Sunderland hardmen immortalised in book

George Craig
George Craig
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INFAMOUS hardmen have been immortalised in a new book which reveals some of Wearside’s toughest villains from the past 50 years.

Author Bernard O’Mahoney teamed up with photographer Brian Anderson to capture the softer sides of these notorious men, or “Faces,” who have been splashed across the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Bernard said: “Brian rang me out of the blue and said ‘all these old characters are not going to be here much longer,’ so we started the book.

“We thought it would only take about four months to put together, but it was more like four years.

“People would tell us about other criminals who we had to include and it just went on from there.”

Born and bred in Sunderland, George Craig is among those who Bernard interviewed for his book.

The son of a shipbuilder from the East End, George built up a formidable reputation around the North East in the world of violence and crime.

George, who was the sixth child out of 11, has since reformed, founding the Lazarus Foundation in Sunderland, a rehabilitation centre that helps drug and alcohol addicts.

He puts the big turn around down to meeting preacher George Aitken, who worked with drug addicts in Glasgow, and discovering a neighbour living on squalor.

Though George’s life of crime is firmly in the past it is not something he is apologetic about.

“I don’t regret my past, everything I have done, but in my mind it is past.

“I have just got to get on with my life. I have never been ashamed of my past.”

Dennis Stafford was another infamous name from the North East to make it into Bernard’s book.

A convicted murderer, Dennis made the headlines in the 1960s over a notorious killing in Hetton which inspired the film Get Carter.

Stafford and his co-accused Michael Luvaglio, were convicted of murdering fruit machine cash collector Angus Sibbett, despite claiming their innocence.

Bernard, now 50 and living in Sligo, Ireland said: “There’s a certain romance about the 1960’s criminals, and we wanted to capture that part of time.

“But the book’s not about glamorising crime, far from it, it’s a very dark book really.

“It’s social history. We have always documented crime over the years, it’s part of our history.”

Bernard is no stranger to the criminal underworld and was a member of the infamous Essex Boys firm which operated throughout South East London, made famous through the Sean Bean film of the same name.

Bernard turned his life around and has since gone on to work for charities such as Crimestoppers, as well as write numerous books uncovering the illicit world of the UK’s criminal underworld.

Faces, priced £50, is available from before it goes on sale in bookshops.