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Wolverhampton gang rivalry and tensions led to murder

Wolverhampton | News | Published:

As the son of dance music star Goldie begins a life sentence for murder, the Express & Star explores the murky world of gang rivalries that led to death.

The gang rivalry that led to the murder of Marlon Morris at the hands of Jamie Price can today be laid bare by the Express & Star.

Father-of-one Marlon Morris was stabbed to death at the culmination of bitter rivalries between the Pendeford Crew and the Heath Town-based Firetown gang.

The killing sheds new light on the secretive gang sub-culture that has been a blight on Wolverhampton for years.

Mr Morris, aged 21, who lived in Pendeford, was on a night out with friends including Scott Benjamin, said to be the leader of the Pendeford Crew, when tragedy struck.

Benjamin, who goes by the street name Shredder, was said to have seriously injured a member of Price's gang, leading to an increase in tensions between the Pendeford and Heath Town gangs.

Former King's School pupil Mr Morris, who had worked in the construction industry, was said during the trial to be associated with members of the Pendeford Crew.

Price believed he was a member which made him a legitimate target, despite having his left arm in a sling from a motorbike accident.

Mr Morris and his friends were said to have been involved in an "altercation" with convicted Heath Town drug dealer Reuben Hudson in Thornley Street in the city centre on the fateful night.

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CCTV showed a black Renault Clio picking Mr Hudson up from Thornley Street and driving away after the row, leaving Mr Morris, Benjamin and others in the street.

Minutes later Price stabbed Mr Morris near the Dixie Chicken takeaway before being captured on CCTV running down Broad Street into Fryer Street.

The dying victim ran towards a friend's car and shouted: "I've been stabbed".

He was said to be "not speaking and not moving" during the trip to New Cross Hospital, where he died later that morning.

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Meanwhile, the black Clio returned to Broad Street, where 22-year-old Benjamin and other Pendeford gang members remained.

Members of Price's gang were said to be hanging out of the window and shouting they would 'bring fire'.

Price quickly became the prime suspect. He is said to be a prominent member of the Firetown Crew and has been linked to a number of previous stabbings.

The 22-year-old had been acquitted of one vicious stabbing and was prime suspect in another where the badly-injured victim was too frightened to identify his attacker.

He is the son of dance music star Goldie and shares his father's nickname.

Police named the 22-year-old as a suspect in the case, urging him to give himself up.

Speaking about the hunt at the time, his famous father said: "My son is on the run. I tried to change his life, I tried to give him opportunities.

"I sat him down and I said 'Come and live with me, let's do this. Whatever college course you want to do, you'll do it'. I told him that I'd pay for anything he wanted to do.

"But he went the other way. This child of mine had every opportunity, that's the saddest thing about this. I feel like I've failed already."

Goldie revealed he knew the family of the murder victim. He said: "I know the guy's father. I am devastated at the loss of someone's life.

"I felt more sorrow that someone's mother had woken up without a son - that played more on my mind than anything else. I've lost friends and people that I've admired. The loss of any life is a travesty.

"I was away for the majority of Jamie's young life. I wish I could have had more influence, but when a relationship falls apart you can't stay there. I couldn't stay on that estate any more because I was an artist who would not survive in that place."

The star's son was on the run from the time of the murder, on August 24, until October 3, when he was arrested by armed officers in Heath Town.

Price said he returned to Wolverhampton because "people were saying that I stabbed Marlon", but he told police he had done nothing wrong.

He claimed a wound to his hand had been caused when he broke a glass some time before, but police say it is likely to have been inflicted as he stabbed Mr Morris.

The murder was said to have caused a "massive" raising of tensions between the two gangs, with a number of shootings in and around Heath Town linked to the murder.

One community source familiar with the gangs of Wolverhampton said today: "Historically, the main rivalries in terms of gangs were between Heath Town and Park Village. A lot of it is about respect issues, but there is obviously a drugs aspect to it as well.

"People from Heath Town would come over to Park Village and throw their weight around, and there were spats with people from Whitmore Reans as well.

"Pendeford didn't really appear on the map historically, but as Shredder got stronger he appears to have acquired his own gang who have decided that they were going to stamp their mark on the world.

"Every time they came into contact there would be a beating or a stabbing or shots fired and the murder of Marlon Morris was the culmination of that.

"Who knows what the beef between Heath Town and Pendeford is? It's likely to be around respect."

Sources say the rise of the Pendeford Crew can be traced back to the gangland murder of Wolverhampton footballer Kevin Nunes in 2002.

Nunes was shot dead by a rival gang of drug dealers, including senior figures in Heath Town's gang.

The killers were given jail terms totalling 135 years in 2008, creating a void in the drugs underworld.

"Shredder was standing up to some of the bigger players from the Heath Town crew," a source said. "Some of the key players in the Heath Town crew got taken out with the Kevin Nunes trial and others just kept their heads down after that.

"There was a niche in the market and people from Pendeford moved in. Most of it is just petty rivalries between individuals. But some of the Heath Town gang members decided to stand their ground and there was a spate of shootings after that.

"Most of the time, nobody gets hurt in the shootings. A group of three or four will get in a car from Heath Town, drive over to Pendeford and shoot somebody's windows. Then four or five from Pendeford will go over to Heath Town and do the same."

Although it is not clear how many criminals associate with the Pendeford and Heath Town gangs, official police estimates say there are 150 people involved in "serious urban street gang activity" in Wolverhampton. Their crimes are notoriously difficult to investigate because of the fear that members instil in witnesses.

But Price's conviction was today being seen as a major crack in the wall of silence that shields gang members from justice.

Det Insp Wayne Jones, from the West Midlands Police major investigation unit, who headed the murder inquiry, said: "This verdict is a testimony to the bravery of those few people who did come forward to give evidence against Price when many were too frightened to do so.

"It is also a tribute to the hard work of officers involved in the case without which there would not have been a case to put before the jury."

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