The Ice Cream Wars: true story of BBC documentary about Glasgow arson killings - was the murderer ever found?

The Ice Cream Wars is a BBC documentary series about what was at the time the greatest mass murder in Scottish history

BBC Two documentary series The Ice Cream Wars follows the strange and shocking true story of gangland turf wars over ice cream van routes in Glasgow. The series features interviews with police officers, members of the ice cream business and reporters from the time, who were all involved in the case in one way or another.

The documentary also hears from eyewitnesses at the time of a deadly fire which came at the height of the ice cream wars, causing the deaths of six members of the same family, one of whom was just 18 months old.

The Ice Cream WarsThe Ice Cream Wars
The Ice Cream Wars

What were the Ice Cream Wars?

The Ice Cream Wars were a series of conflicts in Glasgow in the 1980s which saw ice cream vendors sell drugs and stolen goods on their routes. A turf war erupted between rival vendors over control of different parts of the city, with drivers breaking into each other’s vans threatening each other with shotguns.

The conflict came to a devastating climax in April 1984 when an arsonist set the home of the Doyle family ablaze, killing six members of the family. It was the worst multiple murder in Scottish history at the time.

Andrew Doyle was an 18-year-old ice cream van driver who had refused to sell drugs on his route and had resisted encroachment on his route by other drivers. He had previously been shot by an unknown man with a shotgun for refusing to sell drugs.

Gangsters continued their campaign of terror against Doyle, setting his family flat on fire - Andrew Doyle, two of his brothers, James, 23 and Tony, 14, his father James, 53, sister Christina, 25, and her 18-month-old son, Mark, were killed in the arson attack.

The attack led to a major investigation and ultimately precipitated a  20-year court battle to bring someone to justice for the horrific crime.

Joe SteeleJoe Steele
Joe Steele

Who was arrested for the Doyle family murder?

Two men, Thomas Campbell and Joe Steele, were arrested and convicted of the killings in 1984 - they received life sentences with a minimum term of 20 years to be served they appealed their sentence but it was not upheld.

Their convictions were largely a result of the testimony of William Love who claimed he had heard the pair and others saying they would teach Andrew a lesson by torching his flat. However, in 1992, Love stated that he had lied under oath.

In 1993, Steele escaped from prison and protested his innocence by glueing himself to Buckingham Palace. Later that year he staged another protest from the roof of his mother’s house whilst on leave from prison.

The pair’s appeals dragged on for more than a decade, they were both temporarily freed in 1997 and 2001 as the appeals were considered, and in 2004, their convictions were quashed by the Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh. They were both freed after having spent 20 years, their minimum original sentence, behind bars.

Who did kill the Doyle family?

Following the release of Steele and and Campbell, no-one else has been convicted of the killings. In 2010 gangster Gary Moore confessed to starting the fire at the Doyle flat - he died a month after confessing.

Steele stated that he didn’t believe Moore was responsible and that crime lord Tam “The Licensee” McGraw, who died in 2007, had ordered the attack.

When is The Ice Cream Wars on TV?

The first episode of The Ice Cream Wars will air on BBC Two on Wednesday 23 November at 9pm. The second episode will air on Wednesday 30 November at 9.10pm. Both episodes are available to watch now on BBC iPlayer.