Acquitted of Sharma'arke Hassan Shooting

Camden New Journal

Mother distraught as trio walk free from the Old Bailey

Published: 17 June 2010

THERE were emotional scenes at the Old Bailey yesterday (Wednesday) after two young men and a teenager accused of murdering Sharma’arke Hassan walked free.

Chen Shire, 23, from Kentish Town, Didi Parkes, 25, from Willesden, and a 17-year-old, who cannot be named because of his age, were found not guilty of shooting Sharma’arke, also 17, who lived in Agar Grove, Camden Town.

The jury’s verdict was greeted with loud cheers from the families and friends of the three defendants.

In stark contrast, the victim’s mother lay outside the courtroom in tears, her howls of anguish heard throughout the Old Bailey corridors.

Outside the court, Mr Shire’s uncle, George Shire, offered his sympathy to the Hassan family and accused the police of “bungling” the investigation.

Mr Shire, a prominent Zimbabwean political analyst and university academic, said: “Four black families, including that of the murdered boy, have been mistreated by the criminal justice system.

“His [Sharma’arke] parents needs closure. They too have been failed by police. They have led the family to believe that these boys were to blame. It is grossly horrible.

“One of the most worrying things is the way in which the police have failed to investigate seriously a murder in Camden and what has been going on in the borough.

“They have lost the confidence of the community. The police bungled this from beginning to end.”

Chen was alleged to have “kept watch” during the “revenge and retribution” shooting of Sharma’arke in Gilbey’s Yard, Camden Town, in May 2008 after the younger boy was beaten up and robbed for £10.

The prosecution said the alleged robbery was a gang-related attack.

In the words of prosecution counsel Crispin Aylett QC the shooting “had all the hallmarks of a carefully organised hit”.

Throughout the trial jurors have heard of gun, knife, and hammer attacks in Camden – “part of growing up” in the borough said one QC – and links to the lucrative drugs trade.

The trial had heard how Sharma’arke – known as “Sharkey” to his friends – was believed to be a member of The Money Squad (TMS) gang and had been stabbed at a Hampstead Heath fairground in the months before his death.

The court was told how another member of TMS gang was shot the night before Sharma’arke.

His mother Fatima, who lives in Camden Town, strenuously denied her son was involved in drugs or with any gang crime during her evidence.

Bernard Richmond, QC, for the youngest accused, insisted he had no idea of the identities of the three attackers who had mugged him and left him bloodied, bruised and unconscious.

Sharma’arke was punched and kicked before they “scarpered” in different directions after going through his pockets, the court heard.

The prosecution case rested on “cell site evidence” from mobile phone masts placing the accused in Camden Town that night.

The calls, it was claimed, were made to organise the murder and not, as the youngest accused insisted during his evidence, to mundanely arrange being taken to hospital as he felt unwell after his beating.

The jury were taken through hours of CCTV footage and were told how some of the images were lost after a disk became “corrupted” in a police laboratory. The evidence was not backed-up due to costs.

No murder weapon was found and no forensic evidence linked any of the accused to the scene.

In summing up last week, Harenda de Silva, QC, for Mr Parkes, told the jury the prosecution case was “supposition and conjecture” and that hints of Parkes “having a dark side” were false.

Mr de Silva added: “There is no direct evidence against Mr Parkes. There is no gun and no forensic evidence of any kind to link him to this crime.”

Defence barrister Brendan Kelly, QC, for Chen Shire, who did not give evidence, said he had no links with gangs and had no criminal record.

He said Mr Shire did not have the “capacity” for murder adding that the prosecution case did not “add up” and was based mostly on “speculation” and “guess work”.

In the end, the prosecution was forced to admit there was “no direct evidence” but suggested this was because of the cleverness of the accused.

Outside the court yesterday, his uncle George described a “harrowing” two years.

He said: “I am very angry – not just in terms of my own family. There was no forensic evidence. There was no ID. The CCTV was blurred. They had a hypothesis and that was it.

“The idea that a 15-year-old boy could mastermind an assassination like that is absurd. Why did they assume it was black-on-black crime – why was it a Trident investigation? If they are going to police young people, they have to understand sub-culture. Our example is just one example, but to me it is evidence of systemic failure.”

Mr Shire’s mother, who did not want to be named, said she had visited her son every week for 13 months while he was held at Belmarsh Prison on remand. She added: “I hope they can let us live now and get on with our lives.”

A spokesman for the Metropolitan police said the not guilty verdict was “obviously not what we were looking for”, adding that last night it was too early to know how the investigation would now progress.