Fugitive Gillespie brothers may have been killed in Brazil

James and Barry Gillespie
James Gillespie (left) and brother Barry are wanted as part of Operation Escalade (Image: Police Scotland)

Detectives have confirmed for the first time that two of Scotland’s most wanted men may have been killed while on the run in Brazil.

Speculation about the fate of James and Barry Gillespie, who previously featured in Crimestoppers appeals, was first reported last year.

But Police Scotland have now revealed the brothers’ families have been briefed about their concerns.

Detectives believe they may have died up to four years ago.

The Gillespies, originally from Rutherglen, South Lanarkshire, are long-time targets of the force’s Operation Escalade.

Since 2014 it has seen 42 people convicted for organised crime offences which include involvement in drugs, firearms offences and money laundering.

The investigation has been global in its scale and has led to the arrest of eight fugitives linked to the group’s activities in Scotland on international warrants in Europe and South America.

The Daily Record has previously reported they may have been murdered by gangsters in Brazil who had been demanding more money for their protection.

Asked if he thought the brothers might be dead Det Insp Michael Lochrie told BBC Scotland: “It is a possibility and it’s something that we can’t rule out.

“If it has indeed been the case we then need to consider when and where that may have happened because, we believe, they have not been in contact with their associates for a number of years now.”

He also urged anyone with information about the brothers to get in touch.

Detective Inspector Michael Lochrie
Det Insp Michael Lochrie said officers believe the brothers have not been in contact with their associates for “a number of years”


Det Insp Lochrie, of the force’s Organised Crime and Counter Terrorism Unit, added: “Despite previous appeals, which have focused on The Netherlands and Brazil, we are still appealing for anyone who has information about the current whereabouts of James and Barry Gillespie to get in touch with Police Scotland.

“The dedicated team of officers attached to Operation Escalade have been successfully targeting those involved in serious organised crime domestically and internationally for nine years.

“A number of the arrests made were only possible due to the support of international law enforcement agencies abroad.”

He also stressed the co-operation “remains ongoing”.

Six members of the gang
The first convictions under Operation Escalade were – clockwise from top left – Gerard Docherty, Steven McCardle, Francis Mulligan, David Sell, Barry O’Neill and Martyn Fitzsimmons. (Image: Police Scotland)


Recently officers arrested a fugitive in Brazil during an operation with the Brazilian Federal Police.

Another man was also extradited from Italy after being arrested in Turin.

Anyone with information about James and Barry Gillespie is asked to contact police or Crimestoppers.

The massive inquiry first hit the headlines in December 2017 when nine men admitted a catalogue of charges involving drugs, firearms and violence.

Detectives described the group as the most dangerous and sophisticated the force had encountered.

They included Edinburgh-based cocaine dealer Mark Richardson and soldier-turned-gunrunner Martyn Fitzsimmons.

The firearms discovered in a concealed compartment at the back of the Honda car
Firearms traded by the organised gang were also used to enforce the gang’s lucrative drugs operations
(Image: Crown Office)


The High Court in Glasgow heard a remarkable narrative which featured the brutal torture of a man over an unpaid drug debt and the discovery of a huge arsenal of weapons.

The gang’s reach was global and one member, David Sell, travelled to Brazil to source high-purity cocaine direct from cartels.

Also convicted were Barry O’Neill, Anthony Woods, Francis Mulligan, Michael Bowman, Gerard Docherty and Steven McArdle.

Together all nine received sentences totalling 87 years.

In April 2019 the group’s “technical expert”¬†Paul Scott¬†was jailed for seven years.

The 47-year-old electrician eluded police for two years before being caught in Madrid in November 2018.

Another gang member was jailed for four-and-a-half years after he left DNA traces on elastic bands used to bundle up money found hidden in a lorry.

Joseph Lindsay, 34, was brought back to Scotland to face justice following his arrest in Tenerife as he waited to meet his wife at the airport.

Christopher HughesPolice described Christopher Hughes as a “dangerous individual”. (Image: Police Scotland)


In a separate case an accountant who gave a false alibi for crime gang member David Sell was jailed for three years.

David MacFarlane, 61, told a sheriff on oath that Sell was at his home on 11 March 2015 when he was at the time involved in the savage torture of a drug dealer.

And last year Christopher Hughes was jailed for at least 25 years for the murder of a Dutch crime writer outside a sex club.

He lured Martin Kok, 49, to his death before he was shot eight times by a gunman in Laren, in the Netherlands, on 8 December 2016.

Hughes, 33, who was part of the global criminal enterprise, was described by police as a “dangerous individual”.

Source: bbc.co.uk

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