It was 77 years ago this month that one of the most notorious mobs of the 30’s met their end. Unlike many gangsters they really did not have a ‘home turf’, home became wherever they happened to be.

Life began to unravel for the group in 1936, and opting for personal safety the gang split up. It is thought that some may even have headed for Cuba.

In December, based on some tips Arthur ‘Doc’ Barker was tracked to a home in the Chicago area. On January 8th the feds pounced and Doc gave up without a fight.

 Meanwhile brother Fred had taken up residence in Lake Weir, Florida. A simple and unassuming house. One rented by their mother Kate “Ma” Barker. Ma Barker being the loving mother saw nothing wrong with the criminal enterprises of her sons.

Ma Barker on the right. 

Although the FBI was yet to become known by that name, they were hot on the heels of the Barker-Kaplan gang.  With one down (Doc Barker) they went on the hunt for Fred.  It is unlikely that Doc ratted on his brother, but as more raids were conducted and other members of the gang were found, a huge break in the case occurred. Investigators found a map of Florida with Lake Weir circled. From this single clue the zoned in to the area and it was not long before they had found the likely location of Fred Barker.

The FBI describe the events as:

Shortly after 5 a.m. on January 16, 1935, a group of agents led by Earl Connelly surrounded the house and demanded the Barkers’ surrender. No response. They waited 15 minutes and called again. Again, no answer. Following another call for surrender and more silence, agents shot some tear gas grenades at the windows of the house. Someone in the house shouted, “All right, go ahead,” then machine-gun fire blasted from the upstairs window.

The agents responded with volleys of their own; more gunfire erupted from the house. Over the next hour, intermittent shots came from the home, and agents returned fire. By 10:30 a.m., all firing had stopped. Both Ma and Fred, it was soon learned, were dead.

A photograph of just how much fire power Ma and Fred had survives till today.

 The FBI have quite an extensive amount of material on the Gang. It is well worth checking out.

Simon Barrett  

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