The gritty British gangster flick Get Carter, starring Michael Caine, turns 50 this week.
Famous for its haunting theme tune and brutal scenes, few realise that the cult movie was inspired by a real murder mystery involving claims of a miscarriage of justice and links to the Kray twins.
The film, released on March 10, 1971, sees Caine playing tough Jack Carter, a London criminal who returns to his home city of Newcastle to avenge his brother Frank’s untimely death.
As Jack uncovers the truth amid the city’s underworld, the action sees one character thrown from a multi-storey car park and another beaten to death.
Hollywood director Quentin Tarantino described Get Carter as his favourite British movie, while Vinnie Jones’ shotgun-toting character in Guy Ritchie’s Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels was a nod to Caine’s role.
Based on the book Jack’s Return Home by crime writer Ted Lewis, Get Carter was partly inspired by the story of a shocking killing dubbed the “one-armed bandit murder”.
Just as in the film, the story surrounds a man found dead in a car in the North East.
On January 5, 1967, Angus Sibbet was discovered in his Jaguar in South Hetton, County Durham.
Sibbet, 33, had been a money collector for a company run by nightspot kingpin Vince Landa, which supplied fruit machines across the region – echoed in Get Carter’s Cliff Brumby.
Police arrested Landa’s brother Michael Luvaglio and their associate Dennis Stafford and charged them with Sibbet’s murder.
They believed he had been shot dead for skimming the takings.
On the night of the murder, Luvaglio and Stafford had been due to meet Sibbet in a Newcastle club at 12.30am.
They maintained that Sibbet, whose body was found 16 miles away after leaving another club at 11.20pm, had never arrived and denied any involvement in his death.
Cops reckoned the pair had enough time to commit the crime just before midnight and return to the city – but the timeframe was tight, given the 45-minute minimum journey.
Both were convicted of murder and jailed for life despite no forensics linking them to the killing, no murder weapon being found and the presence of fingerprints that suggested someone else was involved.
Experts also later dismissed police evidence suggesting the red E-Type Jaguar that Luvaglio was driving on the night had hit Sibbet’s car.
Luvaglio and Stafford were released after serving 12 years, still protesting their innocence, but lost appeals. Luvaglio, who had been Sibbet’s best man and had no criminal record at the time, said: “I did not kill Angus. He was my best friend.”
Stafford, 88, admits he was a crook, but insisted he was “never a killer”.
The men say they were framed, with Luvaglio reckoning the culprits could have been in cahoots with East End mobsters Ronnie and Reggie Kray.
The infamous duo certainly had links to the jailed men and the victim.
In the 1950s, Sibbet had struck up a friendship in London with Luvaglio and his brother Vince, whose activities once saw him end up on the wrong end of Reggie Kray’s fist.
After Luvaglio was threatened by armed men he, Stafford and Sibbet moved to Newcastle, where Vince had changed his name to Landa. Soon they were raking in millions from slot machines. Meanwhile, the Krays were taking over clubs in other UK cities, and are known to have visited one of Landa’s in Newcastle.
Less than a year after Ronnie gunned down rival gangster George Cornell at the Blind Beggar pub in London, could they have killed Sibbet in a bid to muscle in on his patch?
Other theories suggest Sibbet was killed by the notorious Richardson gang, or on the orders of a Scottish crime boss.
Filmmaker Neil Jackson said there is “no way” Stafford or Luvaglio would have been convicted today. Luvaglio died, aged 83, last year maintaining Sibbet’s killer is “still out there”.
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