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Huyton Firm: brutal organized crime group dismantled by its own text messages

  • By Bronagh Munro
  • BBC overview

Legend, Vincent Coggins revealed for first time as leader of ultra-violent Liverpool crime group

More than 30 serious criminals have been jailed after police deciphered their encrypted text messages and discovered a violent row over drug theft.

Huyton crime bosses planned to murder the men they say took more than £1 million worth of cocaine from them.

After a successful challenge in court, BBC Panorama obtained 10,000 messages from the company.

They reveal plans for brutal violence, including a hand grenade attack.

The Huyton company – named after the part of Merseyside where it is based – has been run for 30 years by two secretive brothers. Following the conclusion of a series of trials at Manchester Crown Court, they can now be identified as Vincent and Francis Coggins.

The brothers and other members of the company spoke freely on the EncroChat messaging system, believing their encrypted conversations to be completely secure.

Their messages provide a unique insight into the inner workings of an organized crime group, revealing that:

  • Vincent Coggins ordered violent attacks and murders and bragged about personally hitting a businessman with a knife.
  • Francis Coggins sent photos of blocks of cocaine and the brothers discussed a deal for half a tonne of the drug, valued at around £16 million.
  • The brothers say they were helped by a corrupt police officer whom they call “pig”.
  • Top cabinet members shared personal photos, which allowed police to identify them by their online usernames.

Matt Horne, former deputy director of investigations at the National Crime Agency (NCA), told Panorama that the gang’s “industrial scale drug dealing” and willingness to resort to serious violence placed them “in the levels leaders of organized crime in the United Kingdom. .

In one message, Vincent Coggins threatened to torture a local businessman: “then we will decide to slice him up, cut off his fingers or whatever.” (All messages from the criminal group are reproduced here with their original spelling and punctuation.)

Legend, Armed police were stationed outside the court during the trial of the last member of the Huyton Society.

The next day, he bragged about how he had hit the man with a knife: “he hit his face and smashed his eyes and took half his ear with a tongue.”

The brutality of the Huyton company shocked even his rivals in Liverpool’s notoriously violent criminal world.

An anonymous source, who knows Vincent Coggins well, told Panorama that criminal gangs were “deeply hated” by many people because of the “level of depravity to which they go to spread fear and terror”.

The messages speak of help to the Huyton company from a corrupt police insider. The insider appears to have provided the crime group with printouts of the police national computer, which allowed the gangsters to see what detectives knew about them.

Merseyside Police say a thorough and thorough investigation was carried out by the Anti-Corruption Unit and no officers or staff have been identified in connection with the misuse of police systems.

Like thousands of criminals around the world, Huyton believed that EncroChat software would keep their messages completely secure and their identities secret.

But French police hacked the encryption app and shared messages about 7,000 British criminals with the NCA in 2020.

The messages covered the period when one of the Huyton company’s drug hideouts in Liverpool was robbed by rival gangsters.

In total, 32 major criminals linked to the raid have now been convicted.

Vincent Coggins, who used the EncroChat handle “Moonlitboat,” was sentenced to 28 years in prison for drug trafficking and blackmail.

Other members of the criminal group jailed include henchman Paul Woodford (24 years and six months), drug dealer Michael Earle (11 years) and moneyman Paul Fitzsimmons (12 years and six months) .

Their convictions could not be published until the end of the trial of Edward Robert Jarvis, another major player in the Huyton company.

He was found guilty of drug dealing and blackmail at Manchester Crown Court on Thursday.

Crime boss Francis Coggins is on the run and is believed to be overseas.

The Crown Prosecution Service initially refused to release the 10,000 messages from the Huyton company that were used in court.

But Panorama obtained the messages after making a request to the judge. They provide a vivid account of how the criminal group attempted to exact violent retaliation after the cocaine theft.

Saturday 23 May 2020 – 09:30 BST

A young man makes a frantic 999 call from a semi-detached house on a residential street. He and his dad have just been attacked by masked men, armed with a machete and an axe.

When the police arrive, there is blood everywhere. The two men inside are silent. Nobody talks about the Huyton company. But this time, the police have a secret weapon.

Image source, Merseyside Police

Legend, Police body camera still showing one of the injured men in Huyton Firm hideout

They have access to the messages that members of the criminal group send to each other. They show 30kg of cocaine from the Huyton company was stolen, worth £1million.

The gangsters are shocked that someone dared to rob them. And they want revenge.

The user named Moonlitboat issues orders on EncroChat, demanding that the thieves be identified and killed.

When police later identified him as Vincent Coggins, one of the pieces of evidence was a photo he had sent on EncroChat of his new coffee machine – identical to the one found in Coggins’ house.

Sunday May 24, 2020 – 10:24 p.m. BST

The day after the cocaine heist, Vincent Coggins gets his hands on the video surveillance of the robbery at a neighbor’s house.

The footage shows three masked men getting out of a van. A fourth man was carrying a package, posing as a delivery driver. Within four minutes, they made off with the cocaine from the Huyton Firm.

Legend, CCTV caught the four men pulling up to the hideout in a white van.

Posts from the group show the video was obtained by Thomas Cashman, a hit man for the Huyton Company.

Tuesday 26 May 2020 – 08:05 BST

Vincent Coggins orders one of his lieutenants to send the surveillance video to everyone he knows. Within hours, they believed they had identified some of the thieves.

Later that night, Coggins messages his enforcer, Paul Woodford, and tells him he plans to use a “pineapple” to kill them – referring to a hand grenade.

Woodford responds, “I’ll kill him with your m8.”

Legend, Vincent Coggins, left, discussed killing his enemies with hand grenades with his enforcer, Paul Woodford.

Woodford has previous convictions for attempting to scalp a woman in the UK and for firearms possession in the Netherlands. Dutch police believed he was planning to assassinate a rival crime boss.

Friday May 29, 2020 – 7:27 p.m. BST

Vincent Coggins identified four suspects, including local drug dealers Brian Maxwell and his son, Brian Maxwell Junior.

But he got the wrong men. The Maxwells had nothing to do with it.

In fact, four different gangsters are later convicted of the theft after their EncroChat messages were also collected by the police.

Even though Maxwell Senior was not involved, he is terrified by the threats from the Huyton company. He messages the crime group on EncroChat, saying he has a “solution” to save his family that “involves me and I alone paying the bill.”

Legend, Brian Maxwell agreed to pay Coggins, after the crime group’s leader accused him and his son (right) of stealing cocaine.

Maxwell Senior agrees to hand over £1.36 million to cover stolen cocaine, following a theft he didn’t commit, because he is so afraid of Vincent Coggins.

Coggins promises Maxwell Senior that his family will be safe if he pays. But he then sends a very different message to his executioner, Paul Woodford.

He writes: “I’ll kill them in a few months when everything calms down. Very stressful week. Needs a little brake, then I’ll be back.”

Woodford agrees to help kill them.

Vincent Coggins and Paul Woodford were arrested before they could carry out their threats.

Brian Maxwell Senior later pleaded guilty to drug supply and was sentenced to 13 years and four months. His son, Brian Maxwell Junior, was jailed for 18 years after admitting firearms offences.

The 32 convictions linked to the May 2020 heist are only part of a much broader success in the fight against organized crime.

EncroChat’s breakthrough led to the conviction of 1,600 criminals across the UK.

Matt Horne, who led the NCA’s national investigation into EncroChat, said messages from the Huyton company after the cocaine theft showed “an organized crime group using the same type of tactics and techniques that could be used by the police” – but with the aim of revenge. , serious violence and potentially murder.

But he said EncroChat was a complete game-changer in the police’s fight against organized crime. “What it did was it opened up this world and shone a light on it like never before.”

You can watch Panorama’s The Crime Bosses who Terrorized a City on BBC Two on Thursday at 8:00 p.m. BST and on BBC iPlayer (UK only).