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The Sister who Grassed.

Okoro shooting - whistleblowing & risk solutions

The names in this article have been changed to protect the people involved from further internet coverage. But the press cuttings are real.

In this post I will explain how intelligence resulted in four men being sentenced to 39 years in prison for an attempted murder, and another Intelligence report helped us find the gunman in Spain.

We never did find out the motive for this senseless attack. Two gangs, one from Huddersfield, the other Sheffield, happened to be in the same nightclub when an altercation broke out between them. These things can escalate quickly when a gang member perceives his character has been assaulted. And on this night, what started as a ‘scuffle’ resulted in a man being hospitalised with a gunshot wound that he was exceptionally lucky to have survived from.

Poor Structure

I am no shrinking violet. I never have been. And I had noticed that the set up of the Criminal Investigation Department in Huddersfield was allowing serious firearm incidents to go by not investigated properly. Incidents were being reported and the on-duty ‘reactive’ crime team would deal with them. But they weren’t realising the incidents were connected, and because they were shift workers, tended to ‘move on’ from investigations because the next day brought another raft of crime.

I was at that time the head of the drugs team. I directed the team we had to change focus to start detecting the shootings – we were having more than Leeds and Bradford. Put together.

When this shooting came in, I was at a retirement ‘do’ in Wakefield. I got the call because the on-call Detective Inspector wasn’t picking up. I turned out to Huddersfield.

The two gangs had fallen out in a nightclub and then come across each other in the centre of Huddersfield. The Huddersfield group, decided to teach the Sheffield lot a lesson. They sent one of the gang to pick up a gun. He left the scene and returned shortly after, passing the firearm to a lad called Brad Okoron. Okoron was led by another of the team. A man called John Collie. Collie was the brawn and ‘brains’ and essentially used Okoron as a stoodge.

Newspaper article of the shooting.

We believe Okoron fired two shots towards the group (and other innocent people). At least we believed this because we recovered two bullets. One from the street and one from the inside of a car linked to the Sheffield group. He fired indiscriminately and could have killed anyone.

One Witness

Despite at least fifty people being on the street at the time, we only had one eye witness. This is a problem with gun crime. No one wants to testify or be linked as a witness to it. The one witness we did have could only detail what happened, not identify anyone nor name them. For that individual we used ‘special measures’ to protect them at court. We gave them a pseudonym that doesn’t even indicate gender. I think, from memory, we also protected their voice when they gave evidence, but my memory is a little sketchy on this.

One of the bullets entered the rear nearside window of the car. It hit the driver in the head, causing a gash down the right hand-side of his head. He escaped almost certain death by maybe an inch. The bullet then hit the windscreen but didn’t penetrate it. So it was in the car- this was unrefutable.

Then began whacky races as a number of cars crashed into each other as the Shefield group fled the scene. The victim was taken to Huddersfield Royal Infrimary. The police attended due to a disturbance there and found the victim and his gang members. Eight were arrested. Including the victim.

I took this action to arrest, because at that point we didn’t know who had shot at whom and no one was cooperating – criminals rarely do. All of them had criminal convictions and all of them would be able to tell us a story in the morning. I had little hope at that point any would give evidence. Even when they’ve been shot they don’t ‘grass’.

It’s only when they die to criminals give evidence – from the grave.

Early Stage Evidence.

In any investigation the lead investigator has to set the trajectory. I was very clear from minute one we were going to detect this incident and send people to prison. I firmly put this to the team and Imaintained that outlook throughout – beyond every setback. We simply HAD to get a grip of idiots shooting at each other across the streets of Huddersfield packed with the public. Early priority actions were set, the team was formed and we set off with a clear mandate. Find them and put them behind bars.

The Scene

Of course it is easy for me to state these things, that we will find them. Much harder to make that happen. The scene yielded little evidence. A bullet was recovered but was damaged beyond recognition. The CCTV operators failed to switch the cameras into ‘live’ record, so we had time lapse footage that was grainy and jumped with time missing between the footage.

We had one eye witness who didn’t progress the investigation beyond what we already knew. We even had a power cut that night, which meant shops and takeaway premises CCTV systems had switched off and didn’t come back on when the power was restored. Meaning we had little useful footage.

The Nightclub

Doorstaff refused to give us statements and I had to threaten the management and force people out of jobs because of it. We recovered their CCTV and managed to identify the Sheffiled group. We also recognised some of our local criminals but couldn’t place them at the scene of the shooting. What we did do is identify the gunman in both locations – from his clothing. So we knew the main players but not the name of the shooter. We were one step, albeit a small one to finding him. I employed a height analysis expert to map the gunman’s movements outside the club and then measure his position on the footage with a measuring device to give us his height. I had a ‘gait’ analysis expert watch the footage to see if he could match it to any other footage and confirm it was the same person. Just in readiness for the shooter coming into custody with the same unusual walking style he had, captured on the cell suite CCTV system.

I had the CCTV footage viewed by a facial mapping expert. Even though the footage was poor, if we could get an expert to say the man on the footage, was the suspect, clearly that would help our case. Opinionevidence isn’t the best however, it aids it doesn’t convict. There is always another expert with a counter view.

During the week after the shooting, the case was moving slowly. Then we got an anonymous tip off. The informant told us that the shooter was a guy called Bradley and he was from Manchester. We checked the intelligence systems but couldn’t identify anyone. We couldn’t even go to Greater Manchester Police with that, it was way too broad.

So we sat watching the cells across West Yorkshire waiting for someone to come into custody named Bradley who was born in Manchester.

About a week later, we found someone in the cells. Our cells! He had been arrested for a domestic incident with his sister for the theft of her dog. Interestingly, he had shaved his eyebrows off. His head was already shaven. We resolved he had done this to stop the police being able to comb his hair looking for gunshot residue -tiny particles that are deposited when a gun is fired. It was highly unlikley we would have recovered this anyway because of the time lapse from the crime to his arrest.

It was Brad Okoron. I sent the team to go and take a look at him and we went to Manchester to get a statement off his sister. The team confirmed they believed he was as good a suspect as we were ever going to get.

The Sister

While the team were searching the Manchester address, looking for the gun, the sister told one of them we had the right man for the shooting in Huddersfield. We started to get that into a statement but she then refused to sign it.

Okoron, Collie and two others made no comments to all questions posed in interviews. We secured gunshot residue from the back seat of a getaway car some of them had used. We recovered gunshot residue from Collie’s clothing, worn on the night.

Now this bit is policing. Mistakes get made because it is human endeavour. Step forward the first person who hasn’t made a mistake…

We recovered the car the victim was sat inwhen he was shot. I had it searched for the bullet, it was quite clearly still in it. Nothing. So I had it searched again. Nothing. So I had it searched by the Ops Support Unit (riot and specialist search team). Despite them removing the dashboard, they still didn’t find the bullet. So a DS and myself went to search the car a final time. Guess what. We found the bullet. Under the flipping driver’s seat! I was not a happy cop that day.

We had the bullet forensically recovered and photographed in situ. I tried to calm myself down by thinking the OSU had probably dislodged it in the dashboard and it wasn’t under the seat all the time.

Forensic results proved it had impacted the windscreen and it had the DNA of the victim on it making it conclusive he had been shot and this was the bullet that did it. We didn’t need his evidence to prove it.

Small steps

Each little bit of evidence was slowly taking us down the road of convicting the men. But how many of them? and for what? Were we just going to detect a criminal damage to street furniture damaged in the getaway melee? Or could we get to an attempt murder charge?

One final push

I have talked in my blogs about corrupt police officers. Maybe life in the police isn’t quite like the ‘line of duty’ TV series but the general thrust of corrupt cops and criminals in cahoot is true.

I had authority to use intrusive surveillance and the covert recording of the gang to try and see if they spoke about the incident at all. I had a room bugged and also a van. When they came out of police custody for the final time, we had interviewed them in a separate police station so we could deploy the equipment and try and get them talking. Two of them did. Two of them didn’t, the two that didn’t made it plainly obvious they knew/suspected equipment had been deployed. This was either because we had taken an unusual step in the move of cell area -or they knew. I hope the former.

The Charge

We managed to cobble enough evidence together to get four of them to court. It was always going to be a closely decided ‘contest’ but something happened that I think helped us over the line.

Okoron went on the run.

The case was adjourned a number of times but we had no clue where Okoron had gone. The Judge finally decided to hear it in his absence.

The Conviction

Thanks to a brilliant jury who listened attentively to all the evidence John Collie got 11 years, Len Huges got 10 years, Brad Okoron (in his absence) got 18 years, and Rizwan Haider got a suspended sentence. Haider was the getaway driver and Huges had collected the gun to bring to the scene.

I found Okoron eventually hiding in Spain. He had been convicted there for drug trafficking under the name Daniel Smith (he had possession of a ‘lost’ passport in that name). This was again due to a tip off that he had fled the country. I pursued that through Interpol, eventually getting his fingerprints matched with ‘Daniel Smith’ in Spain.

What’s the Point of telling you this?

Had we not had the tip offs and the statement made by Okoron’s sister, we would not have detected this shooting. For every offence that criminals get away with, it breeds contempt for the justice system. It makes them more confident they can do it again and again. We use the anology of ‘Where’s wally?’ to depict this theory. As in the criminal first just looks over the wall. Then leans over, then climbs on top and then takes the leap into full blown criminality. It is rarely a single leap from nothing into stealing or committing fraud. Or in this case shooting someone. It is incremental steps.

Steps that you can stop before the real crime starts. The crime that can hurt your business or its reputation.

All the forensic we gathered would have taken us nowhere. It is human evidence that catches criminals. Without a doubt in my mind, if you have 100 plus employees in your business more than a few of them are committing criminal acts.

We’re currently calling businesses across the UK to tell help them know what’s going on in their organisations. Because believe me, with the career I have had, I have absolutely no doubt crimes are being committed inside businesses across the country. And the policearen’t helping you with that. They focus on ‘Threat, Risk and Harm, and they do thatwith vulnerability coming first for resource allocation. The Home Secretary has stated less than 1% of policing resource is dedicated to fraud – and almost zero to Business fraud.

And the business owners (almost all) don’t even know crime is happening. When we call we are told, ‘we already have a system for people to tell us,’ but scratch the surface and we then uncover no employee has ever reported anything via their system. Kind of begs the questions, what’s the point of the ‘system’ if no one is using it?

Does this mean nothing is being stolen, no employee is being harassed, or the business is acting ethically on all fronts?

Absolutely not. It means your employees aren’t telling you what is going on.

And they aren’t telling you because all the stats tell us they don’t trust internal reporting systems,or systems that are not anonymous.

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Read more of my crime detection exploits here.