Richard Harrison-Allen, said to go under the gang name of ‘Scarface’, has been cleared by the Old Bailey of the murder of a teenage footballer.
Harrison-Allen, now 22, and another man, Sheldon Small, aged 20, were charged with shooting dead 17-year-old Etem Celebi, a semi-professional footballer player with Leyton FC, on the streets of Stoke Newington in 2007. Etem Celebi, the 23rd teenager to be shot or stabbed in London that year, was a friend of the singer Leona Lewis, who expressed her condolences to the Elebi family at the time.
Harrison-Allen, from Hackney and Small, from Stoke Newington, stood trial for the murder at the Old Bailey in September 2008. Small was acquitted, but the jury failed to reach a verdict on Harrison-Allen. However, he was convicted at his retrial at St Albans Crown Court and sentenced to a minimum of 26 years in jail. The verdict was subsequently quashed on appeal and a third trial ordered – which has ended with Harrison-Allen finally being found not guilty after five hours of deliberation by the jury. Harrison-Allen gave a thumbs up in the dock after the verdict.
Harrison-Allen did not give evidence in the case but his barrister claimed he had been wrongly identified by two eyewitnesses.
Jurors heard Mr Celebi was affiliated with the Smalley Man Dem gang based in Stoke Newington. It was claimed they were attacked by rival members of the Stamford Hill Man Dem gang during a tit-for-tat battle over territory.
The court heard that Mr Celebi had been standing with four friends on the pavement at around 9.45pm on November 17, 2007, when two hooded youths approached and asked: “What ends you from?” The gunmen moved forward and started firing their weapons. Mr Celebi tried to hide behind a car but was shot as he tried to escape.
Eye witness Macail Thompson, a childhood friend of the victim who watched the attack from his front window in Smalley Close described the scene: “He [Etem] was hiding outside my house behind my mum’s car. I was looking out the window and one of the gunmen was right outside my house. He was trying to hit one of them with the gun, trying to shoot one of them. I don’t think he could really see them but he knew they were there. Etem ran down the road and there was a couple of shots fired. I thought they were blanks. When I came out of the house I saw him lying on the floor.”
Although five shots were fired the sixth bullet hit Mr Celebi in the back, passing through his stomach and liver. He died of internal bleeding.
Harrison-Allen, who has already served 18 months of the earlier sentence, has always denied murder.