He was Glasgow's equivalent of John Dillinger the notorious bank robber whose gang terrorised America in the mid 1930s.

Walter Norval - nicknamed the Godfather - led an armed team who would carry out a similar series of audacious and violent raids across the city and beyond more than 40 years later.

Nicknamed the XYY gang they stole from banks, building societies, post offices and vans delivering wages to workplaces including hospitals.

Norval's mob were involved in so many robberies that when they were eventually caught they had to hold four separate High Court trials for all the accused.

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The robbers regularly escaped with sums of up to £20,000 ( £125,000 in todays money) and like the Dillinger Gang the raids were planned with a military precision never seen before by police.

Targets would be checked out weeks in advance and the movements of security vans carefully analysed.

Norval, from Possilpark, Glasgow even deployed two getaway cars instead of one to confuse officers giving chase.

He was said to have modelled himself on Dillinger after watching a 1945 movie about the man as a teenager.

However by then he was already well on the way to a life of crime At eight he was stealing potatoes from shops and coal from lorries.

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During World War Two blackouts he'd break into shops and warehouses to steal tea and sugar, both of which were rationed, and sell them.

He also ran errands for the toughest gangsters in the city earning 50 pence (10 shillings) a time - around £35 now.

He then moved into protection rackets, the pub and club trade, bookmaking and eventually armed robbery.

His first prison term was at the age of 16 when he held up a newsagent with a fake gun.

While doing his national service he was sentenced to 18 months hard labour for slashing another soldier.

In 1963 he was charged with attempted murder after stabbing a man eight times in a pub in Possilpark.

After his arrest he hired legendary lawyer Joe Beltrami to defend him and received a three-year sentence for assault.

When Walter Norval emerged from prison in 1967, he realised many former associates had moved on to more sophisticated forms organised crime - and realised he had to move with the time or be left behind.

He set about doing something that had never been done before and built an elite team of the city's best armed robbers.

They were violent and ruthless with little regard for the terrified workers made to hand over the money.

One woman was threatened during a wages raid at Ruchill Hospital and shots were fired during several other robberies.

Though police knew who was behind them, there was not enough evidence to put them on trial.

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Former police chief and Labour MSP Graeme Pearson led the Strathclyde Police Serious Crime Squad team that caught Norval in 1977.

He went on to become head of the elite Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency and then Labour's spokesman on Justice in the Scottish Parliament.

Mr Pearson, now 70 and retired, told the Glasgow Times:"The armed robberies were done with the level of organisation and sophistication you normally associate with the military or the police.

"The XYY gang would 'recce' the place that they were about to rob, particularly if it involved a wages snatch.

"They used to cycle about the various locations to avoid suspicion, see what days the money were delivered and then put a plan in place for the robbery.

"Once the suspects had left the scene they would change to a second car after a few miles to show the police off the scent.

"Some times Norval would be in the second one vehicle.

"The first car would be left in a remote location like an underpass to cause confusion for officers who were in pursuit.

"The scale of it was quite new we had never really seen anything like it before."

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Mr Pearson says that he and other detectives tasked with bringing Norval to justice were permanently armed for their own protection.

He added:"Sums that were being stolen involved ranged from £15,000 to £20,000 "It didn't give them a life of luxury but it was lavish compared to being unemployed or a prisoner.

"The XYY team were spending it as quickly as they earned it. So they needed to continue the robberies.

"Walter Norval for example had a reasonable standard of living but there was no holiday home in Spain."

Norval was only brought to justice after being betrayed by one of his most loyal lieutenants Phil Henry.

It was also the first case in Scottish criminal history to use what would be known in future as a supergrass.

Henry had decided to talk after he and two other key gang members had been busted robbing a post office in Buckie, north of Aberdeen.

He told Mr Pearson where he could recover Norval's cache of firearms and money stolen during the robberies.

Henry was placed "on protection" at Barlinnie Prison so that other prisoners couldn't get to him.

The night before the first trial was due to start the north court of the High Court in Glasgow was set on fire.

This was done in the mistaken belief that all the evidence due to be used against the robbers was stored there.

Instead the trial went ahead in the neighbouring South Court with supergrass Henry as the star witness.

The judges and jurors in the case were all given police protection.

Because of the massive media interest, there was also a real danger that a jury would be aware of decisions or evidence given in earlier trials.

So the Crown decided to tag all of the accused with a particular letter to ensure they could receive a fair trial individually.

As a result Norval's crew were dubbed the XYY gang by the media.

Mr Pearson added:"It was the first time in Scotland we had seen trial involving an organised crime group.

"Henry was the architect of many of the armed robberies.

"However he had and enough and it was time to change his lifestyle.

"No one could quite believe that he would turn because of his reputation in the criminal underworld.

"His evidence was vital to the prosecution."

After trials lasting several weeks the juries returned guilty verdicts against Norval and five co-accused Norval was sentenced to 14 years behind bars.

When he came out after serving nine years his time had passed.

Bank security had improved and the advent of cash machines meant far less money was kept on the premises.

The new generation of criminal was into something less risky and more profitable than armed robbery - drugs.

That was where Norval, who was vehemently anti drugs, drew the line. It was time to finally go straight.

He said before his death from pneumonia in 2014: "I never tolerated drugs and never had anything to do with them,"

On the day of his funeral Norvals' coffin was taken into Maryhill Crematorium by members of the Blue Angels bikers gang. The Clash Song "Bank Robber" was played to mourners before he was laid to rest.

However Mr Pearson is keen to dispel the notion that the XYY robbers were harmless Robin Hood type characters.

That was how the Dillinger gang had been portrayed in Depression hit America.

Norval always claimed that money he stole also went to local people struggling to pay the rent or electricity bill and no one was hurt in the hold up's.

Mr Pearson added:"They were violent men prepared to shoot, assault and threaten ordinary people going about their everyday business.

"Women who worked in the places being robbed had shotguns put in their faces.

"The same guns were fired in some occasions to frighten the witnesses and it must have been a terrifying experience.

"They were just ordinary people going about their business and not highly paid.

"Suddenly these gangsters were coming and threatening to blow the hell out of them.

"It was a devastating experience for many and one they would never get over."