Thirteen members of a gang have been convicted after a man was killed during a robbery.
Xhovan Pepaj lost his life in December 2021 when the group tried to steal cannabis plants from a property in Caley Road, Tunbridge Wells.
Mr Pepaj challenged the gang when they arrived at the property but was fatally stabbed.
Kent Police were called to the house and found cannabis plants discarded along the road leading up to the house.
When they arrived, there was a locked metal gate, from floor to ceiling, which initially prevented officers from accessing the upstairs of the building where Mr Pepaj had been left with multiple stab wounds.
Fire crews managed to assist in getting in and the 25-year-old was declared deceased at the scene. A bloodstained knife was found nearby.
Within 24 hours, five people were arrested. A further eight suspects were tracked down in the following weeks.
In total, 13 people were charged and the trial was split into two due to the high number of defendants.
The first trial was held in Loughborough. It was followed, on May 18, 2023, by sentencings at the Old Bailey.
Ciaran Stewart, 20, of Curtis Road, Hornchurch, Essex, was found guilty of murder. He had previously admitted conspiracy to commit robbery. He was sentenced to life imprisonment and will serve a minimum of 26 years before he can be considered for parole.
While Kelvin Amoako, 18, of Norfolk Road, Ilford, Greater London, and Bartosz Malawski, 28, of Mitcham Road, Croydon, were both found guilty of murder and conspiracy to commit robbery. They were sentenced to life imprisonment and will serve a minimum of 22 years.
Nathan Rainforth, 22, of Gloucester Road, Pilgrims Hatch, Essex, was found guilty of manslaughter and conspiracy to commit robbery. He was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years.
‘The victim was repeatedly attacked with a knife and beaten and stood no chance of defending himself...’
Donte Simpson-Palmer, 19, of Evesham Walk, Myatts Fields South, London was found guilty of manslaughter and conspiracy to commit robbery. He was sentenced to six years.
Charles Reilly, 28, of Roman Road, Mount Nessing, Essex, was found guilty of conspiracy to commit robbery. He was jailed for ten years.
Mohammed Miah, 26, of Highfield Road, Romford, Essex was found guilty of conspiracy to commit robbery. He was sentenced to six-and-a-half years.
Proceedings concerning the other defendants continued in the months that followed.
Ray Renda, 23, of Albany Road, Pilgrims Hatch, Brentwood, Essex pleaded guilty at Isleworth Crown Court to counts of manslaughter and conspiracy to commit robbery.
In July, a crown court trial was held for the remaining five offenders at the Law Courts in Brighton.
It involved Jonathan Hedges, 26, of Walton Road, Romford, Greater London, Nathan Turner, 30, of Myrtle Road, Warley, Brentwood, Essex, Zach Cutting, 25, of Roundhills, Waltham Abbey, Essex, Glen Hough, 52, of Larchwood Gardens, Pilgrims Hatch, Essex and Fabian Szymula, 21, of Callan Grove, South Ockendon, Essex.
On Thursday September 14, a jury found them all guilty of conspiracy to rob, but found not guilty of manslaughter.
Szymula was also found guilty of perverting the course of justice, in relation to a note passed to a defendant in the first trial.
The six men will be sentenced at the same court on October 30.
Detective Superintendent Gavin Moss said: “The brutal murder of Mr Pepaj was the result of a planned raid by an organised criminal gang, who travelled to Tunbridge Wells from Essex in three vehicles to steal large quantities of cannabis.
“Things started to go wrong when associates of the victim arrived at the property and this quickly escalated with tragic consequences.
“Ciaran Stewart called 999 in fear of his life and was heard by the call handler shouting to Amoako to stab Mr Pepaj.
“The victim was repeatedly attacked with a knife and beaten and stood no chance of defending himself.
“It says a lot about their mentality that as some of the offenders drove from the scene they appeared oblivious to the fact someone had just been murdered and instead filmed themselves bragging and laughing about the drugs they had stolen.
“We have worked relentlessly to ensure every single offender involved in this incident has faced justice and the lengthy prison sentences reflect the senseless loss of life and needless violence associated with the supply of drugs.”