Glasgow Ice Cream Wars: who murdered the Doyle family, how long were Joe Steele and Thomas Campbell in prison?

The Doyle family were killed in an arson attack during a Glasgow gang conflict - in the greatest mass killing in Scottish history

The Doyle family killing came at the height of the Glasgow Ice Cream Wars, a gangland turf over ice cream van routes in the 1980s. The conflict and killing is explored in BBC Two series The Ice Cream Wars.

In the 1980s, gangsters in Glasgow used ice cream vans as a front to sell drugs and stolen goods across the city - but as competition increased a series of turf wars broke out, as did campaigns of intimidation to push honest van drivers into the criminal world. The terrible climax of the ice cream wars came when the family home of one van driver was set on fire, killing six of those inside.

Joe SteeleJoe Steele
Joe Steele

What happened to the Doyle Family

Andrew Doyle was an 18 year old ice cream truck driver who resisted pressure from Glasgow gangs to sell drugs for them. He also pushed back against gangs trying to take over his ice cream route.

Because he refused to become involved in gang activity, he was attacked when an unknown assailant fired a shotgun through the window of his van, injuring him. Doyle still refused to work for the gangsters so another attack was organised to terrorise him.

On 16 April 1984, the door to the Doyle’s home was doused in petrol and set alight, causing the entire flat to go up in flames. Six members of the Doyle family died in the fire - it was at the time the greatest mass killing in Scottish history.

Who were the victims of the attack?

Nine people were in the flat at the time of the arson attack, three people escaped the blaze but six members of the Doyle family died. The victims were:

  • Andrew Doyle, aged 18, the target of the attack
  • James, aged53, Andrew’s father
  • Tony, aged 14, Andrew’s brother
  • James, aged 23, Andrew’s brother
  • Christina, aged 25, Andrew’s sister 
  • Mark, aged 18 months, Christina’s son
Joe Campbell leaves Edinburgh  Court of Session after his conviction was quashedJoe Campbell leaves Edinburgh  Court of Session after his conviction was quashed
Joe Campbell leaves Edinburgh Court of Session after his conviction was quashed

Who was arrested for the Doyle family killings?

Thomas Campbell and Joe Steele were convicted of the killings in 1984 - their conviction relied on the testimony of one man, William Love who said that he had heard the two men speaking with others about teaching Doyle a lesson by setting fire to his flat.

Campnell and Steele received life sentences with a minimum term of 20 years to be served, but they launched several appeals over the years they spent in prison. In 1993, Love admitted that he had lied under oath. Both men were temporarily released on two occasions during their sentences before their convictions were finally quashed by the Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh in 2004. They had spent 18 years in prison before being freed.

Where are Thomas Campbell and Joe Steele now?

Joe Steele revealed that after being returned to prison following his temporary release, the transition was so difficult that he turned to drugs whilst inside. He said: “The brutality of life in Scotland’s hardest prisons, even years of solitary as punishment for repeatedly breaking out in protest at the wrongful conviction, wasn’t enough to break me.

“Being sent back to prison in 1998 following the failure of my second appeal after more than a year living as a normal family man, was what finally put me over the edge.”

Steele received £750,000 in compensation for the wrongful conviction but it was quickly spent. He has now been free from drugs for more than eight years. Campbell was attacked by a gang shortly after his release but was able to escape. He passed away in his sleep at his home in Loch Eck, Argyll, aged 66.

Who actually killed the Doyle family?

Other than Campbell and Steele, no-one has served time for the Doyle family killings. It was reported that Gary Moore, a notorious gangster and enforcer, had confessed to the killings shortly before his death in 2010.

However, two years later, Moore’s widow said that he had confessed to cover for his cousin, Gordon Ness, who died in 2012. Steele claimed that it was the gangster Tam McGraw, who died in 2007, who ordered the killing. Therefore, the real killer of the Doyle family has never been caught, and may have died since 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.