As we release the first episode of our Glasgow Crime Stories podcast, read the extended version of telling the story of infamous crime godfather Arthur Thompson and the murder of his son.

He was Glasgow’s equivalent of Don Corleone, the fictional New York crime boss immortalised by Marlon Brando in the classic Oscar-winning Godfather movie. 

Once, when giving evidence at the High Court in Glasgow he even joked about speaking with cotton wool in his mouth – a technique Brando used in the iconic movie to sound like an Italian mobster. 

For more than 30 years – until his death in 1993 – Arthur Thompson ruled Glasgow’s criminal underworld with an iron fist through his interests in extortion, money lending, illegal casinos, robbery, and drugs. 

Although Thompson wasn’t a tall man, he was powerfully built with a chilling stare that could terrify both friend and foe alike. 

Glasgow Times:

Born in September 1931 in the industrial area of Springburn, Glasgow he was destined for a life of crime. 

One of his main sources of income over the years was providing “protection” to pubs in the city. 

He is known to have blown up a bar and social club after one owner refused to comply. 

In the 1960s, his wife Rita was employed as a singer, with one pub paying a fee of £200 for each performance – the equivalent of £4000 in today’s money. 

However, Rita never sang a note. It was just a way for the terrified owner to pay protection to Thompson. At one time, he had at least 20 pubs in Glasgow paying him £4000 each week. 

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Beatings and slashings were routinely inflicted on anyone who failed to pay up. 

Thompson himself had been known for punishing enemies or bad debtors by nailing their hands and feet to the floor crucifixion-style. 

One retired publican said: “To stop trouble all the landlord or bar manager in one of those pubs needed to say was, ‘This is Arthur Thompson’s place’.” 

Arthur was also involved in legitimate enterprises such as pubs, demolition, corner shops, garages, and carpet showrooms to keep his assets hidden and launder money from his various criminal enterprises. 

As his power and wealth grew, so did his influence. 

In the early 1960s, Thompson became close allies of notorious London gangsters The Kray twins, Ronnie and Reggie – so much so, they are reputed to have come up to Glasgow to seek his advice on a plan to take over The Beatles from their manager Brian Epstein. 

However, Thompson said the pair’s reputation would damage the band’s career. As a result the takeover never took place. 

It’s rumoured Thompson was present when Ronnie infamously shot George Cornell of the rival Richardson gang in London’s Blind Beggar pub in 1966. 

Thompson would also carry out “hits” for the Krays in London – and they would do the same in return in Glasgow. 

He was friendly with another legendary London gangster too– “Mad” Frankie Fraser. 

Fraser, now dead, once recalled: “Down south, we viewed Glasgow as the Wild West. The violence was on a much, much higher level. 

“So the person in charge would have to have been something very special, and Arthur was certainly that.” 

It was also rumoured that Thompson was involved in the 1963 Great Train robbery when £2.6 million (equivalent to around £30m now) was stolen from the Glasgow to London mail train. 

During his trips to London, he’d become friends with one of the ring leaders, Buster Edwards, who would later attend the funeral of Arthur’s murdered son, Arthur Jnr in 1991 

When fellow gang member Ronnie Biggs was asked shortly before his death in 2013 if Arthur was involved in the robbery, Biggs replied cryptically: “I might be dying but I’m not a grass.” 

By 1966, Arthur Thompson was all-powerful in Glasgow. 

He even threatened to bomb the homes of two off-duty police officers after they saw him kill two men in Royston Road, Glasgow, in May that year. 

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Joe Jackson was with his older brother John when they saw Thompson, in his top-of-the-range Jaguar, force a van into a lamppost, killing the occupants, James Goldie and Patrick Welsh. Both men were bitter rivals of Thompson. 

The young Detective Constable got out of his own car and ran to a nearby petrol station to phone the emergency services, where he also found Thompson who then sped off. 

Two weeks later Joe learned of Thompson’s plans to blow up both his and John’s homes in Glasgow. 

As a result, they were given a police guard and their families moved to safety in another part of the city.  

Thompson later gave a personal undertaking to a senior police officer that he would not harm the two officers. 

Three months later, Thompson narrowly escaped death when he was in a car that exploded outside his house. Arthur survived the bomb attack but his mother-in-law Margaret Johnstone was killed outright. 

Brothers Martin, George and Henry Welsh, 24, were charged with murdering Margaret and attempting to kill Arthur in the revenge attack. 

Thompson in turn was accused of the culpable homicide of Goldie and Welsh. 

In dramatic scenes, Thompson and the Welshes both stood trial at the same time at the High Court in Glasgow. 

Thompson received a not proven verdict, despite the eyewitness accounts of Joe and his brother. 

He then walked the few yards from one court to another to give evidence in the Welshes’ murder trial. In time-honoured tradition, Thompson failed to speak out against the brothers and they were cleared of all charges. 

The young cop who took on the Godfather rose through the ranks to become head of the Strathclyde Police Serious Crime Squad and retired at the rank of Detective Superintendent in 1992. 

Joe, now 80, said: “As far as I was concerned what my brother and I saw that night was murder. 

“Thompson’s name was enough to strike fear into anyone who crossed him. 

“He was a very violent, ruthless, clever criminal and a real nasty piece of work. 

“The eyewitnesses who did not speak up at the trial were not bad people, they were just terrified of Thompson and what he might do to them.” 

In 1988, Thompson had another lucky escape when he was shot in the groin in a demolition yard he owned in the East End of Glasgow. The gunman, an IRA hitman, had been hired by a rival to kill him. 

Thompson signed into a private clinic in the West End of Glasgow and told police the injury was caused by a broken drill bit. At an identification parade, he refused to identify the IRA suspect. 

The gangster was always the same dealing with the police. 

Even when his own son was murdered outside his front door, he ordered his family not to give them statements or tell what they had seen. 

He certainly knew who was responsible but would not be sharing that information any time soon with the police. 

Secret reports on Thompson from the late 1960s, made public for the first time by the Scottish Government in 2010 under Freedom of Information, present a chilling portrait of the man. 

In 1966 he had been involved in a high-value theft of clothes from a shop in Glasgow and was sentenced to four years in prison. 

It may be one of the few occasions when the law had got the better of him. 

Like any other inmate, he regularly applied for parole and the previously secret documents reflected the view of the authorities had of him at the time. 

One police file said: “The overall picture of Thompson is that of a violent, vicious and active criminal who will stop at nothing to uphold his position in the underworld as a hard man and to gain his own ends" 

Prison chiefs were also under no illusions about the kind of man they were dealing with.  

In 1970 the then governor of Craiginches prison in Aberdeen describe Thompson as a thug of the worst kind who along with another inmate was running warring factions inside and outside of prison. 

He added: "Thompson is the leader of the hardcore of thugs in Aberdeen prison. He is a consummate villain. 

"His depravity is veneered with conformity and deadly quietness, and he is difficult to undermine when he is on the alert. 

"There is a real danger of him putting the screw on some of the locals in Aberdeen." 

The documents cover the period from 1967 to 1969, when Thompson was in his late 30s and paint a picture of the criminal kingpin as a devious man used to getting his own way. 

Other papers record Thompson trying to stir up a hunger strike and pressing inmates to petition for better privileges and visiting rights. 

The authority's suspicions of Thompson were not unjustified.  

When he was sent to Inverness after one escapade, a 21-inch metal cosh was found inside his pillow. 

Another police file from 1969 said: "Thompson is one of the leading criminal lights in Glasgow with connections in London." 

"He will inevitably return to his lucrative club management and his position as a leader of the Glasgow criminal fraternity. 

"A man one cannot take at face value." 

Thompson was supported loyally in his criminal enterprises by his wife the diminutive Rita who bore him four children. 

In 1969 she was jailed for three years for stabbing a female member of the rival Welsh family in her home and even wrote letters to the Parole Board on Thompsons behalf while inside. 

There were plans at one stage to move Thompson from cushier Aberdeen to the tougher regime of Barlinnie but Rita bizarrely objected on the grounds that her husband might "fall in with a bad crowd." 

By the early 1980's Thompson - now in his 50's - was all-powerful in Glasgow and beyond. 

A measure of his influence came after his oldest son Arthur Thompson Jnr was jailed for 11 years in 1985 for drug dealing. 

The Godfather was reportedly able to use his prison contacts to have steaks, alcohol and chocolate delivered to him each day in his cell. 

Arthur also enjoyed hobnobbing with celebrities. 

In his 2009 autobiography, legendary Scottish football commentator Archie MacPherson revealed he was paid up to £500 a time in the early 1980s to host events organised by Thompson. 

On one occasion, the then BBC broadcaster accompanied Thompson to an underworld pub in London. 

McPherson wrote: “It was straight out of a Guy Ritchie movie and was full of cockney hardmen. 

“But when I was with Thompson, I was safe and I could have had anything in the pub that I wanted that night.” 

In August 1991, Arthur Jnr, 31, was shot dead outside the Thompson family home while on weekend leave from prison.  

At the time his parents lived in Provanmill Road, Blackhill, in a garishly converted former council house nicknamed The Ponderosa, after the 1960s cowboy TV series Bonanza. 

Young Arthur - nicknamed Fat Boy by his detractors - had been released that Saturday morning from Noranside Prison in Angus on a weekend parole as part of a training for freedom programme. 

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Arthur Jnr had enjoyed a celebratory dinner with his father and other family members at the popular Cafe India restaurant in Glasgow’s Charing Cross. They then returned home for a nightcap. 

Around 10pm, on August 17, Arthur left his parents house to walk the short distance to his own home where he lived with his wife and young daughter. 

Out of the darkness stepped a mystery man who opened fire before escaping in a stolen car with two other men. 

Three shots at close range from a .22 pistol hit young Arthur.  

Glasgow Times:

The first bullet grazed his cheek, the second smashed into his ribs, a lung, the third, tore through his gut and pierced his heart. 

His father and younger brother Billy alerted by the shots found him dying on the pavement. 

The Ponderosa was also rumoured to be fitted out with secret passages, hiding spots, and its own underground tunnel. If that was true then young Arthur’s decision to take the night air was to prove fatal. 

Glasgow Times:

His bullet-ridden body was rushed to Glasgow Royal Infirmary but he died a few hours later. 

His death was to prove the beginning of the end for the Thompson family fiefdom.  

Arthur’s influence began to wane while his son was in prison and other gangs saw the chance of rich pickings.  

However, despite the murder of his son, the Godfather wasn't quite finished yet. 

Glasgow Times:

The subsequent police investigation centred on his former protege Paul Ferris and two friends and associates Joe Hanlon, who was nicknamed `Joe Bananas, and Bobby Glover. 

Within a few weeks Ferris had been arrested, but Hanlon, 23, and Glover, 31, remained free. 

It later transpired that they would have been better off inside prison. 

On the morning of young Arthur's funeral, a month after his murder, their bodies were discovered outside the Cottage Bar, in Shettleston, Glasgow. 

Both had been dumped in the well of Hanlon's Ford Orion car parked in Darleith Street a few yards from it's entrance. 

The grim find was made by the pub’s manager who was passing at the time on his way to open up. 

He recognised them immediately as they and Ferris were regulars. 

Arthur Snr suspected both men of being involved in his son’s murder and is said to have paid a hitman £20,000 to execute them. 

Legend has it that the crime boss later viewed the bodies and shot both men in the chest with another gun. 

Ferris only escaped a similar fate because he was on remand at Barlinnie Prison awaiting trial. 

Had they lived both Hanlon and Glover would likely have stood trial alongside Ferris as alleged accomplices in Arthur Thompson Jnr’s murder. 

Ironically Ferris’s incarceration by the authorities saved his life. 

It was clear to everyone in the city’s underworld what type of message was being sent out with the double murder. 

There’s also little doubt that Arthur Thompson Snr ordered the killings. Others probably organised the double execution as a favour to him and out of respect. 

Both bodies are thought to have been stored at business premises not far from the Cottage Bar overnight, then driven to Darleith Street around mid-morning. 

Whoever did that was taking a big chance as Hanlon's Ford Orion was well known to the police and was regularly stopped. 

Thirty years later no one has yet been charged with the murders or stood trial. 

There was a massive turnout for young Arthur’s funeral that afternoon with key members of the city’s underworld there to pay their respects to both the victim and more importantly his father. 

A few days after the double murder, armed police raided the Ponderosa home looking for evidence but nothing was found. 

Friends of Thompson say he was never the same after young Arthur’s death 

Ferris, then 28, was found not guilty in June 1992 at the High Court in Glasgow after the longest-running murder trial in Scottish legal history

He was also cleared of attempting to murder Arthur Thompson Snr by repeatedly driving a car at him and threatening to murder another man William Gillen by shooting him in the leg. 

Charges of illegal possession of a firearm and supplying heroin, cocaine and ecstasy were also thrown out by the jury. 

Glasgow’s criminal underbelly was laid bare during three months of evidence and its hard-won City of Culture status took a battering. 

In his summing up Lord McCluskey, the trial judge, described the case ‘’an extraordinary catalogue of lies and deceit, cruelty and death’’. 

Arthur Thompson was one of 300 people called to give evidence. 

In a bravura performance from the witness box, he denied he was Glasgow’s Godfather and criticised the police. 

It was at this point he even joked about speaking with cotton wool in his mouth. 

It's not known what Thompson's views were when Ferris was cleared of murdering his son. 

There was understandable media speculation that Ferris now had a price on his head. He was seen as the rising star of the Glasgow underworld and a man who could take over from Arthur Snr. 

Ironically Ferris was a former friend and ally of the Thompson family, said to be closer to the father than even his own son. 

At the tender age of nineteen, he had become the crime boss’s feared enforcer, collecting debts on his behalf. 

But that was all in the past for Ferris as he savoured his dramatic acquittal on the High Court steps before a cheering crowd. 

Nine months later on March 13 1993, Thompson died from a heart attack at the age of 61. 

He was buried in the family plot at Riddrie Cemetery beside Arthur Jnr and daughter, Margaret, who suffered a drugs overdose in 1989. 

Rita Thompson, who had throat cancer, died in 2006 at the age of 72. 

His other son, Billy died in 2017 as a result of his drug addiction. 

Thompson is survived by Tracey Thompson, his last remaining child.  

His own death almost 30 years ago marked the end of an astonishing era in the history of the city's underworld. 

No one man had dominated organised crime in the city quite like Arthur Thompson – and no one man ever would.