Unsolved Murders

Viv Graham

Age: 34

Sex: male

Date: 31 Dec 1993

Place: Wallsend High Street, Wallsend

Viv Graham was shot after leaving The Queen's Head pub on Border Road, in Wallsend on New Year's Eve 1993 at about 6.10pm.

Several people were arrested following his murder, but no one was charged.

His killer first smashed a window in his Ford Cosworth car and then shot him three times at point-blank range in the chest and legs.

After being shot he was able to drag himself 30 yards up the street. He was taken to North Tyneside General Hospital in North Shields but later died.

Shortly after his murder, the police said that they were trying to trace a man that was seen leaving the Queen's Head pub on Wallsend High Street minutes before Viv Graham was shot. The police said that he was quite distinctive as he was only 5ft 2in tall. They said that he had short, cropped mousy hair and had been wearing a long-sleeved dress-shirt with a button-down collar. The police said that they believed that he walked east along the High Street past Border Road. However, they later focussed their attention on a blue Ford Escort car that had been seen nearby and which was later found burnt out in Heaton.

The police said that they thought that he was the target of a gangland killing. They added that one of the main difficulties they faced was getting witnesses to come forward as they were afraid.

He was a security boss and offered protection to licensed premises around the East End of Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Wallsend.

He had survived a previous drive-by-attack three years earlier in which masked gunmen armed with a pump-action shotgun shot at him outside Manhattan's nightclub in Newcastle. During the attack, his friend was hit and required 60 pellets to be taken out of his body but survived.

Following the attack on him he led an attack on a bouncer at the Hobo’s nightclub in Bath Lane, Newcastle-upon-Tyne for which he was sentenced to three years in 1990.

Following his murder in 193, his death created a power vacuum, it was said that mobs were trying to muscle in on Viv Graham's old patch, in particular, protection rackets amongst the ten pubs along Wallsend High Street where Viv Graham had been a regular. As such, it was heard that publicans on the high street launched a radio pager scheme so that they could warn each other of any potential trouble.

Following his murder, on a Thursday night, 6 January 1994, about 200 doormen met at Macey's Club in Newcastle's Cloth Market to discuss their image in the wake of Viv Graham's death.

Shortly after Viv Graham's murder, the police said that they thought that his hit might have been carried out by two Italians and said that they had broadened their investigation to untangle the web of Viv Graham's financial empire and were looking into Tenerife in the Canary Islands.

In January 2014, it was reported that secret police files had been released that included statements from a man that claimed to have been the getaway driver in the shooting and in which the gunman was named.

However, the police commented on the fact that much of the information that he provided them with could easily have been obtained from the newspapers. The man then gave a few details that might not have been published, such as that whilst making the getaway he had hit something and damaged the front end of the car and added that it might have been a woman's car as it had had tissues in it and cuddly toys, but nothing particularly substantial.

The police informant also gave the name of the man that he said that carried out the shooting and said that he had a video recording of the man at a karaoke in which he boasted about the shooting, but said that he was keeping that to himself.

The released documents showed that the police had gone to see the police informant whilst he was in prison in February 1995, and that he showed them where the safe house that they used following the shooting was.

He told the police that he knew where the safe house was because he was the getaway driver and that he had driven them there after the shooting and also that he had stolen the getaway car.

He said that the getaway car was a blue Ford Escort that he had stolen from Birtley in Gateshead by jiggling the keys and had then taken it to Heaton. He said at he later picked up the gunman who he thought was going to 'shoot Graham in the legs in retaliation for some ongoing dispute'. The police informant then said that they drove to Viv Graham's home, but he wasn't there and so they then drove around Wallsend looking for him and eventually found his car off the High Street next to a flower bed. He said that the gunman then got out and smashed on of the windows in Viv Graham's car, setting off the alarm, and then walked up and down waiting for Viv Graham. He then said that he heard three shots fired and then saw Viv Graham on all fours beside his car and that the gunman then ran back to the car and they drove off.

The police informant said that they then drove off to Heaton and set fire to the car in a back lane in Simonside Terrace and were then picked up by some other men and taken to the safe house. The police informant said that the gunman had used a grey 357 Magnum that he had had in a shoulder holster and said that he thought that the gunman had been high on cocaine at the time. The police informant added that both he and the gunman both thought that Viv Graham had only been wounded at the time.

It was reported at the time that the car used by the gunman was a dark blue Ford Escort with Registration, G668 DTF, and it was said to have entered the dark side street close to where Viv Graham was shot either by turning off Wallsend High Street through no access signs or by reversing into it off Border Road. At the time the police appealed for passers-by or customers of a nearby fish and chip shop, that might have seen the men waiting in the blue Ford Escort to come forward.

At the time, the police said that they didn't know whether the gunman had fired from the passenger side or the driver’s side of the car and said that they thought that it was one of the bullets from the shots fired that had broken the driver’s side window of Viv Graham's car.

However, the police made no arrests based on the police informant’s information.

Other theories regarding his murder included:

  • A £36,000 contract had been put on Viv Graham's head by a family from Newcastle's West end in revenge for an attack on him.
  • Another family from Newcastle's West End had attacked Viv Graham in revenge for a recent attack on two of their family members in a pub.
  • A witness said that they had seen three men in the Corner House pub in Heaton Road near to where the Ford Escort car was later found burnt out, come in and be congratulated by three other men for a job well done.
  • A bodybuilder was said to have set up a £30,000 contract on Viv Graham in the event of his own death and the body builder died shortly after.
  • Drugs barons in London, Manchester or Liverpool were angry that Viv Graham had set up a drugs ring in the North-East, using contacts in Europe to import ecstasy into the region and arranged for contract killers to gun him down.

Viv Graham's girlfriend said that she was beside Viv Graham's side when he died in hospital and said that moments before he died, he said, 'Don't worry, I'll be OK'.

On 4 January 1994, the newspapers wrote an article asking why Viv Graham was a villain to some and a hero to others. It stated that it was claimed that he had been a drugs baron and had run a £2,000,000 drugs empire and that he was an evil thug who terrified pub and club managers with a protection racket. However, the article noted that Viv Graham's friends and family said that he was a gent and a lovely lad who kept order in Tyneside's nightspots. His father stated that Viv Graham was not a drug dealer and noted that proof of that was the fact that he was having his car repossessed.

It was said that he was a hard man and that he had a reputation to maintain and that there was always someone wanting to attack him. It was reported, 'He has hit people, but they were bullies who thought they were hard men and better than him. There was always someone wanting to be harder than him'.

It was noted that following his death, troublemakers were already back in the clubs with knives looking for trouble and that the police said that after his death their jobs would be ten times harder.

Viv Graham was a former heavyweight boxer.

*map pointers are rough estimates based on known location details as per Place field above.

see www.journallive.co.uk

see Chronicle Live

see Newcastle Journal - Saturday 01 January 1994, p1

see Newcastle Journal - Saturday 08 January 1994

see Newcastle Evening Chronicle - Monday 31 January 1994

see Newcastle Journal - Monday 10 January 1994

see Newcastle Evening Chronicle - Tuesday 04 January 1994

see Newcastle Journal - Friday 21 January 1994

see Newcastle Evening Chronicle - Tuesday 04 January 1994

see Newcastle Journal - Monday 03 January 1994

see Newcastle Evening Chronicle - Tuesday 25 January 1994