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9 most dangerous British crime gangs

Uncover Britain's criminal past with a look at its most famous gangs, including the Kray Twins and Sabini Gang.


When you think of British criminals, one of the top names that likely pops into your head is that of Jack the Ripper. Once the most notorious serial killer in London’s East End, Jack the Ripper is still renowned as one of the most gruesome British murderers of all time.

But other underworld crime gangs have left their mark on the UK’s criminal landscape. The UK is still a significant player in European and international crime circles. It’s believed that there are over 5,000 different organised crime groups in Britain today. Beyond the Mafiosi, these are nine of the most dangerous British crime gangs throughout history.

1. The Sabini Gang 

Alternatively known as the Cambridge gang, the Sabini gang were named for their leader, Charles ‘Derby’ Sabini.

The Sabini gang dominated the illegal gambling underworld for most of the early 20th century. With an estimated 100 members at its peak, the gang was notorious for razor attacks and imported Sicilian gunmen. Sabini’s Italian heritage afforded him a unique position in London’s multicultural milieu, and his gang had friends in high places, including in the city’s police force and UK’s politicians.

The Sabini gang also had close ties to a fellow criminal gang, the Cortesi Brothers, before later becoming rivals which led to a violent club shooting in 1922.

2. The Peaky Blinders 

A Birmingham-based gang, the Peaky Blinders operated from the end of the 19th century into the early 20th century.

Known for their distinctive flat caps with sewn-in razors, the gang participated in illegal betting activities, as well as robbery and frequent violence. It’s unsurprising that they were the inspiration for the popular British drama series Peaky Blinders.

3. The Kray Twins

No list of British gangsters is complete without mention of the Kray Twins. Operating as ‘The Firm’, the Krays were notorious in London’s East End during the 1950s and 1960s.

Their criminal empire involved armed robbery, arson, protection rackets and murder, but they still had a celebrity-like status. The twins were often spotted socialising with Lords, MPs and celebrities, but were eventually convicted of murder and imprisoned.

4. The Richardson Gang

Rivals to The Firm, the Richardson gang were ominously known as the ‘Torture Gang’. Brothers Eddie and Charlie Richardson were known for criminal activities including fraud, racketeering, and drug trafficking.

They also deployed sadistic torture methods, such as administering electric shocks, cutting off toes with bolt cutters, nailing victims to the floor, pulling teeth out with pliers, and more.

5. The Lyons Clan and Daniels Clan

Two family gangs based in Glasgow, the Lyons Clan and the Daniels Clan have a fierce rivalry. Both engage in drug trafficking but also participate in other criminal activity including money laundering, extortion and violence.

Steven Lyons is also believed to have connections with the Kinahan crime family, a Dublin-based gang that is considered one of Europe’s most powerful cartels.

6. Noonan Brothers

Operating from the 1980s to 2005, brothers Desmond, Damien and Dominic Noonan pulled themselves out of poverty by controlling the doors and selling drugs in Manchester’s nightclubs.

Each brother took up different roles and responsibilities, with Desmond acting as the muscle, Dominic being the entrepreneur and Damien at the helm. Desmond and Damien died in the early 21st century, and Dominic is currently in prison for arson and blackmail.

7. The Burger Bar Boys and Johnson Crew

Rival Birmingham gangs, these groups remain at the centre of the city’s gang violence.

Their deadly feud and criminal activity have included everything from shootings and stabbings to drug trafficking. Law enforcement continues to try and curb their influence, but both gangs remain active and in opposition.

8. Clerkenwell Crime Syndicate

Founded in the 1980s by brothers Terry, Tommy and Patsy Adams, the Clerkenwell Crime Syndicate is still in operation today.

Believed to be one of the most powerful crime organisations in the UK, the group is heavily involved in drug trafficking, extortion, security fraud, blackmail, and murder. Despite numerous arrests and convictions – including those of the Adams brothers – the Syndicate remains operational.

9. The Yardies

In the 1980s, the Yardies established a strong criminal presence in London that continues to this day.

Originally from Jamaica, the Yardies are involved in gun violence, gang warfare, and drug trafficking. Based in London, they have an international crime syndication.