Glasgow Crime Stories: The day the family of a security guard was taken hostage in Ibrox
It was May 1988 and the manager of Security Express in Glasgow was having a problem.
One of Gordon Slater’s experienced and long-time security guards, John Burke, did not show up that morning.
The hard-working father was normally very stable and reliable, but today there was something about his behavior that was not quite right.
A security business leader has to be mindful of things like this because of the huge sums his staff carried.
READ MORE: Glasgow Crime Stories: The murder of Tracey Wylde and how her killer was brought to justice
Gordon asked John to come to his Broomloan Road office in Ibrox for a heart-to-heart conversation and what he told him that morning were the most amazing things he had ever heard.
The previous evening, three men had broken into his home in Maryhill brandishing guns and captured the entire family, his wife, four sons, his daughter-in-law and a two-year-old granddaughter.
Their plan was to use them as hostages to force John to steal money from his employer’s clients, including banks.
Slater went straight to the local police who were based near Helen Street in Govan.
Five minutes later, a team of seasoned detectives had arrived at the offices next to Ibrox Stadium to speak with the terrified security guard.
One of John’s sons had been hit on the head with the butt of a cut-off shotgun before they were all handcuffed and their eyes covered with duct tape.
The thugs had continued to shout threats at the eight family members to keep them subdued and terrified.
Burke was then informed by the gang that his relatives would be held hostage while he went to work the next day.
They would only be released after collecting £ 150,000 in cash (£ 400,000 today) from Security Express customers.
He then had to hand over the money as a ransom at noon.
Two gang members took some of the family members to another location.
The third man remained in the house with the Burkes where he continued to threaten them.
READ MORE: Did Fred West develop his taste for murder as an ice cream van driver in Glasgow?
Soon after, the same car reappeared and took away the remaining members, leaving the security guard alone.
Before they left, John was warned that his family would suffer serious consequences if he told the police.
Burke had spent the rest of the night without worry.
The next morning he arrived at work exhausted from lack of sleep.
He didn’t know how to handle the situation and was grateful when his eagle-eyed boss spotted his distress.
Police have placed a team of officers at the Security Express offices to monitor all incoming calls in case the gang calls.
They also had to establish whether John was telling the truth.
Had he created the job himself, knowing that large sums of money were carried through their business every day?
The investigating officer, Detective Superintendent Joe Jackson, now retired, told the Glasgow Times: “Mr. Burke was in a state of high anxiety, but that would have been the case regardless of his involvement.
“I had to watch him closely during our interview to gauge his reaction to the questions and see if he had the nerve to commit such a crime.
“However, he quickly convinced me that he was an honest man and incapable of such a masquerade.
It was now 8:30 a.m. and the noon ransom deadline was approaching.
The drop-off point for payment was to be near Craigton Cemetery.
Jackson decided to allow Burke to follow his normal course so as not to alert the gang’s suspicions.
READ MORE: Glasgow Crime Stories: Young victim Diane McInally found by dog walker in undergrowth
Two officers, DCI Harry Bell, above, and DS John Boyd, wore security guard uniforms and handguns.
John drove the van with DCI Burke in the passenger seat.
Meanwhile, DS Boyd was seated in the back with two armed officers and a police radio to keep in touch with Mr. Jackson.
Several armed police surveillance units followed the van and every company on the route was told not to hand over the cash.
They were given a cover story saying it was a test exercise and the money would be collected later today.
Mr Jackson added, “I had no intention of giving money to the gang.”
As the noon deadline approached, an armed cemetery surveillance team told Jackson they had spotted Raymond Graham, a well-known criminal in Govan.
Meanwhile, the red car used in the previous kidnapping was at the cemetery and signaled for the security van to follow.
At this point, the undercover team grabbed Raymond Graham while he was standing outside the cemetery.
Once inside Craigton, the second gang member left the red car and approached the van. He fled when DCI Bell attempted to grab him and was shot by one of the members of the armed surveillance team with a rugby tackle.
The second man has been identified as Sean Garty, another Govan criminal.
Mr Jackson added: “It surprised me because I assumed the gang was from the side of town where the kidnapping took place.
“I also learned that Raymond Graham was the brother of an escapee known as Danny ‘Scarface’ Graham, above.
“He was a real desperado, on the run for some time and suspected of having committed several bank robberies.
“This information put him in the context of being the third kidnapper.
“We still had no idea what had happened to the Burke family and my main priority was to interview Harty and Graham to find out where they were.
“The Burkes had now been held for over 12 hours in conditions hard to imagine.”
Garty declined to say where the family is being held.
Det Supt Jackson then decided to use mind games.
He added: “I told Garty that one of the charges he would face was murder because the girl was diabetic and if she didn’t get her insulin injection she would die and that. would be considered murder.
“It did the trick and Garty told us everything, even though there was nothing wrong with the kid.”
Garty said the family was being held in an apartment on the eighth floor of Broomloan Court, across from the Security Express offices.
At this point, police cordoned off the tower and snipers were positioned in nearby buildings.
A policeman said he could see a man in an eighth-floor apartment with something metallic in his hand and asked for permission to shoot.
Fortunately, Mr. Jackson refused because he was one of the handcuffed male hostages.
Suddenly screaming and screaming could be heard from inside the apartment and the police realized it was the hostages calling for help.
When Daniel Graham spotted the police cordon, he fled, leaving the hostages behind.
The armed team and Mr. Jackson found the family handcuffed and in a state of terror, but safe and healthy.
In a bizarre twist, Graham then telephoned a newspaper saying he had taken another couple hostage on the fourth floor of the same tower.
He said he would only give in if one of their reporters came to the door.
Mr. Jackson set up a telephone connection to the apartment from the concierge desk.
The reporter was allowed to speak with Graham for a few minutes.
However, Mr. Jackson refused permission to visit the apartment, deciding that he could not risk another civilian being taken hostage.
DCI Bell, who had been in the security van with John Burke, resumed negotiations.
The Robbs were freed and the armed police team entered the apartment and arrested Graham at 6 p.m.
When the three men appeared in Glasgow High Court later that year, the judge called them terrorists.
Daniel Graham was 18, Raymond 15 and Garty 12.
The operation to rescue the nine hostages was a major success for Detective Superintendent Jackson and his team.
Three dangerous criminals were taken to the streets, no money was traded out of their hands, and deadly guns were seized.
However, Mr Jackson, who retired in 1992 after 32 years of distinguished service, said the real hero of the time was John Burke.
He added: “The man had participated in a very heavy and difficult police operation to free his family.
“He had been a tour de force throughout the ordeal and I cannot speak highly enough of his courage and his composure.”