As it turns out, ice cream trucks have sold more than just popsicle's over the years. They have also served as a business cover for mobile drug and illegal weapon dealing operations for decades.

Ice Cream Trucks Were the Perfect Cover

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By the 1980s in Scotland, ice cream trucks were already making a pretty penny, averaging 200 pounds per week. While it was primarily ice cream sales, some vans and trucks were established mobile convenience stores, offering things like toilet paper, grocery items, and other convenience items that weren’t readily available in the area. They sold legitimate products, but also had drugs, illegal weapons, and stolen items to those who knew how to ask. For a while, it was the perfect cover.

The Glasgow Public Housing Developments Became Home To Violent Turf Wars

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In Glasgow, during the 1970s and 1980s—what is now referred to as the “Glasgow Ice Cream Wars” era—an exceptional amount of ice cream truck related violence occurred. The mafia-style rivalry involved entire public housing neighborhoods.

There Were Two Major Crime Families Heading The Ice Cream Truck Operation

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The rules were clear; if you had a truck you were selling for one side or the other—not independently. You had to have “rights” to distribute anything in these neighborhoods—even ice cream—and if you didn’t have a “key-player” like Thomas Campbell or Marchetti brothers backing you, you’re life was in serious danger.

Intimidation Tactics Called 'Frighteners' Were Used On Rival Van Drivers

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Rival van drivers would get into knife fights, throw rocks, and blast shotgun rounds through each other’s windshields, and when they caught someone operating independently, they would either try to recruit them or use intimidation tactics to scare them off. These intimidation tactics turned deadly.

Andrew Doyle Wouldn't Be Swayed By Frighteners

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Ice cream man Andrew “Fat Boy” Doyle had other ideas, and he refused to distribute drugs for anyone and he refused to stop selling ice cream. Even after his truck was shot at through the windshield with him inside, he refused to distribute drugs or partake in the ongoing territorial war between the two controlling crime families.

Scare Tactics Escalated To The Murders Of Six People

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The shooting failed to scare “Fat Boy” into pedaling illegal products or giving up his route. So at 2:00 a.m., on April 16, 1984, the door of his top floor flat was covered with petrol and set ablaze, killing his family as they slept. The arson attack led to the deaths of 18-year-old Andrew Doyle and five other members of his family, including his two brothers, his father James Doyle, and his 25-year-old sister with her 18-month-old son.

Desperation For Justice Led To The Most Controversial Court Battle In Scottish History

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The public was outraged, putting intense pressure on the police to find the people responsible for murdering an entire family. Investigators were nicknamed the “Serious Chimes Squad,” as opposed to the “Serious Crimes Squad,” and mocked by the public for their inability to put a stop to these turf wars. They became desperate to make an arrest and it was this desperation that led to one of the most controversial court battles in Scottish history.

Thomas Campbell Was Accused Of Heading The Hit On The Doyle Home

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Through a plea bargain with an ice cream truck robber William Love, police were able to find out van owners Thomas Campbell and Joe Steele were the men responsible for attacking the Doyle family. Love claimed he overheard the two men discussing how they’d set fat-boy Doyle’s house on fire to teach him a lesson. Four officers also claimed to hear Campbell say "I only wanted the van shot up. The fire at Fat Boy's was only meant to be a frightener which went too far."

Joe Steele, Campbell's Partner Was Also Charged With The Murders

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Both men had criminal records long before delving into the ice cream truck business and Campbell had made a point of threatening violence against anyone encroaching on his business. Oddly, he had a very different tune to sing about the Doyle family massacre. He was adamant that he and his henchman Steele didn’t have anything to do with the fire and that someone must have gone rogue. No one bought it and they were sentenced to 20 years.

Both Men Claimed Innocence And Protested Their Conviction For 20 Years

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Once convicted, the real circus show began. Steele kept escaping, although he wasn’t actually trying to get away, instead he escaped on three occasions to pull publicity stunts in protest of what he insisted was a wrongful conviction. On one of his escapades, he actually super-glued himself to the gates of Buckingham Palace in 1993. Campbell went on hunger strikes that brought him very close to death several times.

Justice Remains Lost For The Doyle Family

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The case wasn’t re-examined until 2001, even though the damning statement from William Love was recanted back in 1992. After 20 years of protests, multiple appeals, prison breaks, and political pressure, Thomas Campbell and Joe Steele were finally released in 2004.

Campbell’s statement as he emerged from the courthouse was all too true: “There’s no jubilation, there’s no happiness here because there’s only losers in this case. The Doyle family have lost a family. We have lost our lives in prison and for 20 years justice has been lost.”

The fact remains that whoever did start the fire that claimed the lives of six innocent people, including an 18-month-old baby, still hasn’t been brought to justice.