The crime

IN the early 1980s, a nasty little war was being waged in the housing schemes of Glasgow involving rival ice cream van owners.

At its heart was greed. They were fighting each other for control of the most lucrative ''runs''. Vans were shadowed, drivers intimidated, and even customers were terrorised. As the war intensified, it erupted into violence. Attacks with baseball bats, knives and even guns became commonplace.

Into the fray stepped Thomas ''TC'' Campbell, a notorious professional criminal who was no stranger to the inside of a police cell. Born the son of a safecracker, he had a string of convictions and a reputation as a hard man. Pretty soon, Campbell was a key player in Glasgow's ice cream van business. He claimed that it was his attempt to go straight. ''Well, straightish,'' as he once said.

The police, however, were unconvinced. In their eyes, he had escaped conviction on a number of charges of which they were certain he was guilty. But they were nothing if not patient.

It was on the night Tommy Cooper died that the ice cream wars came to their unspeakable climax. On April 16, 1984, someone crept up the tenement stairs at 29 Bankhead Street, Ruchazie, poured petrol over the front door of a flat and struck a match.

Inside, nine members of the Doyle family lay asleep. The ensuing fire killed six of them, one an 18-month-old child.

The sheer scale of the death toll, and the fact that it was mass murder, shocked the nation. The Doyles were a popular, hard-working and perfectly innocent family. They were not villains.

The team of Glasgow detectives involved in the hunt for the killers was under intense pressure from the media, the public and the politicians to solve the case. As they probed deeper and deeper into the Doyles' background, they could find no significant enemies.

Less than four months after the fire, seven men appeared at the High Court in Glasgow, four of them charged with the murders and the remaining three on a range of lesser charges. In the end, TC Campbell and Joe Steele, his impressionable underling, were convicted of the killings.

Throughout their years of imprisonment, Mr Campbell and Mr Steele have persistently protested their innocence, claiming their conviction was a grave miscarriage of justice.

Mr Campbell went on hunger strike several times, while Mr Steele embarked on a series of prison escapes. On one famous occasion, he glued himself to the railings of Buckingham Palace.

In 1996, William Love, a police informer who claimed he overheard the pair admitting responsibility for the fire, admitted he lied under oath, and the pair were released on bail, pending an appeal.

However, after a year-and-a-half of freedom, they were eventually denied the appeal by three judges who, in a split decision, ruled that their case did not meet the guidelines for hearing new evidence.

They were returned to jail and attempted to overturn the decision but, in December 1998, it was turned down. John Carroll, the men's lawyer, turned to the Criminal Cases Review Commission.

In November 2001, the CCRC decided to send the case back to the appeal court. A month later, Mr Campbell and Mr Steele were granted interim liberation.

Yesterday, their lasting freedom was confirmed. However, the question now remains - who really killed the Doyle family?

One theory is that it has the mark of the Garthamlock team, a notorious east end gang of the 70s and 80s. Led by an infamous underworld character, still one of the leading criminal figures in Glasgow, they were housebreakers who specialised in raiding shops, clubs and small supermarkets, stealing the contents of safes and cigarettes and sweets.

However, unhappy with the return they were getting from resetting the goods, they decided to peddle them through their own ice cream vans. They were then alleged to have lit the first spark of the ice cream war by driving legitimate ice cream van operations out of business.

There has been speculation that Andrew Doyle was one of the few drivers to resist the gang's overtures, and that he and his family may have paid the ultimate price for doing so.