Ice cream men in Oldham are being chased off their turf by a so-called ‘mafia family’ which has been attacking them and setting their vans on fire.
Two operators, Eajaz Azam and Iftikhar Ahmed, say they both fear for their lives after a string of attacks reminiscent of the infamous Glasgow Ice Cream Wars.
Azam, 30, says a gang surrounded him and beat him with sticks while he was working in Chadderton, Greater Manchester.
And an unnamed father-of-three claims a masked gang armed with hammers attacked him before smashing up his van in April.
Ice cream men in Oldham are being chased off their turf by a so-called ‘mafia family’ which has been attacking them and setting their vans on fire
Iftikhar, 39, says his newly-bought van was torched outside his home in an alleged arson attack in May, minutes after his two young children were inside helping him clean it.
Footage captured on his CCTV system showed several men approaching his van and smashing a window before one of them set fire to it and fled.
Iftikhar says he passed the footage to police but no action was taken, while Eajaz said no arrests were made after the authorities investigated the attack at his home.
‘I am very worried for myself and my family,’ said father-of-three Eajaz. ‘Every night we keep awake, we do not sleep because we fear for our lives.
‘I was sitting in the barbers having my hair cut and a man came in and asked me my name.
‘When I told him he said people were hunting for me and would not let me work. There were threats to blow up my van and my house.’
Both say they have official permits from Oldham Council to sell ice-cream, which allows them to operate anywhere within the borough.
Two operators, Eajaz Azam (right) and Iftikhar Ahmed (left), say they both fear for their lives after a string of attacks reminiscent of the infamous Glasgow Ice Cream War
Iftikhar, 39, says his newly-bought van (pictured) was torched outside his home in an alleged arson attack in May
THE GLASGOW ICE CREAM WARS
The Glasgow Ice Cream Wars was a turf war between two drug-selling gangs in the east end of the city in the 1980s.
Van operators were known to raid each others’ vans and even fire shotguns into rivals’ windscreens.
It transpired the violence stemmed from the fact that many ice cream vendors were selling drugs and stolen goods on the side – and did not want anyone intruding on their business.
It all came to a head on April 16, 1984, when a driver for the Marchetti firm and his family died in a house fire.
Eighteen-year-old Andrew Doyle, nicknamed ‘Fat Boy’, resisted intimidation by those who wanted him to change routes.
After firing a shotgun through his windscreen, a suspected rival gang planned another ‘frightener’ by setting the front door of his flat alight with petrol.
The resulting blaze killed five people, with a sixth dying later in hospital: James Doyle, 53, his daughter Christina Halleron, 25, her 18-month-old son Mark, and three of Mr Doyle’s sons, James, Andrew and Tony.
But they believe others object to rival vans and use heavy-handed tactics to monopolise the market.
Iftikhar says the arson attack has left his children traumatised and frightened to leave the house.
Iftikhar, who also has three children, said: ‘Five minutes before it happened my six and three-year-old children were in there helping me clean.
‘They wanted to stay in the van but I said no. Thank goodness I did as it was on fire minutes later.
‘Someone smashed the window and poured petrol in. I’d only just bought the van.
‘I passed CCTV on to police but no action has been taken. My kids don’t want to go out of the front door anymore. My six-year-old daughter saw it happen.
‘We have permits, we are doing everything legally. I have to work. We’re not doing anything wrong. We’re not selling on the same the streets, but they won’t leave us alone.’
Azam (his van, pictured), 30, says a gang surrounded him and beat him with sticks while he was working in Chadderton, Greater Manchester
A spokesman for Oldham Council said: ‘We’re aware of the issue and are meeting with ice-cream companies.’
Greater Manchester Police said investigations had been launched into both the Trafalgar Street and Clarksfield Road incidents but no arrests were made.
A spokesperson said: ‘Greater Manchester Police received a report at 4.30pm, on April 22, of a robbery at an ice-cream van, in Trafalgar Street.
‘Anyone with information about the incident is asked to contact police on 101.
‘Police received a report on May 22 at about 4.30pm that someone had approached an ice-cream van on Clarksfield Road and smashed the window before setting fire to an item and throwing it into the van, which was damaged extensively.’