Street gangs openly flashing samurai swords and threats to chop off rival gang members heads, disturbed viewers of one of the most notorious TV programmes ever made about gang culture in Liverpool.
Back in 2009, Sky One TV documentary Ross Kemp on Gangs featured its final ever episode about Liverpool. The show's premise, which first began back in 2004, was to shine a light on the criminal underworld of major countries and cities across the globe.
Up until the early 2000s, viewers had been more used to watching Kemp play TV hardman Grant Mitchell in Eastenders. Following his exit from the show, the actor created a number of documentary series placing him in some of the most dangerous territories such as Ross Kemp in Afghanistan in 2008 and in the company of violent gangsters in Ross Kemp on Gangs (2004 - 2009).
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Episode six of the final series four first broadcast in 2009 saw Kemp take on the waring gangs of Croxteth and Norris Green in Liverpool. In what has now become one of the most notorious episodes, its screening was delayed for a year because of the Rhys Jones murder trial which saw Croxteth Crew gang member Sean Mercer jailed for life.
In previous episodes of his show, Kemp had taken on the drug gangs of Rio De Janeiro, as well as the Crips and Bloods of Los Angeles. This time, Kemp started the show saying he'd spent the summer in Liverpool seeking out the young gangs said to be "wreaking havoc" on Merseyside.
Narrating the episode, Kemp said although the vast majority of people in the affected areas of Croxteth and Norris Green were "normal, hard working families", parts of Liverpool 11 were "devastated" by drugs in the 1980s and '90s, and suffered from high rates of unemployment.
Throughout the documentary, Kemp interviews social workers working with specialist police teams created to tackle gang violence. However, it was his unforgettable interviews with the gang members themselves that most viewers remember.
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After just a few days in the city, Kemp had been invited to meet with some of the members of the Norris Green 'Strand Gang'. The interview took place in a dimly lit room with three members of the gang, all wearing dark clothing and balaclavas. Their voices had also been digitally disguised as not to give away their identities.
Each member of the gang openly held on to a vicious looking bladed weapons, including knives and Samurai swords. Asked by Kemp what they would do if they came across a rival member from the Croxteth faction, one of the gang replied: "I’d chop his head off then I’d carry on stabbing him even though his head weren’t on his f*****g neck."
The members said the violence between the gangs was not about drugs, but they had been shot at in the course of their rivalry. They even boasted that all it would take was a phone call and they could get their hands on a firearm in five minutes.
Their hatred for the rival Croxteth Crew seemed only to be matched be a similar animosity towards Merseyside Police's gang busting Matrix task force. One gang member called them "scumbags," adding: "They treat us like f*****g b******s. They just can’t stand us - they really hate us."
Later in the show, Kemp and his film crew arrange to meet up with a local gang of youths on an area of parkland. As they arrive they are greeted by groups of young gang members tearing up the grass on Scrambler bikes and in a Land Rover.
Narrating over the intimidating spectacle, Kemp says: "What we found when we arrived appeared to be a circus performance staged for our benefit. However, we do believe what we saw reflects the reality of life for young people like these."
As the TV crew films, one gang member wearing black clothing and a face covering openly brandishes long bladed weapon as another member tears past doing a spectacular wheelie on a scrambler. Despite the performance, the show's host had come to talk to one young man who had managed to escape gang life.
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Interviewing the ex-gang member who had minutes before tore across the grass in a Land Rover with 'F**k the Matrix' written on its side, Kemp asks the ex-gangster, who was just 14-years old when he joined a gang, how he became involved.
Disguised by a hood and a cap emblazoned with cannabis leaf designs, the ex-gang member told Kemp he had been "young and stupid" and wanted "loads of money" which the other members seemed to have. He added: "They all had weed, hanging about with them to smoke their weed. After that they’d befriend you, do you know what I mean?
"They’re your mates, but really they’re not your mates, they’re just using you. At the time it’s all good. You’re in a firm, you know what I mean? You’re all together, all for one and one for all and all that."
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Admitting that he had been to prison four times in his short life, the ex-gang member told Kemp of some of the things he'd been asked to do when he was still part of a gang.
He said: "Mind s**t, you know, guns, get guns, go and shoot people, anything like that," adding: "You can get a shotgun for fifty quid…you can go and blow someone’s head off dead easy can’t you?"
The ex-gangster also admitted that firearms were part of the life of the drug trade the gangs were involved in. Asked if it was just cannabis they were dealing in, he replied: "Everything - Garys, beak, Bobby, crack."
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Saying he had left the gang life behind, he told Kemp that it was not an easy thing to do: "If you’re looking [to get] out they’ll be on you won’t they? They’ll know you’re wanting to get out somehow or other. They’ll tell you to mind something - they’ll watch you.
"Make that something go missing so you owe them money. Basically so that you’re in debt to them forever, know what I mean?"
It's in the final part of the show that many people who watched the original broadcast in 2009 will remember most. After days in the city, Kemp is finally granted an audience with members of the Croxteth 'Crocky' Crew.
Kemp meets the group of seven masked gang members from Croxteth in another area of parkland. One member wearing a camouflage jacket has an aggressive looking dog straining at its leash.
The gang constantly giggle at Kemp's questioning and don't seem to take him seriously. When asked about what it's like to live in the area answers range from "rough" and a "ghost town" to "it's a nice society."
They even offer Kemp to "come round, stay for a bit" and taking aim at the presenter's previous shows, one member tells him: "This place s***s on Afghanistan".
The members speak about how easy it is for the right person to get their hands on a gun in the area, and when Kemp asks the Croxteth Crew if any of them have jobs the answer is a resounding no, with one member commenting: "You’re not even allowed in the f*****g dole cause it’s in Norris Green."
Kemp asks what would happen if any of the Strand gang crossed the border into their territory, one member answers "They’re f****d aren’t they. They get dealt with”. When asked what that means, he receives the chilling response: "What do you think it means?"
Moments later, the camouflage wearing gang member shouts "there's Jacks!", meaning he had spotted police and the rest of the gang scarper leaving Kemp to speak to an officer who had received a complaint about masked men loitering in a park.
The show Ross Kemp on Gangs went on to win three BAFTA awards before it's fourth series ended in 2009 with the Liverpool episode. He has since made other factual documentary series in other dangerous territories, including Ross Kemp in Search of Pirates and Ross Kemp: Extreme World.
However, despite his time interviewing and filming gang members in Liverpool, Kemp spoke in a later interview with the Liverpool Echo how the show made him fall in love with the "fantastic" city.