'My neighbour's flat is a drug gang's hideout - but nobody will help me'

Romford woman tells story of Doctor Savage drugs gang

Weeks after the Romford Recorder revealed the existence of a Havering drugs gang called Doctor Savage, a woman has claimed she knows the kingpin's identity - Credit: Archant / Eric Ward on Unsplash

In January, police seized a mobile phone containing the numbers of a Romford drugs gang called Doctor Savage. Eight months later, we revealed the numbers were still active. Now a woman has come forward to say she knows Doctor Savage’s true identity – and so do the police. 

Jackie* is refusing to pay her rent. 

She lives in a council flat in Harold Hill and the flat opposite hers, she claims, is used as a base by a violent drugs gang, whose leader is known as Doctor Savage. 

She says she is refusing to hand over any more rent on the property, in protest at what she claims is the council’s refusal to ensure her safety.

In response the council says it cannot move Jackie without evidence from the police. 

“They’re threatening to take me to court,” she says. “But I want to go to court – because I will tell the court what I’m telling you.”

Jackie has contacted the Recorder with an extraordinary story. She says she knows the true identity of Doctor Savage – and so do the police. She knows this because she has told them.

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She has even tipped them off when she knows the flat is full of drugs – but nobody ever comes, she claims. 

Doctor Savage

In January, 45-year-old Ken Hill was found dead in Havering Council’s Harold Hill hostel, Abercrombie House, with heroin in his system.

Police seized his mobile phone as evidence and found it contained several marketing text messages from Doctor Savage’s gang.

Ken Hill, who died in Abercrombie House

Ken Hill, 45, was found dead in Harold Hill in January 2021. His death led to the revelation of Doctor Savage's activities in Havering - Credit: The Hill family

“Surgery is open,” one said. “Come get medication.”

Jackie claims she was made to type out similar marketing messages at Doctor Savage’s behest. That was how she learned his criminal nickname. Before that, she only knew him as Doc – although she says she later learned his real identity.

Ken Hill’s family contacted the Romford Recorder in May with their concerns but an inquest into his death was cancelled.

The family was issued a death certificate saying he died from clogged arteries, but the family claimed they were initially told he died from an overdose.

Ken's mother told the Recorder at the time: "I don’t know if it’s a cover-up or whether someone has just made a terrible mistake by saying in the first instance that it was a drug overdose."

After his phone was returned to his family in late summer, the Recorder contacted the Doctor Savage mobile numbers. They were still active and a dealer said they were operating from an abandoned pub.

It was that those articles which prompted Jackie to come forward.

Abercrombie House in Harold Hill, Romford, Havering

Ken Hill was found dead at Havering Council's hostel Abercrombie House, in Harold Hill, with heroin in his system and messages from Doctor Savage on his phone - Credit: Charles Thomson

'I should've minded my own business'

Jackie has lived in her flat for nearly ten years. About four years ago she befriended a neighbour – Morgan*.

Morgan was a troublemaker. On one occasion, he sold Jackie a TV, borrowed it back and then sold it to someone else. But Jackie took pity on him. He would often knock on her door, “begging for food”.

After a man called Doc moved into Morgan’s flat, the knocks on Jackie’s door became more frequent. Doc had apparently just been released from prison, and the longer he stayed, the more distressed Morgan seemed to become.

“He would come over here crying, saying Doc was bullying him,” says Jackie. “He was showing me stab marks.”

Concerned for Morgan’s safety, Jackie began dropping by his flat to check on him. There were usually other people inside. She once tried to sneak him a secret mobile phone so he could call 999 in an emergency, but felt unable to because another man in the flat was watching over them as they spoke.

“I should have minded my own business,” she sighs.

Gradually, says Jackie, she was lured into the lifestyle of the people who had taken over Morgan’s flat. She witnessed some of the occupants bagging up drugs and others using them. Already taking prescribed medication for depression, Jackie says she succumbed to “peer pressure” and one day and smoked a crack pipe.

“They all seemed to be having a good time and I wanted a good time as well – but I didn’t get one,” she says. “They had all my money. I think I did about £800 in one week.”

'You don't say no'

During the few weeks she spent using crack at Morgan’s flat, Jackie says she encountered the man known as Doc.

“He was a bully,” she recalls. “Him and his friends make your nerves really bad. You feel like you have to be nice to him. You feel like he is God. That’s how he wants everyone to feel and to treat him.”

On one occasion, she claims, Doc handed her a phone and started dictating a marketing message for her to type out, similar to the ones found on Ken Hill’s phone.

“I felt I was being forced to do it,” she explains. “You don’t really say no to him.”

Doctor Savage text messages on Ken Hill's phone

Police found messages on Ken Hill's phone from Doctor Savage. Eight months later, the Recorder found the numbers were still active - Credit: Archant

After that incident, Jackie fled to her mother’s home and went into hiding. She has never used crack again. But she returned home when she learned that somebody had smashed up her front door. She has been living in fear ever since.

She says she has tried to get the police to act several times. Once, when Morgan was being monitored by an electronic tag, he breached his curfew. The police showed up and Jackie says she told them what was going on in the flat. But instead of receiving help, she received a visit from Doc.

“He came right in my face and looked me, really scarily, and said, ‘Snitches get stitches’,” she says.

Jackie says she has since received letters from insurance companies, addressed to people she doesn’t know and containing information about cars she has never even seen.

“I took them to the police. They just said no crime has been committed," she claims.

Jackie claims she knows of several Doctor Savage customers who have died of suspected overdoses in recent months. 

She says she has spent several hours at a police station giving a detailed statement about everything he knows about the operation and has begged the council to safeguard her.

“I was literally begging the council for help and there was nothing,” she claims. “They couldn’t even come and put a security camera up.”

What the council says

The Recorder understands that Havering Council does have a record of Jackie raising concerns about drug-dealing from her neighbour’s flat, but it is unable to relocate her unless the police recommend it.

A council spokesperson said: “We are aware of the resident’s concerns and have been in regular contact to provide reassurance. In addition, we have taken advice from the police and they have not given any evidence or reason to show this tenant needs to be moved.

“We have previously offered the resident options for further security for peace of mind.  We will continue to do our best to support this resident but urge her to keep paying rent to avoid any arrears.”

The Metropolitan Police said it was unable to comment without more details. 

*Names have been changed.

For more, read: 

'Heads should roll': Drug dealers left on Romford streets for eight months

'Cover-up or terrible mistake?': Family refused inquest after hostel death

Police called to council 151 times amid drug-dealing concerns