A piece in today’s Sunday Times:
Using a beauty business as a front and with babies in tow, female gang leaders ran a drugs network across the north of England
When the Kray twins ruled the East End of London in the 1960s, organised crime was a man’s world where bosses controlled their illicit businesses through the threat of physical violence.
But times have changed. Proving that women are smashing the glass ceiling in the criminal world too, two female gang leaders have been linked to the control of a large portion of the drugs trade in northern England.
Shazia Din, 42, the matriarch of “Din OCG” — OCG stands for organised crime group — was jailed in July for 15 years after being caught operating a drugs network in Manchester. She used the Beauty Booth, a legitimate company supplying mascara, lipstick and body lotion via Amazon, as a front for her empire.
As the last of her gang was sentenced weeks ago, partly because of delays caused by Covid-19, Din’s significance, along with the head of a second crime family, Natalie Wrafter, based in Doncaster, is becoming apparent to police.
Police believe Din and Wrafter were responsible for a large proportion of the cocaine and heroin handled in Manchester and South Yorkshire in 2018 and 2019. Din had links with gangsters in Dubai controlling the UK’s drug supply. Dubai has no extradition treaty with the UK and detectives believe it is fast becoming the new “Costa del Crime”.
At one point, surveillance officers filmed Din and Wrafter in the car park of Doncaster prison exchanging thousands of pounds in cash as Din bounced a toddler in her arms. At one point the toddler ran off and Wrafter chased the child as Din tucked cash into the boot of her car.
Wrafter, 31, was promoted to lead the Doncaster gang after the arrest of her father, Peter, in 2019 for possession of a revolver and a kilogram of heroin. She was sentenced to 11 years in July at Manchester Crown Court.
Many of the women’s underlings were sentenced last month in courts in Manchester and Sheffield.
Police sources say Din, nicknamed the “Queen of Crime” in underworld circles, rose to the top of her family business after one brother was arrested and another went on the run in 2010.
Din’s gang supplied South Yorkshire with class-A drugs, using women as couriers in the knowledge they would be less likely to be searched by police. She made it a family affair, recruiting her son Hassan, 21, and her sister Abia, 45, as her “left-hand woman”.
Like any self-respecting crime boss, Din, who had a fondness for Mercedes cars and Rolex watches and lived in an upmarket street in Bury, Greater Manchester, was careful never to touch drugs, according to police. She communicated with gang members via encrypted EncroChat software.
Din would leave it to others to make trips across the Pennines to Doncaster, where she supplied Wrafter’s group with a steady stream of drugs.
“It’s not common to have two females at the very top of organisations like that, but we are now seeing females involved in organised crime groups,” said Detective Inspector Lee Griffin, of Greater Manchester police’s serious and organised crime group.
“They are often being used as couriers because they are less likely to be stopped. It can also be common for families to involve females in the family business. Sometimes there will be a male involved in organised crime and the women will try to take the blame for him.”
But, like Lisa McQueen, the senior crime syndicate member in the BBC drama Line of Duty, women can also be part of the organisation. “They know what the benefits are, and how they can live a comfortable life with good cars and a nice house, paid for by crime,” Griffin added.
In 2019, a government-commissioned research paper on gender and serious and organised crime concluded that “the number of female offenders is substantial and growing”. The paper, which looked at crime trends globally, said the enduring historical view was that crime was a “man’s world”, but one into which a significant number of women were drawn through relationships. However, “as opportunities for crime had diversified, women have taken a lead role in some crimes, such as human trafficking”.
Police suspect Din, who played a “hands-on role” in running the Beauty Booth, was in charge of the UK arm of an international operation controlled from Dubai. “We have intelligence to suggest that a number of organised crime leaders are operating from Dubai,” Griffin said. “They can enjoy a certain lifestyle there without fear of being extradited. Criminals used to head for Spain to hide out there. Dubai is the new Costa del Crime. Different technologies mean it is easier to communicate over greater distances.”
Police shut down the gangs in July 2019 and a total of 19 people were convicted last year for their role in the conspiracy. More than 60kg of class-A drugs, £300,000 in cash and a handgun and ammunition were seized. Abia Din was given an 18-year sentence and Hassan Din received 14 years.
LADIES OF LARCENY
The 42-year-old matriarch of the Din gang, Shazia is thought to have controlled a large portion of the drug supply into South Yorkshire from at least December 2018 to July 2019. Running her empire from her online beauty products company, Shazia used her sister and son as lieutenants.
Din’s older sister was a key player in the gang that flooded South Yorkshire with drugs. The 45-year-old helped to run the Beauty Booth on an industrial estate in Bury, and drove a £50,000 Mercedes-Benz. When police raided the homes of Abia and Shazia, they recovered a £60,000 diamond ring, encrypted mobile phones and Rolex watches.
After her drug-dealing father, Peter Wrafter, was locked up, Natalie was promoted to head the gang based in Doncaster. As Din’s link, she would handle large amounts of cash, getting her couriers to travel from Doncaster to Manchester to pick up kilo blocks of class-A drugs.
Modern slavery gang
Justyna Parczewska, Julianna Chodakowicz and Natalia Zmuda were members of a Polish gang convicted in 2019 for running the biggest modern-day slavery network exposed in the UK. Police believe more than 400 victims were put to work in recycling centres, farms and building sites in the West Midlands.
The PPE burglar
An unknown woman stole £166,000 of PPE equipment from an industrial unit in Salford last May. She and two men cut through metal shutters before targeting the most expensive masks in the building. Police suspect a high-level gang was behind the raid.
Diamond was “Queen of the Forty Elephants”, an all-female gang specialising in shoplifting and smash-and-grab raids in London after the First World War. Diamond wore stolen gemstones in rings, which she used as knuckledusters. Her gang wore matching tailored suits with bell-bottom trousers and button jackets, steel-toed boots, silk scarves and starched collars.
You can subscribe to The Times here.
Our last general election manifesto is here.
If everyone who read this gave us £5.00 – or even better, £5.00 or more, monthly – we could change the world. £5.00 monthly would entitle you to Bronze party membership, details here. Benefits include a dedicated and signed book by Mike Buchanan. Click below to make a difference. Thanks.