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Daily Record
Daily Record
Grant McCabe & Rory Cassidy

Greenock firebomb murder plot gang caged for over 60 years after Scots town turned in warzone

Six men involved in firebomb murder plot orchestrated behind bars have been jailed for a total of 64 years. The hits were organised by convicted thug Robert Warnock, who a judge said acted like "a gangster" as he sought to turn the streets of Greenock into a "warzone".

The 26 year-old had wanted revenge for the stabbing of his younger brother Reece. Andrew Sutherland and his half-brother Leonard Cole jnr were blamed for the attack on 18 year-old Reece Warnock in August 2019. Properties and relatives linked to the pair were then targeted.

Robert Warnock's teen brother, Reece Warnock, had been brutally attacked in August 2019 (UGC)

The first was a petrol bombing on July 13 2020 at a flat in Union Street, Greenock, Inverclyde, where Cole's parents Rosaleen Sutherland and Leonard snr were at the time. A drug user called George Miller, 46, was then hired to target the property again on September 14 that year.

After pouring petrol on the door and through the letterbox, Miller ended up dead after setting himself on fire. The final incident was at a flat in the town's Cumberland Road on September 19 2020 where Ellen Cole and two others - including a child - were there at the time.

Greenock firebomb attack victim George Miller (UGC)

Sentencing took place at the High Court in Glasgow today. Warnock was jailed for 15 years and three months having earlier pled guilty to a charge of conspiracy to murder. This will run consecutive to the 11 year sentence he is currently serving for trying to kill a woman and her partner.

Craig McFarlane, 27 - his trusted right-hand man on the street - was locked up for 15 years and Cain Carr, 24, for 10 years after they were convicted of the same charge by a jury. Drew Darling, 29, was hit with a six year jail-term and Brendan O'Donnell, 24, locked up for nine years following their guilty plea to attempted murder relating to involvement in the July 13 attack at Union Street.

Kieran McAnally, 26, was finally sentenced to nine years after he admitted to the same crime in connection with the petrol bombing at Cumberland Street on September 19 2020. Lord Mulholland told them: "You engaged in a campaign of terror planned and executed over a period of months. The criminal conspiracy involved the attempted murder of six people and the death of George Miller.

"You sought to turn Greenock into a warzone for your feud. This is a civilised country which is based on the rule of law. There is no place for this type of conduct and the good people of Greenock deserve better than being treated to this gangsterism." The judge told Warnock he had been the "instigator" for what happened. He said: "You were prepared to go to any lengths to exact revenge.

"This you did from a prison cell while serving a sentence of 11 years for attempted murder. You behaved like a gangster to terrorise people in their homes." Jurors heard how Warnock was able to help arrange the attacks having taken advantage of prisoners being allowed mobile phone access during the pandemic. The murder plot ran between July 2020 and October 2020. While in jail, Warnock was in regular phone contact with McFarlane.

Drew Darling. (Police Scotland.)

McFarlane "boasted" about involvement in the July 13 attack. In his closing speech, prosecutor Paul Kearney KC said: "In another call, he appears to be panicking about police gathering CCTV from the school across the road from his mother's house." McFarlane stated to Warnock: "I'm f****d for this. The CID are across at the school checking cameras. They have got the driver - that daft Drew Darling."

McFarlane also said to have helped recruit George Miller, who was offered high-quality cocaine to take part. Warnock also got in touch with Miller stating to him: "Just gonnae do that for Reecey boy." But, Miller ended up burning himself to death - footage of it played during the trial. One associate further described the chaos as "ridiculous" and "out of hand". McFarlane's own flat was firebombed on September 28 during tit for tat violence.

Brendan ODonnell. (Police Scotland.)

But, jurors heard McFarlane claimed to police that he was unaware of "any feud" with the Cole and Sutherland family. He said to police at the time: "I've heard rumours, gossip and seen stuff on social media, but I do not know anything about it myself." Mr Kearney said others, such as Darling, McAnally, O'Donnell and Carr - were "prepared to conspire" in the crimewave. McFarlane had lodged a special defence of alibi.

Emergency services were called to the incident on Wellington Street, Greenock in September 2020 (Copyright (c) 2020 Shutterstock)

Carr had claimed he had only travelled from Kirkintilloch in East Dunbartonshire on the night of the Cumberland Street attack to buy drugs. Sentencing, Lord Mulholland told McFarlane: "You willingly carried out the instruction of Warnock and reported back your handiwork with relish." The judge said Carr's cover story was "fantasy". McAnally was meantime described as a "willing foot soldier" for Warnock and McFarlane.

The judge said it was "tragic" first offender Darling got involved to "apparently make some extra money". O'Donnell was told it was "fortunate" no one lost their life in the attack he was involved in. Andrew Sutherland was jailed for six years in November 2020 after he pled guilty to the attempted murder of Reece Warnock in Port Glasgow. Cole jnr was cleared at a separate court case. Reece Warnock died in an unrelated death.

Speaking after they were sentenced, Superintendent Douglas Falconer said: "These acts were reckless and deliberate and showed complete disregard for those who could have been hurt as a result. This was a complex investigation and it is down to the hard work of officers, partner agencies including the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, Inverclyde Council and The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, as well as the local community, that we were able to bring these men to justice."

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