Masked gunmen’s murder attempt in Sheffield ‘seemed like terrorist attack’

The scene of the incident in January
The scene of the incident in January
  • Shocked witnesses see gunmen firing on busy road in broad daylight
  • Feud led to dramatic afternoon car chase through Sheffield
  • Alleged driver says he was in bed at time of attack

Masked gunmen carried out a terrifying attempted murder in broad daylight during a car chase along busy Sheffield roads – leaving shocked witnesses fearing they were watching a terrorist attack, a court heard.

Two gunmen in a VW Golf fired at least four shots at a Seat Leon carrying four men during a car chase along Southey Green Road, Halifax Road and Penistone Road.

The scene of the incident in January

The scene of the incident in January

At one stage, the gunmen got out of the Golf and began firing at the fleeing Seat Leon – with one shocked witness telling police she thought ‘some sort of terrorist attack’ was unfolding.

One man was shot in the leg during the incident at around 2pm on January 20 this year.

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Details were revealed at Sheffield Crown Court as Gavin Bennett, aged 35, of Maun Way, Firth Park, went on trial for attempted murder.

Michael Slater, prosecuting, said Bennett has been identified as the driver of the VW Golf containing the two gunmen.

Mr Slater said the shooting was a targeted attempt on the life of Jamie Howden, who was shot in the leg.

He said Mr Howden had been travelling in the backseat of the Seat with two other men being driven by Nathan Marples.

Mr Slater said they were driving along Southey Green Road when the other vehicle began following them.

“The prosecution say that the intention of the people in the car driven by the defendant was one of trying to kill Jamie Howden,” he said.

“Shotguns were being used by the gunmen and were fired on at least four occasions.”

He said Mr Marples had recognised Bennett as the driver of the car and later picked him out in an ID parade.

Mr Slater said Mr Marples had ‘heard rumours the defendant wanted to kill Jamie Howden because of a fallout between them’.

He said the Golf came up behind them with someone pointing a gun out of the passenger’s side window.

Mr Slater said: “Mr Marples could see there was a bus ahead of him and a car coming in the other direction which was going to impede his getting away from the VW.

“The Golf came alongside his vehicle. He broke sharply and heard a bang as the Volkswagen came past them.

“He heard Jamie Howden shouting ‘They have got me, they have got me, drive, they have got me’.”

Mr Slater said Mr Howden had been shot in his right lower leg through the car door at close range of less than a metre.

He added: “The VW turned around in the road around 100 yards away.

“Mr Marples thought they were coming back to kill them.

“He spun his own car round and drove back the way he had come towards Halifax Road.

“In order to escape, he entered a coned-off section of the carriageway. The Volkswagen was close behind.”

A further two shots were fired but missed the Leon and its occupants as the chase continued in the direction of Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough stadium.

The Seat had to stop in traffic close to the junction with Leppings Lane and Penistone Road but made a bid to escape as the two gunmen got out of the VW and started firing.
Mr Slater said: “Such was his desperation to escape, he rammed a car in order to drive through then mounted the pavement to cut off the corner and miss the traffic.”

Mr Slater said one witness saw the Seat drive past at high speed before the Golf pulled up seconds later and two men got out and began shooting before running back to their car, which did a 180 degree turn and went back up Halifax Road.

He said: “The driver of the Golf, like the gunmen, had his face partially obscured by some sort of covering. But the witness could see he was white.”

Mr Slater said a woman who also witnessed the attack described to police how she thought the armed men could have been terrorists.

The Seat escaped up Herries Road and Mr Howden was left at the Northern General Hospital, with the other three men in the car ‘going their separate ways fearing further trouble’.

The VW Golf was found burnt out in the Parson Cross area in the early hours of the following day.

After being arrested, Bennett initially did not comment to police in interviews.

After later being informed he had been identified as the driver, he said Mr Marples was either ‘lying or mistaken’.

Mr Slater said: “When asked where he was at the material time, he said he couldn’t remember but he would probably have been in bed at home.”

Mr Slater told the jury: “The fact that the defendant didn’t fire a weapon or was to seen to fire a weapon does not make a difference to his culpability.

“This was a determined and violent attempt to try and kill Jamie Howden.

“They all, driver included, must have shared a common intention to kill.”

Bennett denies attempted murder and an alternative count of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

The trial continues.