Three men jailed for 45 years over fatal stabbing linked to Bristol cannabis factory row

Radian Lika (left) and Brikel Palaj (right) will serve 20 years for the murder of Aranit Lleshi Credit: Avon and Somerset Police

Three men have been jailed for a total of 45 years after a man was stabbed to death during a fight over a Bristol cannabis factory.

Brikel Palaj and Radian Lika have both been sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 20 years each for the murder of Aranit Lleshi.

Nikola Palaj was handed a five-year prison sentence for manslaughter.

A fourth man, Kastriot Mhillaj, who was also involved in the incident admitted to violent disorder prior to the trial taking place and was sentenced to 18 weeks, which he has already served.

Mr Lleshi was stabbed to death on 24 May 2022. Credit: Avon and Somerset Police

He and his brother had been growing cannabis in a terraced house on Bloomfield Road in Brislington for several months.

During an earlier trial at Bristol Crown Court, a jury heard how the criminal group who “owned” the cannabis crop were protecting it from another group who intended to steal it.

Mr Lleshi was part of the group protecting the crop.

The group of men including Brikel Palaj, Radian Lika, Nikola Palaj and Khastriot Mhillaj drove from London and waited in the nearby Avon Meads shopping complex to take control of the £95,000 crop.

In total, £95,000 worth of drugs were found in the cannabis factory on Bloomfield Rd Credit: Avon and Somerset Police

Two of the group - Radian Lika and Brikel Palaj - were filmed on CCTV buying knives from a supermarket to use in the street fight in Brislington in May last year.

They circled the car park as, coincidentally, Mr Lleshi and his brother shopped nearby, before the fight broke out shortly after 9pm.

Mr Lleshi suffered catastrophic injuries in the fight.

His brother drove him from the scene to get to a hospital.

On the way, he tried to call an ambulance, but paramedics were unable to save his life.

Nikola Pilaj (left) and Kastriot Mhillaj (right) were also sentenced Credit: Avon and Somerset Police

Following the hearing, Senior Investigating Officer DCI Phil Walker said: “It’s tragic a young man lost his life during this clash between two organised crime groups over a cannabis factory.

“Both groups were from the London area and targeted a quiet south Bristol neighbourhood to engage in wanton violence with weapons, witnessed by those who live there as well as passers-by.

“There’s often organised criminality behind the production of cannabis and we know these groups are using residential houses in streets like this in the hope they can ply their exploitative trade under the radar.

"It’s crucial for members of the public to remain vigilant and report any suspicions around drug activity in their neighbourhood to the police.

“We’d like to express our continuing sympathies to the family of the victim, who have been left devastated by his death, and want to reiterate our thanks to all the witnesses who provided statements and evidence in this case – their assistance has ultimately helped us bring these dangerous men to justice.”

Stella Waata, Senior Crown Prosecutor for the CPS South West Complex Casework Unit, said: “While incidents like this are rare, it shows the risk posed by organised crime groups and why we and our police partners are determined to work together to dismantle them.

“They bring untold misery to our communities, and we will robustly prosecute cases, particularly those involving weapons. I would like to thank the local community for supporting the investigation and those who came forward as witnesses.”

DCI Walker added: “We’d encourage anyone with suspicions about a property in their neighbourhood being used for illegal drug activity to report their observations and concerns to the police – either by calling 101, contacting us online, or providing information anonymously through the independent charity Crimestoppers.”

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