Anthony Gardner

Anthony Gardner

Drugs, gang warfare, seedy drinking dens, or “shebans” – these were the building blocks that formed the life of 26-year-old Anthony “Scratch” Gardner on Manchester’s notorious Moss Side of the 1980s.

There was something else in his life too, but Gardner never quite got a complete handle round it. His father was a preacher. Gardner respected both his parents, and often went to hear his father conduct services at the United Reformed Church in Chorlton-cum-Hardy. But he never allowed religion to interfere with his career on the periphery of crime.

As he drew up outside a sheban on Saturday, January 9th, 1988, a man stepped out of the shadows, pulled a sawn-off shotgun from under his coat, pressed it against Gardner’s chest, and fired. It took the preacher’s son about a minute to die on the pavement.

Hearing the shots and believing the police had arrived, customers poured out of the sheban, throwing their drugs into the street. Later police found more than £1,000-worth of heroin and cocaine abandoned like so much litter.

The murder hunt focused on “White” Tony Johnson, a violent, drug-dealing thug so named because although he was a white man he led a predominantly Afro-Caribbean gang known as the Cheetham Hill mob. Three years after the unsolved murder of Anthony Gardner, White Tony was himself shot dead in another gangland killing.