THE Hunter’s gang turf war has escalated to frightening new levels after the Maitland home of a jailed Finks bikie boss was sprayed with bullets while his family still lives there.
The Newcastle Herald can reveal a rival gang targeted the Chisholm home of Andrew Robert Manners, the president of the Hunter-based chapter of the Finks, who was arrested last week and charged on a string of offences.
Mr Manners is in jail but his partner and her child were inside the Duskdarter Street home at the time.
It is at least the sixth public shooting involving bikie gangs since the start of the year.
It comes amid a hostile feud between the Finks and Nomads in the Hunter.
Neighbours estimated more than half a dozen bullets were fired during Thursday’s early-morning drive-by.
“It was just bang, bang, bang,” one resident said, adding they were amazed no one was hurt and felt for the woman and child who were inside.
They likened the sound to “smashing on a window with a bat” and many Fairfax Media spoke to believed their own home was under attack.
“I feel for the family,” they said. “You immediately think of your kids.”
Police are on high alert and anti-bikie squad Strike Force Raptor now has an ongoing presence in the Hunter as they brace for the fallout from Thursday’s attack.
Senior police confirmed there had been six public shootings and two firebombings between the two gangs since January.
All are understood to be tit-for-tat attacks but the underlying reason for the feud is unclear.
Detectives say they are doing everything they can to break a “misguided code of silence” that has to date hindered cooperation with police.
“This is a targeted attack between two groups who are undertaking this criminality,” Northern Region operations manager Detective Superintendent Wayne Humphrey said.
“They have a misguided code of silence and we’ve got to try and break that down.
“These people are victims of very, very serious crimes, despite the fact that they may be members of the gangs.
“I’m always going to be concerned that someone innocent might be injured, or worse, and that’s why it’s essential that we break this code of silence down and bring this type of behaviour to an end.”
While the reasons for this feud are unclear, tensions between the rival groups did spike early last year following a series of crossovers between the gangs.
The Nomads are the region’s most established bikie gang but they have been dealt two significant blows in the past month.
The first was the dismantling of the Nomads’ Newcastle chapter headquarters on Chin Chen Street, Islington, on February 5.
The second came on Monday as specialist police shut down the gang’s Muswellbrook clubhouse.
Both clubhouses were declared “restricted premises” by the NSW Supreme Court, preventing anyone with a criminal record from meeting there and giving police the extraordinary power to search the venues at any time. The tough approach is designed to strike to the core of bikie culture by breaking down the brotherhood between members.
Life got even more difficult for gang members with the establishment of Strike Force Darnay after the February 13 shooting at Tenambit.
The strike force is made up of locally-based detectives who have a presence in each police district across the Hunter.
Detective Superintendent Humphrey said the strike force would “do nothing else” but investigate outlaw bikie gangs in the Hunter.
Mr Humphrey warned gang members that someone could get hurt if the shootings persist.
“You have to tell us what’s going on,” he said. “Eventually someone close to you, or even someone innocent, could be badly injured or worse. It’s your behaviour and your activities that are causing this.”
Mr Manners was locked up on February 22 after a magistrate found the 32-year-old had breached his bail conditions.
He will next front court on March 8 when he faces the charges of knowingly participating in a criminal group, affray and common assault.
Police allege the Finks boss became “aggressive and threatening” when Strike Force Raptor detectives stopped the car at Chisholm.
Mr Manners, who was a passenger, “allegedly resisted before fleeing the scene” as officers went to arrest him.
The Herald has reported on numerous shootings in the Maitland area since January.
The first sign of major hostilities between the gangs came four days into the new year after the brazen firebombing of the Nomads’ Islington clubhouse in which multiple Molotov cocktails were thrown into the building.
About a week later a home on Clarence Street in Tenambit was sprayed with bullets.
The same home would be targeted again about a month later. In between those shootings there was the February 2 drive-by on a Paradise Street home in Gillieston Heights.
There was also a wild brawl between members of the Finks and Rebels in the car park of the Hunter River Hotel at Maitland in December.
This feud comes against the backdrop of similar shootings last year.
On March 30, dozens of bullets were fired into a Wallsend unit, possibly from a semi-automatic weapon, with the dispute airing out in the context of a number of gang members “patching over” to the Finks.
Once close associates had become sworn enemies.