Islington’s crime-riddled past revealed

THE truth about the history of Islington’s crime-filled underworld is to be revealed in a new book.

Author Brian McDonald’s Gangs of London: 100 Years of Mob Warfare details the dirty dealings of numerous north London gangsters - including several Islington-based crime lords.

These gangs, who corrupted the legal system in order to maintain control of the area, ruled the streets of London long before well-known criminals like the Kray brothers emerged onto the scene.

Mr McDonald said: “There was a prolific warfare between London gangs during a time period that has not been very well documented. The whole purpose of this book is to inform people about this fascinating criminal activity that was going on long before well-known gangsters like the Krays had even been heard of.”

Between the two world wars, the streets of Islington fell prey to the Clerkenwell-based Sabini brothers, the self-made kings of the “racecourse gangs”.

Charles Sabini, known as Darby, ruled over the malicious and crafty Sabinis as they defended their territory against the Whites.

After a long feud with the Sabinis, the Whites eventually took over the King’s Cross area and became the King’s Cross Gang.

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The book gives intricate details of the ruthless inter-gang battles that took place during the Racecourse Wars, a fierce competition between gangsters fighting for control over bookkeepers’ takings at the races.

Gambling and protection rackets were a popular source of revenue for many London-based criminals during this period and Mr McDonald believes he has found new evidence of the merciless victimisation of the capital’s bookies.

He said: “I have tried to correct some of the errors and fill in the gaps that have been left. There is very little writing about his period and much of what exists is wrong.

“This is an exciting part of our history and if someone doesn’t write it down, it will be forgotten. I was fascinated by so much of it.

“Through my family, I knew a lot of villains in my youth - although I am not a gangster myself.

“This is part of my family’s history and part of London’s history and I feel that it should be well documented.”

Gangs of London: 100 Years of Mob Warfare is released today (Friday) by Milo Books.