Knifed to death...
Colin was young, sweet-natured… and the wrong man. Yet when the underworld came looking for a victim, he met a gruesome death…
When does life really begin? Is it the moment you’re born, blinking gunky eyes open into the light of the world for the very first time? Or around three or four, when memories first start to stick?
Maybe 18, when you can legally enjoy a pint, or 21, by which time you have an idea of who you really are. You’re an adult. No bones about it. Colin Mcginty was right at that tender age in spring 2001.
A keen footballer with bright blue eyes and cheeky, youthful good looks, Colin was popular with lads and ladies alike.
His sister Laura, 18, joked that she got a different one of her mates to cop off with Colin each week on nights out so he’d fund their drinks for the evening.
Colin had a good job as a joiner at the Royal Liverpool Hospital. He could afford to let his hair down.
Growing up in the posh Blundellsands area of Merseyside, his parents had worked hard to raise their five children well. The Mcginty kids had a nice home and went to good schools. They’d raised Colin to be a sweet, goodhearted lad who was enjoying his life with his many mates.
On the night of 22 March, 2001, Colin was out with pals
Terry Randall and Alan Whelan at Sullivan’s Wine Bar in Bootle. Just a stone’s throw from Liverpool, the Bootle of that day was one of the poorest areas in the country and had high levels of unemployment. Arrests and trouble were common.
Two-year-old James Bulger had been abducted from the town’s New Strand shopping centre with tragic consequences just eight years before. The new, improved and expensively regenerated Strand Road, with its huge Asda and associated job prospects, was still another seven years away.
At 1.40am, the lads left the bar and walked onto Bootle’s streets. They planned to get a taxi back home but decided to walk on a bit.
An hour later, they were still walking along nearby, looking for a ride. Suddenly, a dark grey VW Golf pulled up alongside them.
But this wasn’t a friendly taxi driver looking to offer a lift. It was trouble.
A gang of four men jumped out and made for the lads. No doubt terrified, Colin and his friends fled. They split up. Colin’s mates ran off and hid under some bushes. Knowing the area well, Colin ran for an alleyway down the back of a pub.
He went to jump over a wall but despite being young, fit and sporty, it wasn’t enough. Colin’s attackers were on him and he was stabbed mercilessly with at least two knives, over and over.
Eleven of the 15 stab wounds were to his back. Four of these – those that punctured his left lung, right lung, spleen and liver – would’ve been fatal on their own. Together, Colin stood no chance.
The young lad was found still conscious, slumped on the street in Marsh Lane. He was rushed to Liverpool’s Fazakerley hospital.
His parents, Geraldine and Peter, were called and rushed to his side. Colin begged his dad not to leave him before he was taken for emergency surgery.
Surgeons couldn’t stop the bleeding and he suffered a heart attack as a result of his injuries. He died that same day.
His tight-knit family was heartbroken. His sister Laura remembered drying her hair that morning when her grief-stricken parents returned home and broke the news. Colin was a good lad, well brought up and polite. How on earth had he got caught up in something so senseless and gruesome as a street attack?
Gangs in Liverpool and the surrounding area are nothing new. In the ’80s, the media dubbed it ‘Smack City’ when an explosion in organised crime flooded the streets with heroin.
Drug cartels sprang up. Along with them, vicious turf wars. Liverpool’s gangsters hit the headlines and in 1996, Merseyside Police became one of the first forces in the country to openly carry weapons in a bid to tackle escalating gang violence.
But stabbings and trouble had always been a thing that happened to other people. Colin’s family had to wonder – did they not know who Colin was? Had he been mixed up in something?
With no motive for the killing, police were also at a loss as to why this murder had happened. But they quickly nabbed those responsible.
Four days after Colin died, police tracked the Golf’s owner. His name was Michael Brown.
Brown, 21, and his friend, 23-year-old Gary Hampton, were arrested driving in convoy behind his car, the suspect Golf, as a friend drove it to be auctioned. It had been valeted clean.
Brown and Hampton were close mates who worked together as doormen in the pubs and clubs around Liverpool. They’d been in Sullivan’s that night, hired to guard the valuable record collection of guest DJ John Lynch Jnr.
For Colin’s family, the discovery was terrifying. Both Brown and Hampton had a history of violence.
‘Colin had been attacked by very dangerous people and [we] worried for our own safety… Police discussed the Liverpool underworld with us and I did not know what they were talking about,’ Colin’s sister Laura said.
She added, ‘We were such a decent family and were being exposed to people from a side of the city we did not understand.’
He was stabbed over and over again
It was concluded the likely motive for the attack was mistaken identity. They’d simply thought Colin was someone else.
On trial at Liverpool Crown Court in October 2001, the two men both denied murder. They claimed they didn’t know Colin and that they’d got back to Brown’s home by around 2am.
But a witness had seen four men attacking Colin. As they’d got back in the Golf and driven off, he’d taken a note of the licence plate. It was Michael Brown’s car. The jury found both men guilty of murder. It was then revealed that it wasn’t the men’s first time in the court. In August 2000, both had been acquitted of attempted murder following an attack on a man at another pub that involved 15 assailants with knives and batons. Brown had been convicted of incitement to inflict grievous bodily harm.
Hampton had a previous conviction for carrying a flick knife and two for assault.
For Colin’s murder, both were jailed for life to serve a minimum term of 18 years each. After the trial, Det Supt Russ Walsh praised Colin’s relatives, saying, ‘I have to pay tribute to the victim’s family. They were in court every day and have acted with great courage and dignity throughout.’
He then added, ‘This inquiry is not over, because there are still two offenders outstanding.’
But there were never any further convictions. Even without catching the other attackers, it wasn’t the end of the ordeal for Colin’s family.
The killers dragged them back to court and got a two-year reduction on their sentences. Then, in 2014, they applied to be moved to an open prison.
Once again, Colin’s parents came out fighting for justice for their son. They appeared at the parole hearing via videolink to make a heartfelt statement about the impact of Colin’s murder on their family. Once they’d spoken, Judge Graham White had the video feed switched off on the courtroom end.
The judge then turned to someone else in the courtroom.
‘I feel so very sorry for these families. They make these statements thinking they are going to make a difference, but they make no difference at all,’ he said. The judge was unaware that the Mcgintys could still hear everything. Geraldine and Peter were understandably horrified.
The judge later apologised and said his comments had come as victim impact statements cannot be used when assessing an offender’s potential risk.
The Mcgintys were assured of their importance in the justice process.
Yet Colin’s parents were ‘among the last to hear’ when, after all that, the killers’ application was approved and they were moved to an open prison the following year.
It was yet another twist of the knife.
This May, Colin should be turning 40. Only two of the four men who
attacked him have ever seen justice. Yet...
‘Our family is still strong and still together,’ said Laura. Colin is still very much a part of that.
Feeling a birthday party wouldn’t be right without Colin there to celebrate, his family are celebrating this missed milestone with charitable works.
Laura and more than 60 friends will be running a half marathon later this month to raise funds for charity and to increase awareness about knife crime. The family
are supporting the No More Knives and Real Men Don’t Carry Knives campaigns. They plan to hold knife crime awareness days in Merseyside schools, and last month, Oldham Athletic wore shirts with In Memory of Colin Mcginty
emblazoned on the back for their pre-match warmup.
His young life may have been lost for no reason at all, but his loved ones are determined his senseless murder will have purpose in saving others.
But there is still a mountain to climb. Knife crime in Merseyside nearly doubled between 2013 and 2018. Last year, nine more people lost their lives to knives on Merseyside’s streets.
But Colin’s loved ones keep campaigning against this wave of tragedy in his memory. His was a life just beginning and one his family will never forget.
Children walk past the scene of the stabbing