Eight men involved in a UK-wide conspiracy which saw a gun fired at a home have been jailed.
The shot was fired at a home in South Shields as part of a plot to lay down a warning to a rival in September 2021.
Northumbria Police said Paul Momat and right-hand man Joseph Millward had initiated the plot, enlisting the help of London-based criminal Colin Crawley and associate James Townsend, to be the architects of the daylight shooting, with Caspian Bhinder acting as the middle man.
Following weeks of planning, two men – shooter Stefan Simpson and Ashlee McKenzie – travelled 300 miles from London to South Tyneside to carry out the offence.
On the afternoon of 16 September 2021, Simpson discharged a handgun at an address on Heaton Gardens, just moments after the victim had stepped outside his front door.
The sophisticated plot saw Simpson and McKenzie given access to accommodation in Gateshead as well as use of a stolen car, which was arranged by Tyran Baglin.
As part of an investigation, detectives pored through hundreds of hours of CCTV footage which showed the suspects’ movements, as well as thousands of calls and encrypted messages sent between the defendants.
Officers went on to identify the address on Rayleigh Grove in Gateshead where Simpson and McKenzie had stayed in the hours before the attack. Inside they found a set of car keys that had been concealed behind the television.
The keys opened a stolen VW car that had been discarded on a nearby street, which they had used during the offence. Upon searching the vehicle, officers also located the handgun that had been stashed inside the glove box.
In the weeks following the shooting Northumbria Police, supported by the Metropolitan Police, carried out a series of dawn raids across South Tyneside and London with a number of suspects arrested.
Telephones, weapons and cash were also seized from various addresses, including £30,000 from Crawley’s home and £6,000 from an address associated to Momat.
In 2022, four of the men – Millward, Crawley, Bhinder and Baglin – all admitted being part of a conspiracy to possess a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence when they appeared before Newcastle Crown Court.
The remaining four – Momat, Townsend, Simpson and McKenzie – all denied their involvement but were found guilty by a jury following an 11-week trial at the same court in January this year.
Momat, Baglin and Millward also admitted a separate offence of failing to disclose the key to protected information relating to their mobile phone under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA).
Five of the men were sentenced at Newcastle Crown Court in March this year – while the other three defendants have also since been jailed, with the final two appearing at Newcastle Crown Court on Friday 12 May.
The eight men jailed are:
Paul Momat, 36, of Owen Drive, West Boldon, jailed for a total of nine years; eight years after being found guilty of conspiracy to possess a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence plus an extra year for failing to disclose the key to protected information.
Joseph Millward, 29, of Davy Close, Hebburn, jailed for a total of five years and 11 months after admitting conspiracy to possess a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence and failing to disclose the key to protected information.
Colin Crawley, 46, of Woodall Court, Croydon, jailed for six years and five months after admitting conspiracy to possess firearm with intent to cause fear of violence.
James Townsend, 45, of Hawksmoor Road, Oxford, jailed for eight years after being found guilty of conspiracy to possess a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence.
Caspian Bhinder, 34, of Babbington Road, Streatham, jailed for five years and two months after admitting conspiracy to possess firearm with intent to cause fear of violence.
Stefan Simpson, 24, of St Matthew’s Road, London, jailed for seven years and three months after being found guilty of conspiracy to possess firearm with intent to cause fear of violence.
Ashlee McKenzie, 33, of Wandsworth Road, Lambeth, jailed for six years after being found guilty of conspiracy to possess firearm with intent to cause fear of violence.
Tyran Baglin, 24, of no fixed abode, jailed for a total of three years and eight months; three years and two months after admitting conspiracy to possess firearm with intent to cause fear of violence and an extra six months for failing to disclose the key to protected information.
Momat, Crawley and Millward were also handed Serious Crime Prevention Orders (SCPOs) to deter further offending.
Detective Superintendent Jane Fairlamb, of Northumbria Police, said: “This was an appalling shooting that was the result of weeks of careful planning by the co-conspirators, with each defendant trusted to play their part in its execution.
“While nobody was ultimately hurt, this behaviour is totally unacceptable and we hope these sentences send a strong message. We will not tolerate serious violence on our streets.
“I am pleased that all eight co-conspirators have been put behind bars. This outcome was possible thanks to some outstanding teamwork between Northumbria Police, Metropolitan Police, Thames Valley Police, North East Regional Organised Crime Unit (NEROCU) and our criminal justice partners.
“While incidents involving firearms are rare in Northumbria, when they do occur, we are prepared to use all tactics at our disposal to deliver effective justice against those involved.
“Under the banner of Operation Sentinel, we will continue to take swift and robust action against anybody involved in serious and violent crime.”
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