Three men guilty of the manslaughter of cannabis farmer Hemwand Ali Hussain

THREE men have been found guilty of the manslaughter of a cannabis farmer shot dead in a point-blank, execution-style gangland killing.

Noza Saffari, Dorian Pirija and Qazim Marku were convicted for their roles in the killing of Hemwand Ali Hussain but were cleared of murder.

A fourth man, Anxelo Xhaferi, was cleared of both charges and was immediately released from custody.

Teesside Crown Court heard how a row over 10kg of missing drugs ended with a father-of-two being shot to the back of the head inside a house in Hartlepool in September 2019.

The 30-year-old was lured to the terraced house in Hartlepool to check out a prospective cannabis farm site but instead he was blasted at point-blank range with a sawn-off shotgun.

The suspected gunman remains at large with other members of the gang believed to have been involved in the conspiracy. Officers found gloves, cable ties, white nylon rope, screwdriver, and Stanley blades in a cupboard in the kitchen at the house.

CCTV footage and forensic analysis was used by detectives to identify the men involved in the conspiracy to murder Mr Hussain.

Several men have never been traced and are still on the run following the killing.

Jurors heard how Saffari had been doing some handyman work for Mr Ali Hussain for a few years before the slaying and played a pivotal role in luring him to his death.

During his evidence he gave details about tensions between Kurdish and Albanian groups on Teesside, including a gunfight in Middlesbrough.

The 39-year-old, from Middlesbrough, also claimed that he had been a ‘police informer’ who passed on information about drug dealers in the town.

The court heard how Pirija has travelled up from his home in Bolton with another man, who has never been traced by police, on the day of the killing and CCTV footage showed him driving away from the scene.

Marku, from London, was caught on CCTV running from the direction of the murder house in the moments after the fatal shotgun blast was fired.

Judge Mr Justice Mark Wall remanded them in custody after the jury returned their verdicts after just over two days of deliberation.

Saffari, 39, of Park Lane, Middlesbrough; 33-year-old Pirija, of Trillo Avenue, Bolton; and Marku, 24, of West Drayton, will be sentenced tomorrow morning.

Speaking after the verdict, Craig Bartram of Crown Prosecution Service North East, said: “We have drawn upon significant amounts of digital evidence, including CCTV and mobile phone data, to comprehensively piece together the movements of these men in the days leading up to Hemawand Ali Hussain’s death.

“It is clear from that evidence that there was a significant degree of planning involved in the ambush of Mr Hussain. Members of the gang were caught on CCTV purchasing an axe, rope and ties from a branch of B&Q prior to the attack. They also arranged for keys to the property to be obtained from a local estate agent and copied, before luring Mr Hussein to the empty address.

“I would hope that the conviction of these men today provides some measure of comfort to the family of Hemawand Ali Hussain.”

The Northern Echo | Teesside