From posing to a heroin user to suffering from PTSD, ex-cop Neil Woods lifts the lid on tactics used to defeat depraved gang – and the mark it left on him
A retired undercover drugs detective who brought down six members of the notorious Burger Bar Boys has revealed how he put his life on the line during 14 years on the job.
Neil Woods, 46, infiltrated some of Britain’s most terrifying criminal organisations during his career.
During his time he came face-to-face with many feared crooks.
But having now retired, Mr Woods, a father-of-two, has revealed what it was like to infiltrate the criminal fraternity – including the Burger Bar Boys.
He told the Birmingham Mail: “Three other detectives had tried to get close to the Burgers, but they’d not been able to – the gang were savvy to their tactics.
“They had seen an opportunity and they were in Northampton to take over the heroin and crack cocaine trade – and they were doing it very successfully as the police weren’t used to it.
“The intelligence was that they were raping people as punishment for drug debts as part of their intimidation, and so that’s what sent me into it.
“These people needed to be caught, and the job was at risk of falling apart unless I was able to pull something out of the hat.”
He added: “I was successful – I’d managed to manipulate a couple of problematic heroin users who were supporting one another – he’d been shoplifting and she sold the big issue.
“I manipulated them into introducing me to the Burger Bar Boys, under the guise of being a user.
“The Burgers had set up their base in a city centre snooker club, so he took me there.
“On the way, he made me rehearse my story, because he was telling them that he’d known me for years.
This year a West Midlands Police operation led to the jailing of gun-running gang linked to the Burger Bar Boys.
Kumran Ghalib, 35, of Davey Road, Perry Barr, was the last member sentenced last month.
He was jailed for 12 years despite initially fleeing to Pakistan after police swooped on criminals who were converting antique guns and manufacturing special bullets for them.
Other gang members had previously been handed prison sentences totalling 204 years for their role in the deadly trade, including Burger Bar Boys ‘godfather’ Nosakhere Stephenson , who was jailed for 22 years
“We caught the Burger Bar Boys that time, but it hasn’t slowed the inevitability of organised crime groups from spreading through the region.
“The reason for this – and this comes down to how I came to the conclusion that I needed to change my job – was that over the time I was doing it, every year the gangsters got nastier.
“Every year without fail. And they always will, because the war on drugs is an arms race. There’s no chance for de-escalation.
“When the police get smarter and use new tactics, the crime groups push back.
“Their main tactic is fear and intimidation. Policing is actually making this worse, it’s making them much nastier and making the communities in which they exist far worse for the people who live there.”
Since leaving the force, Neil has written a book, Good Cop, Bad War, chronicling his experiences.
Good Cop, Bad War is published by Penguin and is available on Amazon, WH Smiths, Foyles and Waterstones.