IT was May 1988 and the manager of Security Express in Glasgow had a problem.

One of Gordon Slater’s experienced and long-serving security staff, John Burke, did not seem himself that morning.

The hard-working family man was normally very steady and reliable, but today there was something about his demeanour that was not quite right.

A security company manager has to be alert to things like that because of the massive sums his staff were carrying.

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Glasgow Times:

Gordon asked John to come into his office in Broomloan Road in Ibrox for a heart-to-heart chat and what he told him that morning was the most extraordinary things he had ever heard.

The previous evening three men had broken into his home in Maryhill brandishing guns and took the entire family capture, his wife, four sons, daughter in law and a two-year-old granddaughter.

Their plan was to use them as hostages to force John to steal money from his employer’s customers, including banks.

Slater went straight on to the local police who were based in nearby Helen Street in Govan.

Within five minutes a team of senior detectives had arrived in the offices next to Ibrox Stadium to speak with the terrified security guard.

One of John’s sons had been battered on the head with the butt of a sawn-off shotgun before they were all handcuffed and their eyes covered with sticky tape.

The thugs had continued to scream threats at the eight family members to keep them subdued and terrified.

Burke was then told by the gang that his loved ones would remain as hostages while he went to work the next day.

They would only be released after he had collected £150,000 in cash (£400,000 today) from Security Express customers.

He was then to hand over the money as ransom by midday.

Two of the gang took some of the family members to another location.

The third man remained in the house with the Burkes where he continued to threaten them.

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A short time later the same car reappeared and took the remaining members away leaving the security guard on his own.

Before they departed John was warned that his family would suffer serious consequences if he informed the police.

Burke had spent the remainder of the night beside himself with worry.

The following morning he had turned up at work exhausted through lack of sleep.

He hadn’t a clue how to handle the situation and was grateful when his eagle-eyed boss spotted his distress.

The police placed a team  of officers in the Security  Express offices to monitor all incoming calls in case the gang phoned.

They also had to establish if John was telling the truth.

Had he set up the job himself, knowing large sums of cash were being carried by their firm each day?

The officer who led the investigation, Detective Supt Joe Jackson, now retired, told the Glasgow Times: “Mr Burke was in a high state of anxiety but that would have been the case regardless of his involvement.

“I had to watch him closely during our talk to gauge his reaction to questions and two see if he had the nerve to carry out such a crime.

“However, he quickly convinced me he was a decent man and not capable of such a charade.”

By now it was 8.30am and the midday ransom deadline was looming.

The drop-off point for the payment was to be nearby Craigton Cemetery.

Jackson decided to allow Burke to drive his route as normal so as not to alert the suspicions of the gang.

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Glasgow Times:

Two officers, DCI Harry Bell, above, and DS John Boyd, were kitted out in security guard uniforms and handguns.

John drove the van with DCI Burke in the passenger seat.

Meanwhile, DS Boyd sat in the back with two armed officers and a police radio to stay in contact with Mr Jackson.

Several armed police surveillance units followed the van and each firm on the route were told not to hand over the cash.

They were given a cover story that it was a test exercise and the money would be collected later that day.

Mr Jackson added: “I had no intention of giving the gang any money.”

As the noon deadline approached, an armed surveillance team at the cemetery told Jackson they had spotted Raymond Graham, a well-known criminal in Govan.

Meanwhile, the red car used in the earlier abduction was at the cemetery and had signalled for the security van to follow.

At this point, the undercover team grabbed Raymond Graham as he stood outside the cemetery.

Once inside Craigton, the second gang member left the red car and approached the van.  He ran off when DCI Bell tried to grab him and was brought down by one of the armed surveillance team with a rugby tackle.

The second man was identified as Sean Garty, another local Govan criminal.

Mr Jackson added: “This surprised me because I assumed that the gang to be from the side of the city where the abduction took place.

Glasgow Times:

“I also learned that Raymond Graham was the brother of an escaped prisoner knows as Danny “Scarface” Graham, above. 

“He was a real desperado and had been on the run for some time and was suspected of carrying out several bank robberies.

“This bit of information put him in the frame for being the third kidnapper.

“We still had no idea what had happen to the Burke family and my main priority was to interview Harty and Graham to find out where they were.

“The Burkes had now been held for more than 12 hours in conditions that were hard to imagine.”

Garty refused to say where the family were being kept.

Det Supt Jackson then decided to use some mind games.

He added: “I told Garty that one of the charges he would be facing was murder as the young girl was diabetic and if she did not get her insulin injection she would die and that would be classed as murder.

“That did the trick and Garty told us everything, even though there was nothing wrong with the child.”

Garty said the family were being held in a flat on the eight floor of Broomloan Court, opposite the Security Express offices.

At this point, police sealed off the tower block and snipers were positioned in neighbouring buildings.

One gun cop said he could see a man in a flat on the eighth floor with something metallic in his hand and requested permission to fire.

Thankfully Mr Jackson refused as it was one of the male hostages in handcuffs.

Suddenly, shouting and screaming could be heard from inside the flat and police realised it was the hostages calling for help.

When Daniel Graham had spotted the police cordon he fled, leaving the hostages behind.

The armed team and Mr Jackson found the family handcuffed and in a state of terror but safe and well.

In a bizarre twist, Graham then phoned a newspaper saying he had taken another couple hostage in the fourth floor of the same tower block.

He said he would only give himself up if one of their reporters came to the door.

Mr Jackson set up a telephone link to the flat from the janitor’s office.

The reporter was allowed to speak with Graham for a few minutes.

However, Mr Jackson refused permission to visit the flat, deciding he couldn’t risk  another civilian being taken hostage.

DCI Bell, who had been in the security van with John Burke, took over negotiations.

The Robbs were released and the armed police team went into the flat and detained Graham at 6pm.

When the three men appeared at the High Court in Glasgow later that year, the judge branded them terrorists.

Daniel Graham was given 18 years, Raymond, 15 years and Garty, 12 years.

The operation to rescue the nine hostages had been a major success for Detective Supt Jackson and his team.

Three dangerous criminals had been taken off the street, no money had exchanged hands and deadly firearms had been seized.

However, Mr Jackson, who retired in 1992 after 32 years distinguished service, says the real hero of the day was John Burke.

He added: “The man had  taken part in a very fraught and difficult police operation to free his family.

“He had been a tower of strength throughout the ordeal and I cannot speak highly enough of his courage and composure.”