Matthew Cohen, 29, Keil Bryan, 32, and Dale Gordon, 33 were this afternoon found unanimously guilty of fatally shooting 23-year-old Assel Al-Essaie as he sat alone in a white Mercedes in Daniel Hill, Upperthorpe on February 18 last year.
During the course of the seven-week trial, jurors were told how tensions had flared between the Al-Essaie family and Cohen, of Bramwell Close, Netherthorpe, after Cohen slashed Mr Al-Essaie's brother, Saleh, in the face with a pair of scissors.
Speaking after the guilty verdicts were passed, Senior Investigating Officer, Detective Chief Inspector Steve Whittaker, said: "To understand the sequence of events that ultimately led to Mr Al-Essaie’s death, a dedicated team of detectives have been working tirelessly over the past 14 months to carry out a lengthy and in-depth investigation to identify exactly what happened that day.
“It is through this investigation and multiple enquires, we revealed a dispute in the weeks prior to the fatal shooting was the catalyst that ultimately led to his murder in February.”
At around 1.30pm on 18 February, 23-year-old 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 VW 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 short conversation which turned into an argument. It was during this 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, which travelled through his heart, that killed Mr Al-Essaie
DCI Whittaker continued: “Weeks prior to Saturday 18 February it is understood three men in possession of a gun, one of whom is believed to have been Cohen, made threats towards Mr Al-Essie because of recent tensions between members of the Al-Essaie family and Cohen.”
In the hours following Mr Al-Essaie’s death the three men assisted by a number of associates, attempted to dispose of evidence that connected them to the murder and cover up their movements prior to and following the shooting.
DCI Whittaker said: “Detectives reviewed in excess of 130 hours of CCTV footage from Upperthorpe and the surrounding areas covering a large part of Sheffield, which showed the men travelling in the VW Golf around Daniel Hill in the minutes before Mr Al-Essaie was shot. Within an hour after the shooting the VW Golf used in the drive-by shooting was found to have been burnt out in an effort to destroy evidence and any connection to the murder.
Using this information and evidence through CCTV and mobile phone analysis we were able to corroborate the movements of Cohen, Dale and Gordon and the associates who assisted them. One associate being James Good, 30, of Ringstead Crescent, Sheffield who pleaded guilty on the last day of the trial to perverting the course of justice.
“In the minutes after the shooting, Cohen contacted Good who went on to buy petrol and assist in burning the VW Golf in a country Lane in Wortley, Sheffield. The three offenders from the VW Golf, were all then taken back to Good’s address, where they stayed for a number of hours, in an attempt to evade justice.
DCI Whittaker concluded: “I hope Mr Al-Essaie’s family are able to take some solace from today’s outcome, knowing justice has finally been served. This has been a complex and lengthy investigation. Not one of the defendants spoke to the police; some witnesses were reluctant to engage with the police, making our job even more difficult. We have downloaded and viewed hundreds of hours of CCTV footage and ANPR cameras, recovered almost 2,000 exhibits, obtained 700 witness statements and downloaded over 100 devices and telephones. Through careful analysis we were able to link the offenders to the vehicle and the scene.
“This has been one of the largest murder investigations that South Yorkshire Police have conducted over the past few years. As a result, I would personally like to thank the team of officers working on the case, as it has been through their hard work and dedication that we have been able to achieve this positive result today.”
Matthew Cohen 29, of Clough Wood View, Sheffield, Dale Gordon, 33, of Benty Lane, Sheffield and Keil Bryan, 32, of Brackley Street, Sheffield have been found guilty by a unanimous jury verdict, after a seven week trial at Sheffield Crown Court, for the murder of Mr Al-Essaie in February last year.
Cohen also pleaded guilty on the last day of the prosecution case to perverting the course of justice.
Cohen, Bryan, Gordon and Good are due to be sentenced later this month.