believed he would never be released.

But the then Recorder of Liverpool, Judge Henry Globe KC, said: "I am in no doubt that the public must be protected from you in the future. I really do not know when it will be safe to release you." Starkey was shot six times by a masked gunman outside his house on December 2 2012. Despite five arrests and the murder weapon being recovered, no one has been convicted of his death.

While Darren and Daniel led the illicit operations, previous court reports heard how other brothers, Ian and Billy, had been indicted in connection with illegal activities. Ian has previously faced allegations of making threats to kill, and was seriously injured in the shooting that claimed the life of Mr Barker.

Billy also previously appeared before the courts accused of unlawful wounding. A fifth brother, Stephen Gee, who has over 20 convictions for dozens of offences, was jailed in 2017 for brutally robbing a pensioner while high on cocaine and Billy's anti-psychotic medication.

Stephen told the court he had gone off the rails after Billy had taken his own life the previous year. Stephen posed as a Liverpool Council official to enter the man's home, demanding cash before punching and kicking him. He then stole the victim's car but the bungling yob drunk from a can of Coke, which he left on the sideboard, revealing his DNA.

Since coming out of prison, Darren has carved out a social media career, amassing a cult following on social media for his sometimes tongue-in-cheek videos warning others not to get involved in gang crime. He has also spoken honestly about his own criminal career - and how the childhood abuse he faced from his parents, and the domestic violence he witnesses, propelled him into a life of crime.

However, the Gee family became front page news again this week after Daniel absconded from category D open prison Kirklevington Grange in the north east. The now 44-year-old disappeared on Monday evening, with the subsequent manhunt being led by Cleveland Police.

The force said: "He was last seen wearing a black jumper, black Adidas bottoms with a white stripe down each leg and black trainers. He was carrying a yellow JD Sports bag. He is believed to have links to the North Yorkshire area including Whitby, Carlisle, St Helens and Merseyside."

Despite the story making national headlines after the ECHO first exclusively reported it, Daniel remains wanted. For many who lived in Merseyside during the noughties, the re-emergence of his name will remind them of the troubling period where his gang waged a violent war on north Liverpool's streets.

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