Manchester’s Narco Kings: Rise and fall of notorious brothers making £50,000 a NIGHT
Three notorious gangland figures who claimed to ‘rule Manchester’ will come under the spotlight in a new TV documentary.
Brothers Damien, Desmond, and Dominic Noonan first found fortune and notoriety as armed robbers.
The trio then turned their attentions to the city’s nightclubs as they looked for an easier way to make cash.
Manchester dance venue, The Hacienda, would become their golden goose as the city became Europe’s leading party city.
Running the doors and taking a cut from drugs profits there meant they were making up to £50,000 a night, according to a new documentary to be screened tomorrow evening, MEN reported .
Irish Republican, anti-fascist, with a bear-like physique, Dessie Noonan was key to helping the brothers monopolise the supply of bouncers at the club and others in the city.
But it was Damien, described by journalist Donal MacIntyre as ‘the UN peace keeper in gangland Manchester’ who was the level-headed but powerful leader of the family. Damien was a canny operator, cementing loyalties by making donations to different causes in his community.
With Damien’s death, in 2004, came the beginning of the end of the brothers’ underworld dominance.
The programme which charts their rise and fall – ‘Manchester’s Narco Kings: Blood & Fear,’ will be screened on Channel 5 at 10pm on Monday.
It tracks the very beginnings of the Noonans – a family with 14 children, raised in tough poverty.
Each child had a first name beginning with the letter D – a reference to Dublin, and the Irish roots of their parents.
Their lives of crime, it suggests, were the product of a decaying city in the 1970s and 80s.
The show details how they moved up from stealing to armed robbery with guns.
Former GMP officer, Martin Harding, tells the programme: “The Noonans were synonymous with violence. They displayed very little fear. They had no fear of the authorities, no fear of prison. They were not scared to use violence.”
Dominic was once sprung from a prison van at traffic lights on the A6 in Pendleton, Salford. He went on the run and while a fugitive committed an armed robbery.
MacIntyre speculates that the brothers and their associates made £5m to £6m from cash in-transit robberies.
But their focus changed when Manchester became the party capital of Europe in the late 80s and early 90s.
MacIntyre says: “The Noonans were smart. Wherever the crime wave was they followed it.”
As Manchester emerged from the gloom of economic depression, the drugs that became synonymous with the city’s emergent nightlife presented an opportunity the Noonans were not going to miss.
With Dessie as the enforcer and hit man, Dominic the charismatic, but predatory entrepreneur, and Damien at the helm they took over clubland’s doors – and did not tolerate any gangs trying to muscle in on their lucrative domain.
A murder – in February 1991 – almost ended their empire.
Flamboyant ‘White Tony’ Johnson – a leader of the Cheetham Hill Gang, who drove a white Ford Sierra Cosworth, was shot dead on the car park of the Penny Black pub.
Dessie went on trial for his murder. The first trial collapsed amid rumours of jury tampering and at the second Dessie was acquitted.
It had been alleged that Johnson was killed after a fall out over how £350,000, the proceeds from a robbery, were divided up.
With Johnson gone the Noonans’ position was strengthened and they expanded their operations to other cities despite increased police surveillance of their activities.
An attempt to take over the doors at the Hacienda by another gang from South Manchester was brutally supressed.
Dominic called at the rival gang’s local pub and used a machete to decapitate one of their dogs that was outside.
He walked into the pub and placed the head on a pool table – making it clear they should drop any idea of taking over.
But after a rise built on robbery, guns, drugs, and a ruthless running of nightclub doors came a fall.
In the space of eight months the empire began to crumble.
Firstly, in 2004, Damien was killed, aged 37, in a motorcycle accident while on holiday in the Dominican Republic.
On his colossal black and gold headstone the family inscribed: “Our family chain is broken/Nothing seems the same.”
Then having been consumed by an out-of-control alcohol and crack cocaine habit Dessie was stabbed to death by a crack dealer in Chorlton in March 2005.
Drug dealer Derek McDuffus, known as Yardie Derek, had refused to sell drugs to Dessie.
Days later, GMP failed in a bid to stop the screening of documentary of the Noonans, by MacIntyre, in which he grinned as he alluded to be being behind a spate of gangland killings.
Dessie’s funeral had all the pomp of a gangland ‘don’ but it was almost a last hurrah of their power.
Bare-knuckle boxer and TV personality, Paddy Doherty, a friend of Damien’s tells the programme: “The minute (Damien) died they weren’t half as powerful as they thought they were. He was the gangster of gangsters in Greater Manchester.”
Worse was to follow. Dominic was hit badly by the deaths, and according to McIntyre was ‘a man at sea.’
He was also harbouring dark secret which had been hidden while his brothers had been alive. For decades Dominic had been suspected of being a predatory sex offender by the police, fellow villains, and even, it is said, members of his own family.
With his brothers gone he was no longer the force he was. But for years he was still able, exert influence and command loyalty in inner city areas, and he became a street provocateur – relishing playing cat and mouse with the authorities. For well over a decade after his brothers’ deaths, he still had enough of a reputation to be confident that the rumours that he abused boys would never come to anything.
But, says the programme, with time he became ‘so weak, he couldn’t hold back the dam of allegations’.
In 2015 he was jailed for 11 years for arson, blackmail, and perverting the course of justice.
Then, this year – while serving that sentence – he was brought back to court charged with 13 historical sex offences against boys.
He denied all the allegations, but was convicted of every one. He was given another 11 year sentence which will start when his current one ends. It means Dominic will have spent most of his adult life behind bars.
The new programme is montage of old clips of the Noonans and new interviews with ex-police officers and gangsters.
It concludes that Dominic’s demise marks the end of the road for three brothers ‘who at their peak ruled much of Manchester’ – ‘a destructive dynasty – the like of which we are unlikely to see again.’