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Sons of Anarchy in the UK: Inside the US biker gang that inspired Tom Hardy film The Bike Riders and their bloody thirsty reign of terror on Britain’s roads

Sons of Anarchy in the UK: Inside the US biker gang that inspired Tom Hardy film The Bike Riders and their bloody thirsty reign of terror on Britain’s roads

16 minutes, 23 seconds Read

It was the movie which defined motorcycle chic, with a brooding Marlon Brando astride a 1950 Triumph Thunderbird 6T rolling into a dusty Californian town. As The Wild One, wearing an outlaw leather jacket, Levi 501s and Ray Ban Aviators, the motorcycle crime movie was born. Now, seven decades later British actor Tom Hardy stars in The Bikeriders, based loosely on a photo essay by Danny Lyon who spent almost four years riding with Chicago’s Outlaws Motorcycle Club.

Yet, in Britain, there are more than 40 Chapters of the Outlaws MC affiliated with the organisation’s headquarters in the United States.

One of which is based in Conwy, north Wales. The gang’s leader, a convicted drug dealer, told MailOnline that he would be going to see the fictitious story based on the lifestyle he has been living for more than 40 years.

The motorcycle gangs of the big screen were linked to heavy drinking, dealing drugs and major organised crime. Inter gang violence is rife, with assaults and assassinations. Riding into a rival territory can be enough to warrant an unprovoked attack.

Since 2008, at least 20 British members of the Outlaws MC have been jailed in the UK for a list of violent offences including assaults and beatings. One man was killed for wearing a rival club’s jacket.

According to one UK police intelligence report, gangs such as the Outlaws, Hells Angels and Bandidos are treated as ‘a proscribed body, akin to a terrorist group’. 

Researchers, who have studied OMCGs believe the murder of one gang member outside a strip club in Georgia has led to an assassination on a rival gang member of the streets of Britain. 

This is supported by police intelligence reports which warn that due to the international nature of these gangs, retaliatory attacks in different countries are becoming increasingly common. 

Members of OMCGs often display a diamond  badge with a ‘1 %er’ patch. A report on Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs by the Western Journal of Emergency Medicine in 2014 said: ‘The term “one-percenter” originated from a statement made by the American Motorcycle Association in response to a motorcycle rally held in 1947 in Hollister, California, that turned violent.

‘The American Motorcycle Association stated: “99% of the motorcycling public are law-abiding; there are 1% who are not.” Thus, the “1%” patch is worn only by clubs immersed in criminality and large enough to defend the claim to be the “baddest of the bad” against all.’

Stuart ‘Dink’ Dawson is the European president of the Outlaws Motorcycle Group. The 1% patch on his t-shirt denotes he is not part of the 99 per cent of law-abiding motorcyclists

He was jailed for possession with intent to supply amphetamines

He was jailed for possession with intent to supply amphetamines 

He told MailOnline that Outlaws have members from across all walks of society - including former members of the military

He told MailOnline that Outlaws have members from across all walks of society – including former members of the military

Tom Hardy

Marlon Brando

The founding of the Outlaws is being portrayed on the big screen by Tom Hardy, left, who stars in the film The Bikeriders – which pays homage to the original outlaw motorcycle movie, The Wild One, starring Marlon Brando, right

Weapons seizures in Britain from Outlaw Motorcycle Crime Gangs (OMCGs), include rocket launchers, assault rifles, pistols, grenades and ‘dum dum’ bullets – which are outlawed by the Geneva Convention. 

The dum dum rounds have a hollow point at the tip of the bullet which maximises the impact damage on the human body to such an extent that if soldiers used them during war they would face human rights charges. 

One ex-soldier was found to have rocket launchers, anti-tank mines and grenades in his possession when his house was raided by police.  International law enforcement agencies believe ex-military personnel are prime candidates for OMGC recruiters because of their training and ability use firearms and explosives. 

In the UK, ex-soldier Barry Smith, a member of the Satans Slaves MC drive his van into a rival’s bike on the A7 near Scottish Borders in July 2021. 

Smith claimed being in an OMGC was similar to his time in the army. He told the Edinburgh High Court: ‘For me as an ex-military man, it kept the brotherhood going.’ 

The Outlaws MC European president Stuart ‘Dink’ Dawson lives in a flat a short distance from the seafront in the resort town, which is one of the most deprived areas in the UK, with incomes far below the national average.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, Dawson handed out more than 1,000 food parcels from his restaurant, Chicago 1935 in Conwy.

The parcels were delivered by members of the Outlaws MC, gaining the heavily tattooed biker a civic award.

In 2010, with crime fiction meeting reality, Dawson and six members of his gang were jailed for conspiracy to supply amphetamines.

Speaking to MailOnline, one member of the Outlaws MC said: ‘I’m a teacher and Security Industry Authority badge holder with no criminal record. They tar us with one brush.’

Dawson admitted he was going to see Tom Hardy’s new movie. ‘All films are an interpretation. I will be going to see it.

‘However, most of us work. We have families and mortgages. I love riding my bike.

‘We are normal people. My children all work. The Outlaws have all sorts of professionals. They have to afford to live. A lot are ex-servicemen.’

Dawson, pictured, and six members of his gang were jailed for conspiracy to supply amphetamines

Tom Hardy, pictured, plays the leader of the fictitious gang in the movie

Dawson, left, and six members of his gang were jailed for conspiracy to supply amphetamines. He is the leader of the Outlaws in the UK and Europe. Tom Hardy, right, plays the leader of a fictitious gang loosely based out the Outlaws in the new movie, The Bikeriders

Former British soldier Barry Smith, who joined the Satan Slaves Motorcycle Bike Club was jailed after he deliberately ran down a member of a rival gang with his van. International security services are increasingly concerned about the threat posed by ex-servicemen who are willing to join OMCGs because of their military training and firearms skills

Former British soldier Barry Smith, who joined the Satan Slaves Motorcycle Bike Club was jailed after he deliberately ran down a member of a rival gang with his van. International security services are increasingly concerned about the threat posed by ex-servicemen who are willing to join OMCGs because of their military training and firearms skills

He said the fictional portrayal of bikers was similar to the on-screen depiction of journalists as hard-drinkers who rummage through bins to get their next story.

Such is the threat posed by the motorcycle gangs, UK Police forces have established links with EUROPOL and INTERPOL because of the international nature of various gangs.

In the north west, biker gangs had been actively recruiting new members after local criminal firms were shattered by their reliance on the Encrochat secure messaging network. 

International law enforcement agencies were able to crack the secure network to gather evidence against thousands of criminals across Europe. The crime organisations were unaware that their ‘secure’ network had been compromised until a series of coordinated arrests across the continent. 

One source told MailOnline: ‘So biker gangs like the Angels, Bandidos, Outlaws and Vikings have been around for years. But they were never at the top table when it came to drugs. They were much lower down the chain. But I think that is about to change.

‘If you look at Merseyside the police have now smashed the Huyton Firm, which was led by Vincent Coggins and Paul Woodford. The middlemen like Paul Fitzsimmons, Kevin Rimmer, Dean Borrows, Darren Tierney and Paul Glynn are all in prison now. And in the south of the city people like Liam Chung and Michael Riccio are also doing big jail. And the Cassidy brothers who had big connections in Holland look to be finished too.

‘And its the same story in Manchester. The Cox brothers from Salford are locked up, and in the east of the city Leon Atkinson, who was a bit of force, has been jailed. In the north of the city Nathan Loftus, who was part of a heavy firm, is doing massive jail.

‘If I was a head in a biker gang I would be thinking that now is a good time to try and make some decent money.

‘The one area in Manchester they would have to avoid is probably Moss Side. But that is the one exception.

‘In the past you would have to watch out for some of the established firm if you were undercutting them and selling on their patch.

‘But right now the fear factor is just not there. Bikers and scallies from across the region are now trying to make some decent money because there is nothing to worry about. The challenge for the bikers will be in creating contacts in Europe who can supply them with bulk quantities of Class A. If they can pull that off they have the set up to fill the void in Liverpool and Manchester.’

The Outlaws are the main rivals of the more famous Hells Angels Motorcycle Club and the animosity between the two gangs has led to murder.

These guns were recovered during a raid on the Hells Angels HQ in Wolverhampton

These guns were recovered during a raid on the Hells Angels HQ in Wolverhampton

According to a paper in the Journal of Criminological Research, Policy and Practice published in November 2018, Jack Rosga, president of the Outlaws issued a ‘green light’ notice in 2007 after a member was shot dead outside a strip club in Georgia. 

The ‘green light’ allowed Outlaws to attack Hells Angels without seeking further approval.

Rosga, known as Milwaukee Jack, was later arrested in 2010 for ordering revenge hits following a long federal investigation. 

He was among 27 members of the gang arrested. 

After he was sentenced to 20 years in prison in April 2011, US Attorney Neil MacBride said: ‘ Jack Rosga led an outlaw motorcycle gang that was violent at its core. 

‘As the gang’s national president, Mr. Rosga declared war on the rival Hell’s Angels and ordered violent acts on rival gang members. Mr. Rosga admitted to undercover federal agents that he expected to go to jail for leading this violent motorcycle gang, and the jury convicted him of conspiracy to commit racketeering and violent acts. 

‘He spent decades dedicated to a criminal way of life, and he’ll now spend decades in prison paying for those crimes.’

There is always a heavy police presence surrounding major events involving any of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs - even though the vast majority of those attended are completely law-abiding

There is always a heavy police presence surrounding major events involving any of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs – even though the vast majority of those attended are completely law-abiding

In August 2007, Gerry Tobin, 35, was travelling southbound on the M40 after attending the Bulldog Bash in Warwickshire.

The mechanic was a prominent member of the London Chapter of the Hells Angels and was riding his Harley Davidson at 90mph when a green Rover pulled up beside him.

Moments later Tobin was shot in the head in a ‘military-style’ attack. Two weapons opened fire. One round hit Tobin just below his helmet. He died of a single gunshot wound to the head.

He was murdered by the Outlaws MC’s south Warwickshire chapter who were angered by a prominent Hells Angel riding through ‘their’ territory.

Seven members of the gang were jailed for life at Birmingham Crown Court in November 2008.

The trial provided an extraordinary insight into the mentality of the motorbike crime gangs. The court was told that Sean Creighton and six fellow Outlaws had been carrying out reconnaissance operations on the roads surrounding the Bulldog Bash – which attracted a large number of Hells Angels.

Gerry Tobin, pictured was murdered after attending the Bulldog Bash event in Warwickshire in 2007. The prominent Hells Angel was gunned down by members of the Outlaws

Gerry Tobin, pictured was murdered after attending the Bulldog Bash event in Warwickshire in 2007. The prominent Hells Angel was gunned down by members of the Outlaws

The killers had never met Tobin, pictured here on a roadside CCTV camera, shortly before his brutal murder

The killers had never met Tobin, pictured here on a roadside CCTV camera, shortly before his brutal murder 

Police raided dozens of properties following Tobin's murder

Police raided dozens of properties following Tobin’s murder

Creighton and his fellow Outlaws had never met Tobin. The gang had decided they were going to murder a Hells Angel, so anyone seen riding while wearing their colours was a ‘legitimate’ target.

Experts believe the call by the Outlaws’ International President to ‘green light’ attacks on Hells Angels justified the indiscriminate murder of any member of the rival gan.  

The court heard Creighton had split his gang between the Rover, a Range Rover and a third car. If Creighton had failed to kill the Hells Angel, the Range Rover would be tasked to finish the job.

When handing down life sentences to the gang, Mr Justice Treacy said: ‘This was an appalling murder. A totally innocent man was executed with a firearm in broad daylight on a busy motorway for no reason other than that he belonged to a different motorcycle club than yours.

‘Gerry Tobin was a person with his own work life, his own social life, his own private life, none of these lives, which he enjoyed, was entitled to continue to enjoy, in any way impinged upon your lives.

Dozens of members of the Outlaws Motorcycle Club arrived outside Birmingham Crown Court during the murder trial of their fellow 'brothers'

Dozens of members of the Outlaws Motorcycle Club arrived outside Birmingham Crown Court during the murder trial of their fellow ‘brothers’ 

‘Gerry Tobin was a decent man of good character.

‘He was a total stranger to you.

‘The utter pointlessness of what you did makes his murder more shocking.’

The judge added: ‘None of you has showed the remotest feeling, consideration or remorse for what you did.

‘This dreadful crime, in my judgment, falls into a particularly high category of seriousness because it involved the use of a firearm and because of its cold-blooded and ruthless nature.’

He said the ‘scouting’ carried out by the defendants was done with ‘murder in your hearts’.

A short period after Tobin’s murder, the Hells Angels attempted to blow up a Scandinavian club house run by the Outlaws. 

In January 2008, members of the Outlaws were attacked in Birmingham Airport by Hells Angels wielding machetes in the terminal building. The Outlaws were spotted on the flight from Spain by a rival who tipped off the Hells Angels.  

In November 2013, three Outlaws, John Wafford, Gary Kenkins and Malcolm Sheen, all from Cheltenham attacked a man in a pub in Hereford who was wearing a motorcycle jacket with the emblem of the rival Caballeros on the back.

Tom Hardy and Austin Butler, pictured on set of The Bikeriders is loosely based on the development of the Outlaws MC in the United States

Tom Hardy and Austin Butler, pictured on set of The Bikeriders is loosely based on the development of the Outlaws MC in the United States 

In the movie, the gang is called The Vandals, but is based on a photo essay of the actual Outlaws

In the movie, the gang is called The Vandals, but is based on a photo essay of the actual Outlaws

The trio beat the victim before stealing his jacket, which is viewed as a major insult in the motorcycle gang fraternity.

Detective Constable Paul Matthews, who led the investigation into the crime, said at the time: ‘The added element of taking the victim’s jacket and club insignia, a practice known as “de-patching”, has great significance within the motorcycle club culture and caused added insult to the victim.’

In October 1996 Anthony Stephens, who had just left the Birmingham Outlaws shot pub DJ Darren Smith in the head with a low-calibre bullet after he and three members of the Coventry Outlaws were thrown out of The Plough in Coventry.

Stephens fled to Ireland after the fatal attack and evaded justice for almost two decades after he flew into Birmingham Airport in November 2013.

Europol has said gangs such as the Outlaws are ‘a national threat’.

One source said: ‘While most members of motorcycle clubs around the world are law abiding, a small percentage are not. Styling themselves “outlaws” or “one-percenters”, they wear a patch on their jackets showing a 1% sign inside a diamond shape. This means that they belong to an outlaw motorcycle gang, such as the Hells Angels, Bandidos or Outlaws.

‘Since 2005, there has been steady growth in the membership of such gangs worldwide. In Europe, the number of clubs has more than doubled.

‘The main threat to public safety from outlaw motorcycle gangs stems from their propensity for extreme forms of violence. This includes the use of firearms and explosive devices such as grenades. In general, the use of intimidation and violence is intrinsic to the subculture of outlaw motorcycle gangs and serves to exert control over group members, rival gangs and others, such as victims of extortion.’

Military grade ordnance has been recovered in Britain. Three weeks after Tobin’s murder, Dyfed Powys police raided a Hells Angels clubhouse and recovered ‘military-style firearms’. 

Jack Rosga, also known as 'Milwaukee Jack' is the national president of the Outlaws MC. In 2007 he offered a 'green light' to any of his members to murder a Hells Angel after they murdered an Outlaw outside a strip club in Georgia

Jack Rosga, also known as ‘Milwaukee Jack’ is the national president of the Outlaws MC. In 2007 he offered a ‘green light’ to any of his members to murder a Hells Angel after they murdered an Outlaw outside a strip club in Georgia

Further raids in Essex and Gloucestershire in February and March 2008 against known Outlaws members recovered a range of firearms, pistols and blades. 

According to an intelligence report written by Warwickshire Police submitted as part of an objection to the granting of a licence to future Bulldog Bash events: ‘What becomes apparent, when a global view is taken, is that retaliation occurs on a global scale, and that “messages” are sent which will have the maximum impact. 

‘Therefore, it follows that when respective motorcycle clubs hold major events (such as the Bulldog Bash in the UK, and Sturgis in the USA) these are likely to attract revenge attacks with the most impact.’ 

Warwickshire Police claimed high profile events provided cover for ‘officer meetings’ between senior members of a gang to discuss strategy on ‘a national and international level’. 

Also, the large events are major fundraising exercises for the various gangs. 

Officers warned that members of  the gangs refuse to co-operate with police which increases the likelihood of tit-for-tat attacks.  

Europol has warned that the growth in Outlaw Motorcycle Crime Gangs across Europe was increased the likelihood of further turf wars and violence.

In a briefing note, Europol warned: ‘The main driver for OMCGs to expand is feared to be the desire to increase their role in particular criminal markets by opening chapters in strategic locations, for instance along the trafficking routes for drugs, weapons and human beings. Merely establishing a chapter on the “turf” of another OMCG is interpreted as an act of provocation and is likely to result in violent confrontations and retaliation.’

The briefing added: ‘When recruiting, OMCGs target members of prison gangs, right-wing extremist groups, the hooligan scene and the military, to draw on specialist knowledge and skills.’

One former criminal told MailOnline how he was approached by an OMCG to allow a building he owned as a club house where they would store guns and drugs which they would source from their international connections. 

He said in return, they offered to use those same connections to supply him the latest motorcycles. The gang said they needed secure storage for their ‘kilos of drugs’. 

He said the biker boasted he could access hand grenades as well as an impressive list of handguns. 

‘I politely told them it was not for me. My first concern was the guns and drugs being stored on my property. I am just up of that kind of risk anymore. And secondly, I am very wary of bikers. 

‘If you fall out with gangsters, you basically deal with a handful of people. But these picker gangs can send 100 men to your door, and that is something I don’t want. 

‘They have huge strength in numbers, and they are not nice people.’ 

Even medical staff can face violent attacks from OMCGs. 

In the United States, researchers have shown that there are 1.4 million active members of OMCGs who are well organised and can mobilise their members quickly to assist injured comrades and ‘are often impulsive and heavily armed’ with expertise in ‘sophisticated weapons’ and ‘intricate intelligence networks’. 

The researchers warned that emergency staff and paramedics need to be able to identify the various gangs and the importance of the ‘1%’ patch to ‘anticipate gang-related violence. 

‘Determining the cause of the biker’s injuries is critical, as scenarios in which a biker has been injured by enemies of his club or by a citizen can predispose the biker and his associates to hostile behavior. Outlaw bikers follow a pack mentality that demands that every member support each member to the utmost.’ 

Hospital staff are advised to ‘treat these men respectfully… to decrease the likelihood of aggression.’ 

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