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Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Arthur Thompson, organised the hit. Thompson, was a notorious Glasgow-born gangster who took charge of organised crime in the city

11:07 |

John McGranaghan said that a city businessman, who now lives in Spain, went to Glasgow crime baron, Arthur Thompson, to organise the hit. Thompson, was a notorious Glasgow-born gangster who took charge of organised crime in the city for more than 30 years.Thompson began his career as a money lender and became infamous for nailing those who failed to pay debts to him to the floor by their hands and feet.Linked to the notorious Kray twins, protection rackets soon followed and Thompson invested his money into legitimate businesses, making him very wealthy.
One of the most feared criminals in Scotland, it was rumoured that, by the 1990s, he was earning £100,000 a week as a loan shark.His former protege, Paul Ferris, was acquitted of shooting his son, Arthur junior, and Thompson later denied he was behind the murders of two other men, Bobby Glover and Joe "Bananas" Hanlon, who were to have appeared alongside Ferris in connection with the murder.A gunshot victim himself in 1988, he died in Glasgow on March 13, 1993 from a heart attack aged 61.
The hired killers, who were also from Glasgow and paid £12,000, went after the wrong man and stabbed and beat Mr McCann to death on February 20, 1974.The four men alleged to be responsible are now dead.Mr McGranaghan said today: "I looked quite like Neil, dark hair, same build, and they must've thought I was him. The next day I got a call from a pal in the know who said, 'You were lucky', and told me the hit had been for me. He said guys from a Glasgow crew were through and whacked the wrong person."He added: "I felt bad for Neil and his family. I didn't know him, but I'm told he was a decent guy. But I'm still glad it was him rather than me, I won't apologise for that."Mr McGranaghan told police, who recently flew to his London home to interview him after he wrote a letter detailing the circumstances to Chief Constable David Strang, that the businessman behind the hit suspected him of setting a fire at one of his premises in the city's West End.The 66-year-old said that the man, whom the Evening News has not named for legal reasons, asked to meet him for a drink at the International Bar in Tollcross on the night of the murder. But he had "smelled a rat" and decided to return to London, where he had stayed on and off for two years.Instead, his brother, Charlie McGranaghan, went to the bar to "feel him out", but the businessmen failed to turn up. But Charlie did meet his old school friend, Neil McCann, in the pub and the pair stayed out to drink together.The two men later caught a bus back to the Craigmillar area and Neil, 37, was attacked in Craigmillar Castle Loan just minutes after getting off at his stop.Detectives had always suspected that the murder was a professional hit which went wrong, and one police theory was that Charlie McGranaghan was the intended victim.But John McGranaghan, who was cleared of rape on appeal in 1991 after serving 11 years in jail, revealed that some of the killers knew his brother as they had served time together in Peterhead jail and would not have mistaken him.The pensioner said that he was told by friends at the time that four men had been hired for the hit, which police always believed involved just two. The businessman behind it was well-known figure on the criminal scene in the Capital in the 1960s and 1970s. Mr McGranaghan said: "I used to have the odd drink with (the businessman] if I saw him in Edinburgh when I was back in town. I was up on the Friday before the murder and bumped into him in the Warrender baths."He had gotten it into his head that I set fire to (his premises), which is totally wrong, although he didn't mention it. I had been told he suspected me by a detective I knew a few months before. "He asked me out for a drink at the International the next week, which I thought was strange because he hadn't asked me out for one before."I later learned that (the businessman) had put out a contract on me with Arthur Thompson. That night I phoned the International and asked Charlie if he had turned up and he said no. "The Glasgow team who were in on the hit were in Peterhead with Charlie and knew him well. But they didn't know me."Mr McGranaghan, who moved to London in 1972, said another underworld friend contacted him later. "He told me that (the businessman) complained to Arthur Thompson about the mix-up with Neil, and didn't want to pay the £12,000. But he paid up after Thompson said he would send the team round to get it themselves."I didn't hold anything against Arthur Thompson, or the guys who did it. It wasn't a personal thing as they didn't even know me. It was just business."
Mr McGranaghan was jailed for life in 1981 after being found guilty at the Old Bailey of a rape and indecent assaults against three women between 1978 and 1980. But following a campaign by Rough Justice, he was freed after forensic evidence showed there had been a "miscarriage of justice", according to appeal judges.
He said: "I was in Frankland Prison in Durham just before I was released. I met a guy there and we got pally – we were both Scottish. We were talking about the Edinburgh (criminal) scene and he asked if I knew (the businessman]. I laughed and said 'yes'."He couldn't believe it when I told him about Neil. He knew the Glasgow team that was sent through for a 'bit of work' and screwed it up."
McGranaghan said he wrote to the Chief Constable after suggestions that his brother Charlie was a drug dealer and perhaps the true target for Neil McCann's killers.
He said: "I was angry that Charlie had been accused of being a dealer and I didn't want them putting this on him too."Charlie hated drugs and had nothing to do with them. He considered someone who smoked cannabis a no-good junkie. He only came to London to help me fight to be released from prison."Charlie McGranaghan was murdered in 1981 by Ronnie Turnbull, who was having an affair with his brother John's now ex-wife, Janet, while her husband was in prison on the rape charges. He confronted Turnbull, who stabbed him to death and was later jailed for murder.Retired detective Bert Swanson, head of the "cold case" unit at Lothian and Borders Police, interviewed Mr McGranaghan at his home two months ago. He also led the re-investigation into missing schoolgirl Vicky Hamilton.The McGranaghans' sister also told her story to CID detectives on Wednesday night at her home after being unable to keep the family secret any longer. She was unaware that her brother had already been interviewed by police as they have not spoken for more than a decade after a falling out.Margaret Hamilton, 64, who lives in Bingham Drive, near The Jewel, went to police following the death of her grandson, James Fraser, 24, last month. She decided to come forward so the McCann family would not "suffer anymore". Mrs Hamilton told police that her brother revealed that Neil McCann was killed by mistake.She said: "John told me that (the businessman) thought he started the fire and put the contract out on him. Neil did look quite like him and he was killed instead. Charlie was a decent man but John only cared about himself and was always getting in fights and bother."A police spokeswoman said today: "We can confirm that we are looking again into the death of Neil McCann after new information came to light."

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