Notorious North London gangster Terry Adam’s was born in Islington. He celebrates his 67th birthday today.
Terry, the oldest, and his brothers, Patsy, born in 1955 and Tommy, born in 1958, were just local Catholic lads involved in petty, small-time crime. They were as far removed from the big league as it is possible to be. They extorted money from traders and stall-holders working street markets in Clerkenwell, gradually moving into armed robbery for which Patrick Adams went to prison for seven years. Their fortunes changed, however, when they took on a local gangster and won, grabbing control of a number of his drinking dens. As money began to roll in, they expanded their interests into clubs and bars, places where drugs could be sold. At the time, cocaine and cannabis were the drugs of choice of London’s clubbers. Later they would move on to ecstasy.
The vast sums of money they earned presented problems. They had to find new and innovative ways to launder it, surrounding themselves with corrupt financiers, accountants, lawyers and other professionals to help them clean their cash before it could be invested in property and legitimate businesses. They also used Hatton Garden, London’s jewellery quarter, working in particular with the diamond merchant Solly Nahome.
Glasgow hitman Paul Ferris once explained how the Adams Family worked. There was no one boss, although Terry Adams, as the oldest, often seemed to hold more power than the others. One detective described it as being run like a business, the leaders acting like a board of directors, making decisions for the entire team.
The secret of their success was undoubtedly the air of violence that hovered over them and attached itself to their name. The Adams name was so potent that they were known to have franchised it out to other criminals who used it in difficult situations. Just the mention of a connection to the hardest team in London had a habit of making problems go away. They were responsible for numerous hits – some say 25 – and are credited with the dubious honour of inventing the notorious ‘two-on-a-bike hit’, although Griselda Blanco, the notorious Colombian criminal, is also credited with its invention. A bike pulls up; the passenger dismounts, pulls out gun and shoots the victim who has no idea where they have come from. The perpetrators cannot be recognised because, of course, they are wearing motorcycle helmets and they make their getaway at speed, almost before anyone realises what has happened. It is reckoned that the Adams Family killed at least 20 people using this method.
Amongst the killings with which they have been linked are pub accountant Terry Gooderham, suspected of stealing £250,000 from the Family. He went to meet Adams Family members in Epping Forest in 1989 with his girlfriend, Maxine Arnold. Their bodies were later found in his Mercedes. Contract killer Jimmy Moody may have been brought in to help out. The story goes that Gooderham begged them not to shoot him in front of his girlfriend. The killer obliged by shooting her dead first.
Then there was Irishman Tommy Roche. Roche had offered to act as a go-between in a drug deal, but the Adams brothers feared that he had given information to their rivals in the deal. He was shot through the heart by a motorcycle hitman in 1993 while working for a road repair firm near Heathrow.
After Terry Adams was finally sent to prison, one former henchman described the extent of the Adams brothers’ capacity for violence. ‘If they liked you,’ he said, ‘life was good. If you fell out with them, your life was over pretty quick.’ He described how he went with the brothers to a club they owned, called Ra Ras, in north London. As another villain entered the club, one of the brothers nodded in the man’s direction and said he had to go. No more was said, but the man never made it home that night. He was stabbed to death en route.
On another occasion, David Mackenzie, a money-launderer for the Family, made some bad investments and lost them £1.5 million. In April 1997 Terry Adams’ brother-in-law John Potter summoned him to a meeting at his house. As soon as Mackenzie came through the front door, an Adams enforcer grabbed him. For 20 minutes he was kicked, beaten and slashed with a Stanley knife. By the end, the room was soaked in blood and Mackenzie’s left ear and nose were hanging off. But he survived and two years later faced his attacker in court, Christopher McCormick. However, in spite of the fact that Mackenzie’s blood was found on his jacket, McCormick walked free from court, laughing and inviting the jurors to the pub across the road for a drink.
The Adams brothers are no strangers to firearms, either. Mickey, the youngest, was convicted of possession of a firearm in the mid-1980s, and a number of years ago, a dispute with another crime family, the Rileys, escalated into an all-out gunfight in Finsbury Square in London. Fortunately, there were no casualties.
Unlike the Krays and some others, the Adams boys shun the limelight. No West End clubs for them . . . unless they own them of course and, even then, it is strictly business. Former armed robber, turned journalist, John McVicar, wrote about them in an article in 1987 and,not long afterwards received a ‘friendly’ warning from the Family not to do it again. He failed to listen, however, and put pen to paper in 1992 in a piece that described the shooting of East End enforcer ‘Mad’ Frankie Fraser in Clerkenwell the previous year, a shooting long thought to have been carried out by the Adams Family. He received another visit from an Adams associate, but when he apologised he was informed that it might be wise to get some insurance and avoid any trail bikes that might be in his vicinity.
Patrick Adams is the muscle of the gang and is considered to be one of the most violent criminals in Britain. It was Patrick who dreamed up the motor-bike method of hitting people and he is suspected of at least 25 crime-related deaths over a period of just three years. It is also Patrick who is thought to have tried to eliminate Frankie Fraser in 1991. His violence appears to know no boundaries. In the late 1990s he is said to have sliced off a part of his own son’s ear in the course of a drug deal. Behaviour like Patrick’s does not earn you many friends and his villa in Spain, just south of the resort of Torremolinos, is surrounded by a high wall and bristles with security cameras.
Each brother has his role. Tommy acts as financier. Cleared in 1985 of laundering gold bullion from the infamous Brinks Mat robbery, he moved to Spain. Tommy is a fixer and has established connections with other criminal organisations such as the Yardies, as well as gaining a reported $80 million credit line from the Colombian drug cartels. He went to jail in 1998 for smuggling £8 million of hashish.
Terry Adams is said to be a man of sophisticated tastes. He is a collector of antiques, wine and classic cars, and lives in a large house in Finchley in north London. However, he claimed to have retired from criminal activity in 1990. This was confirmed several times on tapes recorded by bugs planted by MI5 in a number of rooms in Terry’s home. Having less to do at the end of the Cold War, the spooks had turned their attention to organised crime and a secret squad was assembled to work on the downfall of the Adams Family. What they heard was Terry telling his adviser, Solly Nahome, that he was legitimate these days.
His income tax was not legitimate, however. When the Inland Revenue started asking questions about the £2 million house in which he was living and the antiques and classic cars he owned, he provided them with a list of occupations, including jeweller and PR executive. When he was eventually arrested in 2003, he was in possession of art and antiques with a value of more than £500,000 and jewellery worth tens of thousands of pounds. He had £59,000 in cash in the house. In March 2007 he was sentenced to seven years in prison and ordered to pay £4.7 million in legal fees to three law firms – it made up for the free legal aid he had received during his trial.
Several of the Adams Family’s associates came to sticky ends. Gilbert Wynter, who walked with a limp following a collision with a police car in 1992, was a much-feared individual who worked for them as an enforcer. He claimed to be the son of an African princess and used African oils to ward off evil. He is thought to have been responsible for a long line of murders sponsored by the Adams brothers. One was the former British high-jump champion Claude Moseley, who got into trouble in 1994 over a drugs deal. Wynter stabbed him with a samurai sword, almost cutting his body in half. When a witness withdrew his statement, Wynter walked free.
Wynter disappeared in 1999, about the same time that Adams Family financial adviser Solly Nahome was gunned down by a man on a motorbike outside his Finchley home. One theory suggests that Nahome and Wynter were double-crossing the Adamses and were punished for it. Others say that Wynter was Nahome’s assassin and he staged his own disappearance immediately after the shooting. Another story has it that Wynter had been asked to collect a van in Islington. It was raining and he did not want the expensive suit he was wearing to get wet. He climbed into the van backwards, closing the umbrella, not noticing that there was someone waiting for him, ready to kill him. It is said that his body lies buried in the foundations of the Millennium Dome.
The Adams Family once seemed invulnerable, immune to police investigations. They were said to have senior police officers in their pay and seemed able to tamper with juries at will. In recent years, however, they have been in disarray. As well as Terry’s incarceration, Tommy was sent down for seven years for supplying cannabis and cocaine and for possession of a revolver. After being sentenced he was led, laughing, from the dock. During the trial, when the judge had ordered him to surrender some of his profits or face spending a further five years in prison, his wife had twice arrived in court with a case filled with £500,000. Are the Adams Family finished? It’s unlikely.

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