Sheffield brothers in fight to clear names over murder convictions

Two Sheffield brothers jailed for 64 years between them for murder are fighting to clear their names after a key witness admitting giving false evidence against them.

Thursday, 19th April 2018, 11:33 am
Updated Thursday, 19th April 2018, 11:46 am
David and Ashley Cohen

Two Sheffield brothers jailed for 64 years between them for murder are fighting to clear their names after a key witness admitting giving false evidence against them.

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David and Ashley Cohen

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The 53-year-old was shot in his cab as he drove along Scott Road, Pitsmoor, in what South Yorkshire Police claimed was a revenge attack after the taxi driver's son, Imran, fired shots at David Cohen's house following a nightclub brawl.

David, now 38 and formerly of Philadelphia Gardens, Upperthorpe, was jailed for 31 years and Ashley, 35 and formerly of Clough Wood View, Oughtibridge, got a 33-year tariff - the longest sentences every handed down in Sheffield at that time.

The brothers, who have always maintained their innocence and were convicted on a 'joint enterprise' basis in that they were accused of planning the shooting rather than firing the gun, hope their convictions will eventually be quashed after a witness admitted lying during their trial.

Vincent Simmons, who was on remand at Armley Prison in Leeds with the Cohen brothers before their trial, told jurors that he made notes in his prison cell of conversations with the pair.

Murder victim Younis Khan

Simmons, who was facing deception and money laundering charges at the time, claimed he was told ‘the whole thing had got out of hand’ and the brothers had only wanted people ‘frightened’.

During the murder trial, Simmons claimed to have taken his notes in the ‘interests of justice’.

But in recorded telephone calls made to the Cohen brothers’ family, he claimed the evidence he provided was false and asked for £100,000 in return for him making an on-camera confession in front of lawyers.

He spoke of the police 'setting the boys up' and said the cash he asked for, which was never paid by the Cohen family, would have been used to fund a move to a country where he would not have been extradited for his confession.

Younis Khan was shot in Pitsmoor in 2007

In one conversation he said: "I know that evidence was manufactured.

"I’m not saying they’re innocent or guilty. All I’m saying is that the evidence that was used against them, that helped convict them, was false. False. It was falsified."

In another, he said: "The evidence I gave originally was a lie.

"The jury have convicted them based on evidence that I am now saying I lied about."

David and Ashley Cohen

He admitted that he 'committed perjury' during the murder trial.

He added: "They’ll have to rule my evidence is contaminated you know, once, once I say on camera that I lied."

Simmons said it had been 'beneficial' for him to lie because he never went back to jail when his own case was eventually heard.

He said he was never offered anything by the police to give evidence in the case but said it was 'all wink, wink, nudge, nudge'.

He later received a suspended prison sentence after admitting conning football fans out of thousands of pounds in a 2006 World Cup ticket scam.

Sentencing him, Recorder of Leeds, Judge Peter Collier QC, said he had opted against jail because of Simmons' 'public service' in giving evidence against the Cohen brothers.

Murder victim Younis Khan

Simmons said: "It was beneficial to me in that the cases that I had coming up, I still went to court on those cases that I had and I got suspended sentences.

"They can't say that's the deal and I can't say that's the deal because there's nothing signed, it's not provable that there was a deal., I know myself if I hadn't done what I did I would have gone to prison for a long time."

In the telephone recordings he admitted he was now on a witness protection programme and had been given a new identity.

The calls were made to the Cohen brothers' mum, Patricia Sharp and David’s partner, Lindsey Carr, who recorded the conversations.

The Criminal Cases Review Commission, which examined and later rejected an application by the brothers to have their convictions reviewed, said it was satisfied that the calls were made by Simmons and that there was 'no conspiracy' between him and the Cohen family ahead of the calls being made.

But the commission said it had found 'no evidence of collusion' between Simmons and the police ahead of the trial and 'no evidence to indicate police corruption or a deliberate attempt to mislead the defence'.

It said the content of the telephone calls alone 'do not create a real possibility that the Court of Appeal would find the conviction to be unsafe'.

The CCRC ruled that it was 'clearly known' at the time of the trial that Simmons was a 'dishonest man' and jurors had been told to treat his evidence with the 'greatest of care'.

It said 'an extensive investigation' had 'failed to uncover' evidence of police corruption.

The Cohen family is calling for South Yorkshire's Police and Crime Commissioner, Dr Alan Billings, to refer the case to another force to investigate the claims made by Simmons.

David and Ashley hope that making the recorded telephone conversations public will result in a police probe into Simmons' claims.

South Yorkshire Police's professional standards department has also been contacted by the family over the case.

A spokeswoman for Dr Billings said: "The Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner can confirm that they have received correspondence from the family of David and Ashley Cohen.

"Advice has been provided to the family member to contact the Professional Standards Department within South Yorkshire Police, or if they do not want to approach South Yorkshire Police directly, they were advised to contact the Independent Office for Police Conduct.

"It is now for the family to indicate what they want to do and whether we can help further."

A South Yorkshire Police spokesman said: "South Yorkshire Police can confirm that it is following the complaints procedure in accordance with its obligations under the Police Reform Act. "The issues currently being raised by the complainant have previously been reported to the Criminal Cases Review Commission."

In a letter to the family from the police force, Detective Chief Inspector Dave Mayfeld said 'the correct appeal process was followed' when the case was referred to the Criminal Cases Review Commission.

Matthew Cohen - David and Ashley's 29-year-old brother - was convicted last week of the murder of 23-year-old Aseel Al-Essaie, who was shot dead in Upperthorpe, last February.

He was found guilty on a joint enterprise basis in that he was driving the car from which the gun was fired.

Younis Khan was shot in Pitsmoor in 2007