The quiet suburban town of Farnborough, near the Surrey border, where frightening reports reach the Home Defence newsdesk of pupils being menaced by groups of oriental hardmen affiliated with the Triad networks of South China. Although it's unclear why the Chinese mafia have chosen to infiltrate the area surrounding Oak Farm Community School (catering for pupils aged 11-16), recent
weeks have seen an increase in the terrorising of those who have to stay back after class because they're divvies with many frightened teenagers contacting the police, Crimestoppers, and the Farnborough News & Mail citing tales of robbery, punishment beatings and last-ditch escapes to their Auntie's house. Now the problem can no longer be ignored.
HDUK travelled to this affluent area, about thirty miles west of London and famed both for its exciting air show and excellent car parks, to speak with those close to the blossoming climate of fear. While we met some naysayers, mainly CDT teachers and thuggish prefects dismissing these allegations as the work of over-active imaginations, the vast majority of pupils from years six to ten were in agreement - groups of triads could often be seen around the school gates at home time, extorting money from children before they got to the newsagents and spent it all on fluorescent sweets or Panda Shandy. One grubby but sincere boy of thirteen, Gavin 'Silas' Murphy, told Home Defence he'd seen some "big lads" of Chinese extraction running a gambling syndicate and employing two of the naughtier year ten kids as 'enforcers'. Meanwhile the word on the playground was that these criminals were responsible for the recent disappearance of Dawn Pudding (11), Dawn having failed to return to school after the recent Christmas holidays. However, subsequent investigations revealed that Pudding simply left the area when her parents' gypsy encampment was moved on by Rushmoor Council.
That original movement which eventually came to be known as 'The Triads' was formed by monks displaced in the Qing dynasty during the seventeenth century, soon gaining in notoriety for supporting the Taiping Rebellion of the 1850s which resulted in twenty million deaths. Today the Triads operate out of a base in Hong Kong, from where they control Chinese organised crime, define the immigrant society of Singapore with their people-smuggling operations, and apparently steal lunch money from any child who dilly-dallies too long in Chaucer Road, Farnborough. Speculation persists that this last operation invokes an affiliation with 'Lucky Clover Leaf Ices' whose van parks outside the school entrance every lunchtime so the owner, a greying bachelor called Les, can sell extremely pink hotdogs and cigarettes to the hard kids.
Perhaps surprisingly, the headmaster of Oak Farm, Grenville Ernie (52), was unwilling to dispel stories the police dismiss as ridiculous rumour-mongering. We caught up with Grenville during the period he spends sweeping up outside the assembly hall each day, whereupon he had this to say:
"We often have those Triad men in the neighbourhood," affirmed Ernie, hoovering the carpet outside rooms which once played host to a drama department before government belt-tightening took its toll. "I find that Triads are particularly likely to pick on children who skip school or haven't finished their geography homework. My deputy head, [Maurice 'Tiger' Lyons] almost caught one, but those orientals have astounding methods of escape. I think they poured some kind of industrial grease in Tiger's path and got away. Poor Maurice could only fall over valiantly. He still tells the story in our staff room at least once a week though."
Trying to canvas opinion from a variety of pupils leaving Oak Farm at midwinter dusk, many refused to speak out, keen to hurry home or perhaps terrified of talking in case the Triads were watching. Others were only willing to hurl abuse. However, one fifteen year old girl wearing an inappropriately short skirt caught our eye and walked over. As Karma Thistlethwaite put it: "I never used to believe this right? But then some girl in P.E. who I don't like said this boy had been abducted by three chinkies and a fat man all riding bikes. They was laughing really loud and it made me think, there's something bad going on round here, you know? Got a fag?"
So, these Triads, who take their name from a mysterious gang symbol representing the union
of Heaven, Earth and Man, look as if they're entrenched for good, unwilling to leave the fearful
borough any time soon. Meanwhile Headmaster Ernie counsels containment, hoping this
climate of fear doesn't spread to nearby educational establishments. Yet he is relentlessly
negative about this beleaguered square mile near Prospect Road, an area which takes Oak
Farm as it's epicentre.
"We've got it all bubbling here," Ernie asserted. "You name it, there's trouble. If it isn't
some kiddie-fiddler or serial killer it's one of those Triads looking to kidnap our brighter
students and send them to work as slaves. Parents, and especially children, need to
constantly be on the lookout. But there's no need for them to go to the authorities, we view
this strictly as an internal matter."
Despite these words of consolation, terror is fast spreading through the formerly feted township of Farnborough, with many residents believing a study of Chinese gang movements over past decades can provide clues to future events, precedents which indicate the Mafioso will soon expand beyond the rich pickings of these interlocking cul-de-sacs adjacent to Oak Farm's one remaining sports field. And with other groups reportedly looking to muscle in on the fruitful territory, can it be long before the whole of the Surrey border is infested with criminals, all intent on beginning a turf war which includes East End Gangsters, Japanese Yakuza, the Cosa Nostra, the Crips, the Bloods, and a load of bent coppers from Berkshire? Home Defence says: "No." Take care now.