May 21 2013 Latest news:
Thursday, May 24, 2012
A man who helped gun down the cousin of a former England rugby star in a case of mistaken identity has been jailed for at least 26 years.
Michael Ofori, 35, was shot dead as he sat in his Mercedes chatting to his estranged wife in a quiet residential street.
Jules Brown, 25, of Eversleigh Road, Upton Park, was part of a gang who intended to kill rival Perry Walters, 24, after a spate of tit-for-tat shootings.
Walters was lured to Oslac Road in Catford, on the premise of a drug deal shortly after midnight on June 23, 2010.
He and Mr Ofori turned up in the same road within two minutes of each other, but the killers wrongly picked out Mr Ofori, a cousin of former England rugby international Paul Sackey.
He was shot twice at close range, one of the bullets passing through his brain, and was pronounced dead after arriving at hospital.
His wife managed to escape without injury.
Brown tracked the group’s intended target in the minutes before the shooting. He was convicted of murder following a retrial at the Old Bailey.
Nathaniel Valton, 22, was said to have fired the fatal shots, but was unanimously cleared of the same charge.
John Coffey QC, defending Brown, said: “We would suggest he must fall into a much lower category than either of the other two who have already been dealt with.”
Brown was jailed for life and ordered to serve at least 26 years before he can be considered for release.
Sentencing, Judge Paul Worsley QC told him he had acted as the “eyes and ears of the operation” and had been afforded a “ringside seat” of the execution.
“It may be that the target was not the person who was planned to be the victim of this shooting,” he said.
“Be that as it may, his wife and daughter have lost a father and his family and friends have lost someone who did not deserve to die in the manner he did.”
Following Mr Ofori’s death, Mr Sackey, 31, who has 22 caps for England and played in the 2007 Rugby World Cup, said he was “really close” to his cousin.
“He used to come to all my matches with Wasps and he had already booked flights to come out here and watch me play my first game for Toulon,” he said.
“He helped me pack before I left and I saw him the night before I moved to France, at my brother’s place.”
“It was a real struggle.”
Brown is the third person to be convicted of the killing.
Sahid Sule, 24, of no fixed address and Nicholas Allon-McVytie, 23, of Vanguard Street, Deptford, were found guilty of murder last year and each jailed for at least 28 years.
In a statement read to the court at the previous sentencing hearing, Mr Ofori’s brother Jeffrey said the victim was a “caring, loving and loyal person” who was help in deep affection by his family.
“The sudden and unjust circumstances in which Michael was murdered has filled us with pain in our hearts too great to put in to words.”
The court heard Mr Ofori’s daughter was receiving therapy from a counsellor and his elderly and frail mother “cannot come to terms with the cold-blooded murder of her son”.