SECRETS have been revealed about the Burger Bar Boys gang who executed girls with machine guns and ran a drugs empire – and also the truth behind their infamous name.
The Birmingham-based organized crime group is coming under renewed scrutiny two decades after teenage friends were murdered in the crossfire of a gang battle.
18-year-old Charlene Ellis and 17-year-old Letisha Shakespeare were killed in a drive-by shooting as they left a New Year’s Eve party in January 2003.
They were innocent victims of a long-running dispute between the group known as the Burger Bar Boys and their rivals Johnson Crew in the Handsworth area of the West Midlands city.
The two gangs fought for three decades – and a wall of silence continues to protect some of those suspected of being involved in the deaths of the two teenage girls.
But a new podcast sheds new light on the operations of the Burger Bars Boys and the torment suffered by the families of their victims.
Charlene’s twin sister Sophie Ellis has spoken about the ongoing trauma on BBC Radio 5 Live’s new series Gangster: The Burger Bar Boys.
Sophie, daughter of Johnson Crew founding member Arthur “Super D” Ellis, also spoke of the abuse her family is still subjected to.
She told the series, which goes live tomorrow, how she too was shot the night her sister and Letisha were killed but survived her injuries.
She said: “I saw the gun outside the window – before you knew it I fell to the ground.”
“I’m grateful that I’m still here, but nothing can replace the fact that my twin sister isn’t here – so it’s life-changing, very damaging.”
The rival gangs formed in the 1980s and clashed over dominance of the local drug trade, particularly crack.
One takes its name from the Burger Bar, a restaurant on Birmingham’s Soho Road that served as a meeting place – while the Johnson Crew is believed to have been named after a cafe on nearby Heathfield Road.
Charlene and Letisha were killed in what was believed to be a botched drive-by assassination attempt as part of the two gangs’ feud.
Another friend, 17-year-old Cheryl Shaw, was also injured.
Despite widespread horror over the 2003 murders, witnesses at the New Year’s Eve party were too frightened to speak out – and few were willing to testify in court.
But ultimately Nathan Martin, Michael Gregory, Rodrigo Simms and Charlene’s half-brother Marcus Ellis – all suspected members of the Burger Bar Boys – were convicted of the murders and sentenced to life in prison.
I still suffer from these injuries every day
Survivor Sophie Ellis
Her trial was the first in England where witnesses could remain anonymous.
Sophie has now said that her gunshot wounds left her in bed for so long that she “had to learn to walk again” and “lost a lot of blood”.
She added: “It really has been a journey. It changed my life – I still suffer from these injuries every day.”
And she remembered the aftermath of the guilty verdicts – and the subsequent torment her family endured.
She said: “When they were sentenced I remember my car was smashed – windows were smashed.”
“We had to raise the panic alarm so the police came because they obviously knew where we were living at the time.”
“And then there were times when I was in church and people would make comments like, ‘Oh, that’s the girl who caught my people’.”
“Like I’m the one who pulled the trigger – I think they should just keep doing their time and stop wasting our time.”
“We try to live and do our best to move forward, but they keep trying to appeal and that will never happen.”
Read more on the Irish Sun
It was believed that the New Year’s Eve killers were targeting Johnson Crew member Jermaine Carty.
The first two episodes of the podcast, hosted by BBC journalist Livvy Haydock, are available on BBC Sounds from tomorrow.