Another TOWIE link to the criminal underworld is revealed: How real-life crime is rife behind the glitz and glamour of Essex’s reality TV stars – including gangland wars over drugs, murder, acid attacks and even diamond fraud
When it first aired on our screens in 2010, The Only Way Is Essex introduced viewers to a glamorous new breed of reality television stars.
The show followed the lives of Brentwood’s affluent residents and the minutiae of their everyday lives; from fashion faux pas to relationship woes.
What came to be known more commonly as TOWIE, the show brought us the likes of Joey Essex, Gemma Collins and Mark Wright – all of whom have gone on to carve out showbiz careers and become household names.
But beneath the glitz and glamour of TOWIE lay a shady criminal underworld – one which some of the stars found themselves embroiled in.
The arrest of Arthur Collins in 2017 – then boyfriend of star Ferne McCann – following an acid attack in a London nightclub shed a new light on the glitzy reality show.
From diamond fraud to murders and bullion heists, here MailOnline looks at Essex’s criminal underbelly, dodgy dealings, shady characters and the stars who swapped the Sugar Hut for a prison cell.
Jake Hall, who starred in the show with his co-star and model girlfriend, Chloe Lewis, went on to have a five-year relationship with fellow reality figure, Missé Beqiri – the star of The Real Housewives of Cheshire (pictured together in 2019)
Flamur ‘Alex’ Beqiri, 36, a Swedish national of Albanian heritage whose sister Misse Beqiri (both pictured) appeared in Real Housewives Of Cheshire, was murdered outside his £1.7m home in Battersea, southwest London, on Christmas Eve 2019. The Real Housewives of Cheshire star, 34, shared a childhood snap with her late sibling as she wrote she ‘felt like she lost a part of her body,’ after his murder
TOWIE star Mick Norcross was found hanged in the basement of his Essex mansion last year
Jake Hall: Dated Real Housewives of Cheshire star Misse Beqiri whose gangster brother was gunned down in front of his family by Swedish underworld assassin on Christmas Eve in tit-for-tat gang war
Jake Hall starred in the show with his co-star and model girlfriend, Chloe Lewis. He went on to have a five-year relationship with fellow reality figure, Missé Beqiri – the star of The Real Housewives of Cheshire.
They began dating in 2016 and welcomed their daughter, River, together in 2017, and announced their engagement in 2018. But last year they split after five years together, following a ‘series of explosive rows and her brother Flamur’s murder.’
Her brother Flamur ‘Alex’ Beqiri, 36, a father of two, was blasted nine times in two seconds with a semi-automatic pistol in front of his wife and their two-year-old son outside his £1.7m Battersea home on Christmas Eve in 2019.
Today, Swedish underworld assassin Anis Hemissi, 24, was today convicted of his murder.
A top of the range CCTV system Beqiri had installed for security showed him arriving hand-in-hand with his wife from dinner at a Sloane Square restaurant when he was set upon by Hemissi, who shot him dead from behind.
Flamur first met his wife Debora at his sister Misse’s wedding to her now ex-husband, Manchester United goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard.
He was said to have proposed after flying their families to a chalet in Kitzbuhel, Austria, where he covered the floor in a 1,000 red rose petals. The wedding featured a lavish ceremony at a hotel on Lake Como, Italy, in October 2018.
Beqiri, who had joint Swedish and Albanian nationality, claimed to be in the music business but had been involved in the international drugs trade from Spain, through the Netherlands and into Scandinavia since 2007 and had been arrested several times in Europe.
Jake Hall starred in the show with his co-star and model girlfriend, Chloe Lewis. He went on to have a five-year relationship with fellow reality figure, Missé Beqiri – the star of The Real Housewives of Cheshire (together in Jukly 2021)
On Christmas Eve Missé also penned a moving tribute to her late brother when she marked a year since he was murdered.
The shooter, kickboxer Anis Hemissi, 24, had carried out a four-hour reconnaissance mission two days before the hit disguised as a litter picker, donning a high-vis jacket and trousers, sunglasses and a full-face latex mask
Ferne McCann’s boyfriend: Jailed for 20 years after hurling acid over revellers in an east London nightclub after ‘gangland war’ spiralled out of control
Arthur Collins, the ex-boyfriend of Ferne McCann, hurled acid over revellers on the dance floor at Mangle E8 in Dalston, east London, after a ‘gangland war’ spiralled out of control in 2017.
He threw the corrosive substance indiscriminately at innocent people in what was one of Britain’s worst acid attacks. Sixteen people suffered chemical burn injuries and three people were temporarily blinded.
Collins, the father of Ms McCann’s baby daughter Sunday, told his trial he did not know the bottle contained acid.
He threw the corrosive substance indiscriminately at innocent people in what was one of Britain’s worst acid attacks. Sixteen people suffered chemical burn injuries and three people were temporarily blinded. Pictured: Collins with ex Ferne McCann
Arthur Collins (pictured), the ex-boyfriend of Ferne McCann, hurled acid over revellers on the dance floor at Mangle E8 in Dalston, east London, after a ‘gangland war’ spiralled out of control in 2017
He claimed he believed it was a liquid date rape drug which he had snatched from two men after ‘overhearing them planning to spike a girl’s drink.’
He later admitted to consultant psychiatrist Dr Philip Joseph that he knew the bottle contained acid.
A jury convicted him of five counts of grievous bodily harm with intent and nine counts of actual bodily harm.
It was later revealed the thug had hired a £50,000 leading criminal barrister to help reduce his jail term.
In 2018, Collins lost a bid to reduce his 20-year jail sentence. Three judges at the Court of Appeal in London took less than ten minutes to reject Collins’ appeal, arguing it ‘the severe sentence was fully justified.’
After the incident, he went on the run and was not caught until several days later hiding out in a house in Higham Ferrers, Northamptonshire.
He has previous convictions including threatening words, possession of cocaine and assault, and was still subject to a suspended sentence for punching a man at a nightclub when he carried out the acid attack.
He was then jailed for another eight months for using a smuggled mobile phone to call Ms McCann from his prison cell.
Sam and Billie Faiers’ father convicted of assault
Sam and Billie Faiers’ real father, Lee Faiers was convicted of assaulting his partner Fay Simmons in June 2011.
He was given a community service order and told to attend a domestic violence programme.
Sam (left) and Billie Faiers’ (right) real father, Lee Faiers (middle) was convicted of assaulting his partner Fay Simmons in June 2011
David Chatwood (pictured) was jailed for four years for his part in £1.1 million bullion robbery in December 2012 – but because he had already served seven-and-a-half months on remand the career criminal was let out early
Sam and Billie Faiers’ stepfather jailed for £1.1million bullion heist
In April 2013, the sisters’ stepfather was released from prison after serving just four months of a four-year jail sentence.
David Chatwood was jailed for four years for his part in £1.1 million bullion robbery in December 2012 – but because he had already served seven-and-a-half months on remand the career criminal was let out early.
Chatwood was one of the ringleaders behind the staged robbery gold and silver bars in Belgium.
Known to pals as ‘Chatty’, he helped organised the plot which saw 29kg of gold and 160kg of silver stolen from a lorry near Antwerp. He pleaded guilty at the plea and case management hearing.
Cara Kilbey’s boyfriend cleared of masterminding multi-million pound drugs empire
Cara Kilbey starred on the ITVBe show for four seasons before departing in 2012.
Her boyfriend Daniel Harris, 33, was accused of making ‘vast profits’ by sending drug couriers on mopeds disguised as trainee cab drivers around central London over three-and-a-half years.
He was cleared in 2017 of of two counts of conspiracy to supply cocaine, but found guilty of one count of possession of criminal property. Police found a stash of some £116,000 in ill-gotten gains, hidden in his daughter’s bedroom.
While he was sentenced to two years, he was released after serving almost a year on remand in Wandsworth prison.
Cara Kilbey (left) starred on the ITVBe show for four seasons before departing in 2012. Her boyfriend Daniel Harris, 33, (right) was accused of making ‘vast profits’ by sending drug couriers on mopeds disguised as trainee cab drivers around central London
Lauren Goodger’s jailbird boyfriend serving 16-year sentence for violent drugs-related charges
Lauren Goodger was one of the original cast of TOWIE in 2010, starring alongside then-boyfriend Mark Wright.
She dated Joey Morrison, who was sentenced to 16 years behind bars in 2010 after he dressed like a postman to burgle properties in Enfield, north London.
Morrison, was found guilty with Marvin Russell Jenkins, then both 24, and when he was arrested in 2009, police found £60,000 worth of cocaine and a £90,000 Land Rover.
She was devastated when their two year romance came to an abrupt end shortly before his release date in 2018, amid claims he sent a slew of x-rated snaps to other women from his prison cell in HMP Highpoint South.
The former TOWIE star admitted she regretted their time together, especially as it did not ‘look good’ for her to be in a relationship with someone behind bars.
Previously speaking of the ill-fated romance in her column for new! magazine, she said: ‘I regret giving two and a half years of my life to someone who was in jail only for him to come out and not be what I thought.
‘I thought we were going to get a house, get married and have kids. I regret the time I’ve wasted.’
Lauren Goodger (left) dated Joey Morrison (right), who was sentenced to 16 years behind bars in 2010 after he dressed like a postman to burgle properties in Enfield, north London.
Goodger’s ex boyfriend’s brother was stabbed to death at a petrol station after car chase – with murderers still at large
Stephen Morrisson, 30, (pictured, who was the brother of TOWIE star Lauren Goodger’s ex-boyfriend was stabbed to death on a petrol forecourt following a car chase in June, 2020
The brother of TOWIE star Lauren Goodger’s ex-boyfriend was stabbed to death on a petrol forecourt following a car chase in June, 2020.
Stephen Morrisson, 30, was fatally wounded in Epping, Essex, and rushed to hospital where he later died.
His attackers fled the scene before the authorities arrived and in June last year, Essex police made an another appeal asking anyone with information to come forward. No arrests have been made.
Stephen was the younger brother of Joey Morrisson, 34. Stephen had also spent time behind bars in 2012, when he was jailed following a burglary in which a live-in gardener at an Essex cannabis factory died after falling through a roof.
Lauren met Joey, who was serving a 16-year sentence for possession of a firearm, kidnap, blackmail and actual bodily harm, through her sister.
Gemma Collins’s ex-boyfriend jailed for GBH and burglary
Gemma Collins joined The Only Way Is Essex for the show’s second series, in 2011.
Stephen Mortimer dated Collins from February 2015 to April 2016.
He had been released early from his previous two-year jail term for GBH but breached the terms of his licence by moving into Miss Collins’s house in Brentwood.
In October 2016, Mortimer was handed a two-year sentence for burglary. He broke into a house in the middle of the afternoon and stole £100 in coins.
Just 11 days earlier, the 35-year-old had forced his way into another property and stolen jewellery.
Mortimer appeared via a video link from Chelmsford prison as he pleaded guilty to the charge.
Gemma Collins (left) dated Stephen Mortimer (right) from February 2015 to April 2016. He had been released early from his previous two-year jail term for GBH but breached the terms of his licence by moving into Miss Collins’s house in Brentwood
Michael Hassini – jailed after being caught with high purity cocaine and MDMA
Michael ‘Mike’ Hassini leaves Westminster Magistrates Court, September 12, 2016
In December 2021, Michael Hassini was jailed for over six years after he was caught with £70,000 worth of cocaine.
The personal trainer, who was on the ITV show between 2015 and 2018, was caught exchanging a brick of cocaine with Gary Bear, 23, in the Hornchurch area of Havering, east London, on April 16.
Hassini, 26, was seen by police officers carrying a brown cardboard box into Bear’s grey Mercedes.
When police stopped the car, they found a collection of smartphones and ‘burner’ phones, and a duct-tape-wrapped block of cocaine.
Police arrested Hassini in his black Smart car, where he told them he had ‘around £36,000 pounds in cash, although he had not counted it yet’.
When they searched the home they found three smaller blocks of high-quality cocaine, along with boric acid, a hydraulic press, metal plates, and small amounts of loose cocaine and MDMA.
Prosecutor Sean Sullivan told the court Hassini’s cocaine was between 85 per cent and 98 per cent pure.
Hassini, of Brentwood, received a sentence of 6 years 9 months imprisonment.
Bear, of Hornchurch, both Essex, received a sentence of 5 years 3 months after admitting conspiracy to supply a class A drug, and possession of criminal property.
In December 2016, then aged 22, the former reality TV star escaped jail after he was convicted of kicking a female custody officer after drunkenly crashing his Mercedes.
He was being held at Charing Cross police station when he assaulted detention officer Suzanne Werth in the early hours of August 15, 2016.
Hassini had admitted drink driving but he was convicted of assault by beating after a one day trial at Hammersmith Magistrates’ Court.
He was ordered to perform 180 hours unpaid work, pay £85 in costs and an £85 victim surcharge. Hassini was also disqualified from driving for 21 months.
In December 2021, Michael Hassini (pictured left outside court in 2016) was jailed for over six years after he was caught with £70,000 worth of cocaine. The personal trainer was on the ITV show between 2015 and 2018
Lewis Bloor: £3m diamond fraud trial collapsed after ‘litany’ of CPS failings to disclose evidence – despite claims he ‘conned 200 elderly and vulnerable victims of savings’
A £3 million diamond fraud trial involving The Only Way is Essex star Lewis Bloor (pictured) last year collapsed after a ‘litany’ of Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) failings in the disclosure of evidence
A £3 million diamond fraud trial involving The Only Way is Essex star Lewis Bloor last year collapsed after a ‘litany’ of Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) failings in the disclosure of evidence.
Prosecutors had claimed around 200 victims, many of whom were elderly, were conned after being convinced to buy coloured stones at a 600% mark up.
Mr Bloor, 31, who joined the ITV2 reality programme for three years from 2013, was accused of being part of the alleged cold-calling investment fraud before his television career took off.
But the case collapsed last year, some seven years after the investigation was launched in 2014 and four weeks into the Southwark Crown Court trial, for which dozens of alleged victims had provided statements or given live evidence.
Mr Bloor, of Buckhurst Hill, Essex, was acquitted of conspiracy to defraud between May 7 2013 and July 1 2014 by a jury at the direction of Judge Adam Hiddleston.
The CPS abandoned the prosecution after admitting material that could have helped Mr Bloor and his co-defendants or undermined the prosecution case had not been properly disclosed to defence lawyers.
Prosecutor David Durose QC said the material was ‘wrongly described’, should have been given to the defence teams and that ‘the inconsistencies were profound’.
Narita Bahra QC, representing Potter, called for the CPS to conduct an inquiry into the case after what she described as ‘a litany of disclosure failings’.
She said the Metropolitan Police instructed expert witnesses employed by Dreweatts auctioneers and valuers, a company which had a contract with the force to auction jewellery and watches seized in raids and prosecutions.
Mr Bloor (pictured), 31, who joined the ITV2 reality programme for three years from 2013, was accused of being part of the alleged cold-calling investment fraud before his television career took off.
Mick Norcross: Ex-Sugar Hut boss was ‘battling £6.5million cash crisis’ before being found dead after cryptic final tweet
Mick Norcross (pictured) was found hanged in the basement of his Essex mansion in Bulphan, near Upminster, Essex on January 21, 2021
TOWIE star Mick Norcross was found hanged in the basement of his Essex mansion last year.
The popular television personality and former owner of The Sugar Hut nightclub in Brentwood was found hanged in the basement of his Essex mansion in Bulphan, near Upminster, Essex on January 21, 2021.
Friends told MailOnline how he had suffered a ‘huge’ financial blow before he was found dead after facing a £1.5million loss on a luxury housing project because of ‘drainage problems’ while owing £5.2million in bank loans on his hotel renovation project hit by the coronavirus pandemic and going £1million over budget.
In a tragic final tweet, posted just before his body was found, the 57-year-old wrote: ‘At the end remind yourself that you did the best you could. And that is good enough.’ He is survived by his sons Kirk, Mason, Daniel and daughter Hollie. He also has three grandchildren.
Mick had sold the Sugar Hut nightclub in 2019 and concentrated on his property businesses. Before his death he was developing the famous Grand Hotel in Leigh-on-Sea near Southend into 18 luxury flats, which remains unfinished.
He was also building five luxury houses in Bulphan, called the Bonham Grange Estate, where the asking price for a five-bedroom property is £1.75million. But some of the properties have been on the market since November 2019 and remain unsold. Mick lived in a mansion in the same village, which he designed and built himself. He also had an antiques shop in nearby Brentwood.
But sources close to the late building developer told MailOnline Mick was set to make £5million on the Bonham Grange project but due to drainage issues and the financial cost of repairing damage, his payout was expected to be slashed to £3.5million. It is believed the financial loss was the latest in a long line of money issues Mick had suffered over the past two years, made worse by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mick (right) had sold the Sugar Hut nightclub in 2019 and concentrated on his property businesses. Before his death he was developing the famous Grand Hotel in Leigh-on-Sea near Southend into 18 luxury flats, which remains unfinished. Pictures left: Mick’s son, Kirk Norcross
Mr Norcross also owed £5.2 million in bank loans on his hotel renovation project, accounts show. The businessman’s company 460 Leisure Ltd is restoring The Grand Hotel in Leigh-On-Sea in Essex.
Accounts for 460 Leisure filed in November, showed that the firm was £984,908 in the red and the books said bank loans stood at £5,216,666 for 2019 – up from £2.6m the previous year. The outfit had just £3,600 in its coffers at the time the figures were compiled.
Twice-married Mick was romantically linked to a number of TOWIE stars including Maria Fowler, Chloe Sims and Gemma Collins, before finding love with his former Sugar Hut Honey, Samantha Keahey, who went on to become the nightclub brand’s office. Mick and Samantha were last seen together in early December is a series of Instagram photos that appeared to be in his mansion’s garden.
He previously admitted having having struggles with mental health and his tendency to erect a ‘hard exterior’ when the going got tough and struggling to talk to family about problems without it ‘turning into a shouting match’.
For help, call Samaritans for free on 116 123 or visit samaritans.org
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