Tuesday 12 November 2019

Smiling killers who shot dead devoted father at traffic lights given life terms

(Left to right) Vikesh Chauhan, Mohammed Humza and Jaspal Rai
(Left to right) Vikesh Chauhan, Mohammed Humza and Jaspal Rai

Richard Vernalls

Three smiling killers who gunned down a devoted father at point-blank range in a drive-by shooting have been jailed.

Carl Campbell died in a hail of bullets fired through his windscreen as he was ambushed at a set of traffic lights on December 27 last year.

A witness had spoken of seeing his murderers laughing, smiling and appearing "happy" after the deadly attack, as they dumped their stolen getaway car.

Giving trigger-man Mohammed Humza, and accomplices Vikesh Chauhan and Jaspal Rai life sentences, a judge told the trio they carried out a "planned and pre-meditated" crime in a revenge attack over a stolen diamond-studded luxury watch.

Mr Justice Charles Haddon-Cave said this was "not a spur of the moment attack" and the men had "tailed and targeted" Campbell - a passenger in a Ford Fiesta.

He said: "I am satisfied the defendants were each minor players in the drugs scene but this shooting represents altogether different level of violence, borne of the dystopian drug-dealing world they inhabited."

Mr Justice Haddon-Cave added each man "played their respective role in this jointly planned attack".

The judge said the shooting near a busy shopping street "could easily have injured or killed ordinary citizens going about their daily lives".

As the men pulled up in an Audi Q5 driven by Chauhan, Humza wound down the rear window and fired a .44 Magnum handgun five times at Campbell's car at a range of just 10ft.

The attack, in broad daylight, saw three rounds rip through the windscreen, while another was found embedded in the wing mirror.

Campbell, 33, died instantly in the assault near West Bromwich town centre, West Midlands, when one of the bullets ricocheted off the dashboard and hit him in the head.

Police later found a Smith & Wesson revolver, a sheathed knife and plastic gloves in gardens near the dumped Audi, while DNA and fingerprint evidence linked the trio to the murder.

Humza, 20, and Chauhan, 24, of no fixed address, were arrested shortly after abandoning their getaway car.

Meanwhile, Rai, 24, fled abroad but was picked up in a Belgian hostel just over a week after the attack, and spent 37 days in a Brussels jail before being handed to UK police.

The judge said the shooting had been a revenge attack over a stolen Cartier watch, although the victim's family disputed the implication he had been involved in the theft.

In mitigation, Henry Blaxland QC for Chauhan, said the sentence for what he described as "the simple, hair-brained stupidity as this venture" would be a "crushing blow" to his client, who would be "spending the best years of his life in prison".

Barrister Balbir Singh said dessert firm delivery driver Humza, was only 19 when he pulled the trigger, was a "follower, not a leader" who had pleaded guilty to murder part-way through his trial, and expressed "very great remorse".

Rod Johnson QC, for Rai, of no fixed address, said: "Although he has lent his support to what was clearly a joint enterprise, Mr Rai's role, we say, was a lesser one."

Jailing the men at Birmingham Crown Court on Tuesday, the judge said: "Five bullets from very powerful handgun, a .44 Magnum, were fired from very close range."

He added: "The Audi was very carefully positioned to have optimum angle and closeness to provide a shooting position.

"It can only have been intended to kill."

Humza was sentenced to custody for life with a minimum of 28 years, six months.

Rai and Chauhan were each given life terms with a minimum of 30 years in jail, less time served.

The victim's father, Julian Campbell, said in a statement read to the court that his "world had fallen apart".

He described his "kind and generous son" as a "special person".

Mr Campbell added: "His death has left a massive void in my life I will never be able to fill - I feel my life is ruined and I live only for my sons who are still here."

The dead man's partner and mother of his two-year-old son, Chantelle Dudley, said: "My heart aches constantly.

"He was a brilliant dad.

"I feel very alone now and am very worried about our son's future."

PA Media

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