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AN ASTONISHING £380,000 of public money has been used to bankroll a violent new film that threatens to start a fresh gang war.

Bev Thomas, whose daughter Charlene Ellis, 17, and friend Letisha Shakespeare, 18, were murdered at a Birmingham hair salon six years ago, said she was “horrified” at the November release of 1 Day, a hip hop gangster movie filmed in the city that claimed their lives.

The film, bankrolled by Channel 4 and quango cash, is based on the notorious Johnson Crew and Burger Bar Boys, the gangs responsible for the 2003 New Year’s shootings.

To the outrage of victims’ families, former gang members helped with the storyline—and then paid to star in the movie.

Ms Thomas said: “If the film people talked to these gangs to get their advice, why didn’t they come and talk to the loved ones of victims? Families have been ignored.”

She and fellow anti-gun campaigners fear the hip hop film could act as a gang-recruiting tool and unleash renewed bloodshed.

They are afraid thugs could even battle it out at cinemas in a sick show of bravado.

It would undermine all progress made calming tensions since 2003, they warn.

The £380,000 investment was made by Screen West Midlands, a Birmingham-based quango which doles out Lottery money.

Tory MP David Davies, a member of the Home Affairs select committee, said: “People who buy Lottery tickets will be sickened to learn that their money has been handed against the wishes of grieving families to gun-toting gangsters rather than to worthy causes.”

Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesman, Chris Huhne said: “The use of public lottery funds to pay gang members to appear in a film is a terrible mistake, and I sympathise with the victims who will be sickened by this whole episode.”

Shot on the streets of Birmingham’s inner city Handsworth, a district dominated by the Burger Bar Boys, filmmakers insist 1 Day is a realistic portrayal of the dangers of gang membership.

Internet trailers show armed mobsters and children marching to deafening gangster music launching into beatings and drive-by shootings.

Director Penny Woolcock spent months talking to former gang members to understand their mindsets.
She then rewarded them with parts in the film.

Screen West Midlands said the project had “local support” and offered “an insight into the challenges faced by young people growing up in tough conditions”.

However, anti-gang campaigners last night expressed disgust.

Ms Thomas, who with Letisha’s mother Marcia set up the New Year Shooting Memorial Trust to ward teenagers away from gang life, said the film had re-opened old wounds.

Her daughter Charlene and Letisha were the innocent victims of the January 2003 drive-by when the Burger Bar Boys opened fire at a late night party at the Uniseven hair salon.

Their target was a Johnson Crew member, but they killed the two young girls instead.

Four men, including Charlene’s half-brother Marcus Ellis, were convicted of their murder in 2005.

Last night, Ms Thomas said: “All that happened in 2003 has been brought back. I find the thought of this film horrifying and I’m disgusted by it.

“We’re trying to get young people off the streets, not glorify what these gangs do by making them into a film.

“Paying people who were in the gangs that killed my daughter is horrific. That money should have gone to community centres here, on after-school clubs and on educating children about gangs.”

The film’s plot centres on Flash, a gangster given 24 hours to find all the £500,000 he had been entrusted with by Angel, a mob boss about to be released from prison.

The film has been backed by some community leaders, but Cllr Keith Barton, who chairs Birmingham City Council’s gang reduction taskforce, said: “The idea that a gangster would leave £500,000 stuffed under some mattress is just not credible. continues here

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