Justice has today been served as three Sheffield men convicted of murdering 23-year-old Aseel Al-Essaie in ‘cold blood’ have been locked up for a total of 90 years.
Matthew Cohen, 29, Dale Gordon, 33, and Keil Bryan, 32, all denied their involvement in Mr Al-Essaie’s murder in Upperthorpe, Sheffield, in February last year, but were found guilty by unanimous verdicts from a jury following a lengthy seven-week trial at Sheffield Crown Court that ended earlier this month.
Cohen and a fourth man, James Good, 30, have also been sentenced today for perverting the course of justice in connection to the murder, which they both pleaded not guilty to, until the very last day of the trial when they both changed their pleas to guilty.
Cohen, of Clough Wood View, was sentenced to life behind bars, to serve a minimum of 30 years. He was also sentenced to three years and 10 months for perverting the course of justice to run concurrently.
Gordon, of Benty Lane, and Bryan, of Brackley Street, were also sentenced to life in prison, both to serve a minimum of 30 years, and Good, of Ringstead Crescent, Sheffield, was jailed for three years and three months.
Following the sentencing, Senior Investigating Officer, Detective Chief Inspector Steve Whittaker, said: “My thoughts are with Mr Al-Essaie’s family today, who I can only hope are able to take some solace in knowing the men who are responsible for taking the life of their loved one in pure cold blood, are now behind bars where they belong.
“The calculated actions of this trio, as well as Good, as they attempted to cover their tracks and destroy evidence that linked them to Mr Al-Essaie’s murder by burning out the car they used to fire the fatal shot from is absolutely deplorable.
“They are cold blooded killers who have shown no remorse for their evil actions that day. They believed they were above the law and that they could get away with murder, but we were absolutely determined to bring them before the courts and a dedicated team of detectives have worked tirelessly over the past 14-months to build a strong and compelling case against them, which is testament to the result today.”
At around 1.30pm on Saturday, 18 February, 2017, Mr Al-Essaie from Sheffield was travelling through the Upperthorpe area in a black Mercedes, on his way to a family engagement party. As he approached Daniel Hill, a dark grey Volkswagon Golf, which was driven by Cohen with Gordon in the passenger seat and Bryan in the back, pulled up alongside him.
As the cars were side by side the men, who were known to each other, began engaging in a conversation that quickly escalated into an argument. Gordon produced a .44 calibre gun, described in court as a ‘Dirty Harry style’ firearm with a large barrel, and fired a shot at Mr Al-Essaie.
A post-mortem examination concluded it was this single gunshot wound to his shoulder, from almost point blank range, which killed Mr Al-Essaie.
The actions of the offenders following the shooting, as they attempted to dispose of evidence that connected them to the murder and cover up their movements, were linked and intrinsically pieced together as part of the investigation and collation of evidence.
Minutes after the shooting, mobile phone analysis revealed Cohen contacted Good, and CCTV work later placed Good at around 1.45pm at Wordsworth Avenue, Sheffield where he bought a petrol can and four litres of petrol. The Golf was driven in convoy with Good’s car to a remote, country lane in Wortley, Sheffield, and the petrol purchased by Good was used to set the car alight.
Cohen, Bryan and Gordon were all then taken back to Good’s address in Sheffield city centre, where they stayed for a number of hours in an attempt to escape arrest.
The offenders were however arrested over the next few days and weeks, with the exception of Cohen, who was arrested three months later at an address in Nottingham, where he had been attempting to evade the police.
Only through collating phone data, CCTV and ANPR information were detectives able to gather enough evidence to arrest the suspects.
After sentencing, Judge Justice Stephen Males commended the SIO and the investigative team in what was a 'complex and challenging investigation'.
DCI Whittaker continued: “A dispute regarding drugs between a close associate of Mr Al-Essaie and Cohen, just weeks before the shooting, was uncovered as part of the investigation, and proven to be the catalyst that the police believe, ultimately led to the murder.
“The investigation was exceptionally challenging as detectives were met with, what can only be described as a ‘wall of silence’ from the offenders, who refused to cooperate and would not provide any comment or account of any events or their involvement.
“This resulted in an extremely lengthy and protracted investigation that has seen a team of committed detectives, and staff, working long hours to gather evidence, speak to numerous witnesses, watch and review over 130-hours of CCTV footage, recover almost 2,000 exhibits and obtain thousands of mobile phone records and data.
“Using all of the information and evidence obtained, we were able to corroborate the movements of the four men, before and after the murder, with CCTV (pictured left) showing the Golf passing Mr Al-Essaie in his Mercedes on Daniel Hill, and then turning around and following him, moments before pulling alongside him.
“In addition, around 90-minutes before the murder, CCTV footage also identified Bryan carrying a firearm hidden under his clothing in Spital Hill, Sheffield, which was our case that while Gordon fired the fatal shot from the front seat, Bryan supplied the firearm from the back of the vehicle.
“I hope this case highlights that we will explore every single avenue, method and resource possible, regardless of cooperation, and through our continued drive and dedication, we will uncover the truth and offenders will be brought to justice.”
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