Sixteen-year-old boy found guilty of gangland gun ‘assassination’
Revealed: One-year wait for DNA results that linked gun to killer
26 October, 2017 — By William McLennan
Yasir Beshira was killed in Kilburn
A 16-YEAR-OLD boy who shot a man dead on a busy shopping street in a gangland “assassination” has been found guilty of murder at the end of a two-month trial.
The teenager, who cannot be named because of his age, was convicted of killing Yasir Beshira in Kilburn High Road on December 8 last year. One of his accomplices, 21-year-old Sammi Tesfazgi, of Lithos Road, West Hampstead, was also found guilty of murder for his part in the shooting. Rilind Tahiri, 22, of North Road, Islington, was found guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter.
A jury at the Old Bailey heard that, while it was the teenager who had pulled the trigger, Tahiri had driven him to and from the scene in a stolen Range-Rover. Tesfazgi, who sat in the passenger seat, was said to have been the “mastermind of an assassination”. Mr Beshira, who was operating as a low-level drug dealer in the area, was lured to a side street next to a branch of Nandos, where the teenage gunman was lying in wait beside a bin. At around 5.20pm, he stepped forward and shot Mr Beshira once in the stomach, before sprinting away and climbing back into the getaway car, which was later found burnt out in Cricklewood.
Mr Beshira, known as Loopy, made it a few metres before collapsing outside Ellie’s Café, in Kilburn High Road. Efforts to resuscitate him, including attempts at life-saving surgery on the pavement, failed and he was pronounced dead shortly before 6.30pm. Police have never been able to definitively say what the motive was for the killing.
The jury was told that in the days before, Mr Beshira, who had worked as a runner for a drug gang, had let it be known that he was setting up shop on his own. Prosecutor Brian O’Neill said at the start of the trial in August that it “may well be the case that his decision to go it alone was the reason he was murdered”. However, the jury was later told that it could have been the result of a falling out between Mr Beshira and Tesfazgi, who referred to the dead man as his “cousin”.
No evidence of this dispute was put before the jury.
While the murder weapon has never been found, forensic examination of shell casings found at the scene revealed that the same gun had been used in a shooting in Prince of Wales Road, Kentish Town, on September 29 last year. The jury was told that Tesfazgi was responsible for that shooting, having taken “the law into his own hands” after himself being shot as he sat in a parked car in Fellows Road just eight days earlier.
Police used mobile phone signals and CCTV cameras to retrace the movements of the three accused as they drove to and from the killing on December 8.
Tim Clark QC, defending Tesfazgi, told the jury that, rather than proving his client’s guilt, the fact he was using his phone proved he was not the experienced criminal that the prosecution had alleged. He said: “This is a phone he had made taxi bookings with. He knew this phone could be linked to him.” He asked the jury: “Is that consistent with the Crown’s case of a forensically-aware mastermind of an assassination?”
The defendants had protested their innocence throughout the trial, claiming they had driven to the Webheath estate, behind Kilburn High Road, to buy £600 worth of cannabis and had no involvement with Mr Beshira’s death. The jury dismissed these claims after nine days of deliberations. The accused will be sentenced on November 27.
Detective Chief Inspector Andy Partridge, who led the team of murder detectives that cracked the case, said: “This shocking attack was carried out during rush hour in a very busy residential location. I want to thank those members of the public who came forward to try and save Yasir after he was shot and those who greatly assisted the police investigation. I understand that nothing will bring Yasir back to his family, but hope that the verdicts will bring a measure of comfort to his family and friends. This was a complex and protracted investigation and these convictions serve to remind those planning such violent attacks on our streets that they will be pursued and brought to justice for their actions.”
One-year wait for DNA results that linked gun to killer
OPPORTUNITIES to seize the gun used to kill Yasir Beshira could have been missed by police due to delays in DNA samples being processed by a laboratory. DNA evidence that linked one of Mr Beshira’s killers to a shooting using the same weapon in Kentish Town 11 weeks earlier took almost a year to be returned to detectives.
In the intervening months, Mr Beshira was “assassinated” in Kilburn High Road with the same gun. It has never been recovered by police and may still be on the streets. Hampstead and Kilburn MP Tulip Siddiq said she will write to the Met about the delays. She told the New Journal: “Though I don’t wish to speculate over what could have been, I will be writing to the police to better understand if there are possible systemic issues that led to such a gap occurring, and to learn what steps have been taken to prevent such delays in testing happening again in the future.”
One of the motives put forward at the two-month murder trial that ended this week was that Mr Beshira had been killed as part of a string of gun attacks involving Sammi Tesfazgi, who had been shot in the arm while he sat in a car in Fellows Road on September 21 last year. By this point Tesfazgi was on the radar of the Met’s gang crime unit, Trident. Detectives visited him at St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington the next day.
He refused to cooperate, telling officers “he was not in a dispute with anyone and did not need further assistance”.
A week later, on September 29, two young men were fired at in Prince of Wales Road, Kentish Town, at around 10.30pm. One was shot in the foot.
Witnesses described the gunman sprinting to a waiting getaway car in Harmood Street. Shell casings at the scene were analysed and were later found to have come from the same gun that was used to kill Mr Beshira. A knife found in Harmood Street was sent for forensic testing.
It contained Tesfazgi’s DNA, but the jury was told that, despite “weekly emails chasing it”, the results were not returned to Trident detectives until August 17 this year. By which time, Mr Beshira had been murdered and the trial of his killers had already begun. Tesfazgi remained at large until January 17, when he and Rilind Tahiri, found guilty of manslaughter on Monday, were stopped in a stolen BMW X5 carrying a sawn-off shotgun, two large hunting knives and a jerry can full of petrol. While in custody, they were arrested on suspicion of Mr Beshira’s murder.
Ms Siddiq said: “The details of this case are utterly horrific and only serve to underline the need for public cooperation with the Metropolitan Police.”
A Met spokeswoman said the murder was “thoroughly investigated and all lines of inquiry were pursued which resulted in a number of successful convictions”.
‘Cuts make it harder to keep young people out of gangs’
CHARITIES working with children in Camden have said that more must be done to prevent young people falling into violent crime, writes William McLennan. The rise in knife and gun attacks – the most extreme of which being the murder of Yasir Beshira (see story right) – has left many youth workers soul-searching.
Abdi Ali, youth development co-ordinator at Kentish Town-based Somali Youth Development Research Council, said: “I think we should not downplay the link between cuts to resources in the youth sector and young people becoming involved in gang crime and anti-social behaviour.”
He added: “I think that youth work remains one of the best ways to engage, work and support young people into positive ventures. “The role of youth work has not changed, although the demands required of it have, but with limited resources available nowadays it’s becoming more challenging and difficult. “We need to be more proactive. Young people are the future. We need to invest in them now. However, unfortunately the issues young people encounter on a daily basis, along with youth violence, are on the rise. More needs to be done.”
Asked about the problem last month, Foyezur Miah, chief executive of Queen’s Crescent Community Association, said: “What youth services do is engage young people and keep young people busy in positive activities. We provide that, but I don’t think we provide enough.” Camden Council recently set up the Young Camden Foundation to help secure funding for youth charities working in the borough.