Life sentence for the killer of Connor Smith

A man was sentenced to life imprisonment and another to 20 years for the murder of Connor Smith who was shot dead in Birmingham last year.

Connor Smith Credit: West Midlands Police

Leon Frye has today been sentenced to life imprisonment, to serve a minimum of 30 years, for the murder of Connor Smith who was shot dead in the Hawkesley area of Birmingham on 8 October 2015.

During the four week trial a jury at Birmingham Crown Court heard how 28-year-old Leon Frye and Philip Baillie had robbed friends of the victim of their mobile telephones and some cannabis earlier on that day.

The drugs that the pair stole belonged to Smith.

On hearing of this robbery, Smith set out to retrieve the drugs. Initially he approached Baillie who had already returned the telephones that had been stolen, but not the cannabis.

Later that evening after the defendants threatened Smith’s brother at gun-point, the victim and his friends were involved in a confrontation with Frye, Baillie and another man, Marcus Jones.

Leon Frye (l) and Philip Baillie (r)

That confrontation took place close to Baillie’s home address. It was during that altercation that Smith was shot twice by Frye at point-blank range. The victim collapsed a short distance from where the shots were fired. Paramedics and police were called to the scene of the shooting, but they were unable to save Smith, who died at the scene from his injuries.

Following the shooting the men left the scene and disposed of the gun. All three were, though, arrested in the days following the shooting and charged with a number of offences including the murder of Smith.

In reaching their verdicts the jury rejected Frye’s assertion that he had found the gun at the scene and acted in self-defence by shooting Smith, whom Frye had said was attacking him with a knife at the time he had pulled the trigger.

As well as the murder, Frye were also found guilty of robbery and possessing a firearm whilst committing a robbery.

Baillie was found guilty of the robberies and the firearms offence, but was convicted of manslaughter (the alternative verdict to murder) in respect of the death of Connor Smith and was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment.

Marcus Jones was acquitted of the murder and a related firearms charge.

The death of Connor Smith highlights the grave and tragic consequences of young men becoming involved in the possession and use of illegal firearms.

The CPS and our partners in the criminal justice system are committed to working together to robustly prosecute those who not only possess such weapons, but also use such lethal weapons to deadly effect.

The conviction of these defendants should send out a clear message to those who carry and/or use illegal firearms: you will be identified, arrested and brought before the courts to face justice.

The conviction of these defendants was brought about by the pain-staking and thorough enquiry conducted by officers in the West Midlands Police Force. Both the thoughts of those at the CPS and the officers involved in the case are with the family and friends of Connor Smith at this time.

– Ian Crooks, Senior Crown Prosecutor from West Midlands Crown Prosecution Service