Two brothers who blasted an innocent mum with a shotgun as she cooked cottage pie have been jailed for a total of 48 years. Thomas Lee and James Lee opened fire at Emma Robinson through her window in a revenge attack following a fall out between the brothers and her son.
Miss Robinson was in her kitchen in Westerhope, Newcastle, on a Saturday night when she heard a loud bang and her window breaking before feeling something hit the side of her face and back. As the Lees were jailed for 24 years each, a victim impact statement from Miss Robinson was read out setting out the traumatic effect being shot has had on her. She said she has been left with scars where the pellets were removed from her arm, shoulder and back, which she feels self conscious about.
She added that she has trouble sleeping and suffers from anxiety and depression. Miss Robinson said: “When I’m alone at night I keep thinking about what happened and how much worse my injuries could have been.
She added that she now has black out blinds at her home, doesn’t stand by windows and is nervous when she hears loud bangs, such as fireworks.
Newcastle Crown Court heard it was around 10pm on October 3 last year that Miss Robinson was in her kitchen at Fordmoss Walk, in Westerhope, Newcastle, when the window behind her smashed and she felt pain. She had been shot but didn’t realise what had happened initially.
Miss Robinson said during the trial: “I was making cottage pie in the kitchen, facing the microwave. “I heard a loud, like a bang but I don’t know what type of bang but I could hear the glass at the same time. “I felt something hit the side of my face and I turned round and it’s obviously caught my back. “I went straight through to the living room. There was glass everywhere.”
Asked to elaborate on the bang, she said: “It was like an echo type thing then I felt something hit my face but I don’t know if it was the glass or something else and something hit the top of my back.” She added: “I was in shock at the time. It more sinks in afterwards when you think it could’ve been really serious this.” The court heard windows of the Lee brother’s mother had been put out previously and they were acting out of retaliation or revenge.
At about 1.35am on October 5, the Lees’ cousin, Jordan King, was in his flat at St Keverne Square, about a mile away from Fordmoss Walk, when he was shot at. Prosecutor Simon Myerson QC said it was not necessary for the prosecution to prove a motive for the attacks but told the jury: “As far as we can tell, Jordan King was shot at because he had an argument with one or both of these men and Emma Robinson was shot because earlier on October 3, Thomas Lee and his father had been involved in an argument with her son.
“On October 3 in the afternoon, Thomas Lee was seen outside his father’s address screaming in anger and saying on the phone ‘I’ve done people’s knees before, I’ve used a gun.’
“It appears these two shootings were carried out for revenge and because they were cross.”
The Lees were cleared of trying to murder Mr King, around 26 hours after shooting Miss Robinson but were found guilty of attempting to wound him with intent by firing a shotgun at him but missing.
Prosecutors say she had been shot by Thomas Lee and James Lee in an attempt to murder her after Thomas Lee and his father had been involved in a row with her son.
Miss Robinson didn’t report the matter to the police straight away. When she went to a walk-in centre the following day, she was told, to her shock, that her injuries looked like shotgun wounds.
Jurors were shown photographs of her wounds, including behind her right ear and just above her right eye, some of which were caused by the shotgun pellets and some by flying glass.
Mr Myerson said anyone getting ready to fire at the kitchen in the dark would have known they were not firing into an empty room and that a woman was present.
At about 1.35am on October 5, Mr King was in his flat at St Keverne Square, about a mile away from Fordmoss Walk, when he was shot and wounded in the right side of his neck and right calf.
Neighbours heard arguing and saw two men – one being addressed as Thomas – outside and Mr King hanging out of his window. A witness then saw a man go into the block and heard a shot being fired. He was shot below his right ear in almost exactly the same place as Miss Robinson and also in his right calf. He told a doctor he had been running away when he was shot.
Mr Myerson said: “The prosecution understand Thomas Lee admits he fired the gun but he doesn’t admit he intended to kill or to do really serious harm. He has pleaded guilty to possession of the gun.”
The prosecutor said the brothers hatched a “complicated plan” to shoot the two alleged victims which was aimed at avoiding detection and jurors were given detail about the movements of various vehicles. Jurors were told the sawn-off shotgun and cartridges were found in the boot of a Ford Mondeo they had access to in a place they had no direct connection to.
James Lee admitted dangerous driving after the second attack and was also convicted of possessing ammunition when prohibited due to the fact it was within five years of him being imprisoned for nine months in 2017 for religious or racially aggravated harassment. Thomas Lee admitted possessing a firearm while prohibited.
James Lee also admitted an unrelated charge of child cruelty after wiping what he says was chocolate on a child’s mouth and telling them it was excrement. Thomas Lee admitted assaulting a special constable, racial harassment, assaulting a PC and possessing cannabis.
Now Thomas Lee, 21, of no fixed address, who has 54 previous convictions, and James Lee, 27 of Henry Nelson Street, South Shields, who has 65 previous convictions, have each been jailed for 24 years.
Both will serve at least two-thirds of the 24 years behind bars while Judge Moreland found Thomas Lee was a dangerous offender and imposed an extended licence period of an additional four years. James Lee will also be banned from driving for a year after his release.
Jason Pitter QC, for Thomas Lee, said he was still young and probably has autism and Toby Hedworth QC for James Lee, said the first shooting was a revenge attack and the second an argument that got out of hand.
Crime families feuds Newcastle
Kenneth Thompson was firing expanding bullets from a semi-automatic pistol out of a moving vehicle at a car to “intimidate or send a message”, a court heard. He was full of rage after his teen relative had been shot earlier by the Egan/Haq family,
After firing at least five rounds at the Dacia vehicle in Elswick, he fled the area and disposed of the weapon, which was then thrown into the River Tyne. It was a teatime on summer’s day in a cul-de-sac in the West End of Newcastle when the peace was pierced by the sounds of gunshots.
Now the 45-year-old has been jailed for six years at Newcastle Crown Court after he admitted firearms and ammunition charges.
Locking him up Judge Julie Clemitson said while there was no evidence any members of the public were present, it was likely children could have been in the area and Thompson’s actions had caused a “serious, even fatal risk to any bystanders”, although his intention was not to cause injury.
The judge told Thompson: “Your intention was to intimidate or to send a message to others such that you took the law into your own hands. “Such lawlessness is a significant aggravating factor.
“Sentences for using guns will always be severe because there must be an element of deterrence, as they can cause serious, often fatal injuries when they are used.” Judge Clemitson added: “It was a residential area, homes and gardens face on to the cul-de-sac where the car was parked.
“There is no evidence any members of the public were in the close vicinity but at that time of day, during the school summer holidays, it would be highly likely children would be out in the street or playing in gardens around that time. “You could not possibly have known there was nobody in a garden very close by at the time you can be seen to open fire from the moving vehicle as it drove past.
“You fired the gun five times and the risk you caused was obvious.
“This was a prohibited weapon with a substantial quantity of ammunition and it allowed rapid firing of multiple shots. The nature of the ammunition and quantity of it is a serious aggravating factor.” The court heard the drive-by took place around 5.45pm on August 6 last year, in Gloucester Way, Elswick, which Thompson entered as a passenger in a Vauxhall Grandland.
Matthew Donkin, prosecuting, said: “There was a history of a feud which led to this shooting.”
Referring to footage of the incident, Mr Donkin added: “Playback shows a passenger holding out of the window a pistol which was used to fire at the Dacia.
“By Kenneth Thompson’s admission, he is the rear nearside passenger. “He was driven to the scene and began firing at the Dacia.” The Vauxhall, with an unknown man at the wheel, drove away before returning for a short time then left the scene.
The court heard police were not informed straight away but when they attended two days later, local residents confirmed they had heard gunshots fired that week. Police went on to recover the semi automatic pistol from the Tyne a week after the shooting, in a plastic bag along with a box of ammunition.
The safety catch of the .22 gun was off but it was not loaded, the court heard.
Referring to aggravating features, Mr Donkin said: “This was a semi-automatic weapon and hollow point bullets. “The weapon was discharged in a residential area at teatime in August when members of the public, including children, could be expected to be in the area.”
Thompson, of Bentinck Street, Elswick, Newcastle, who has 42 previous convictions, pleaded guilty to having a firearm with intent to commit an offence of criminal damage, possessing a firearm and more than 80 cartridges of ammunition and criminal damage. Tony Davis, defending, said: “His intention was clearly to cause the criminal damage he did.
“This was in broad daylight at teatime but there were no people around. The reconnoitring of the property earlier on would have made sure he knew there was no-one around. “He bitterly, bitterly regrets his actions. He has taken a stupid decision and expects to be punished for it. “He was not working for an organised crime group or anything like that.”
After the case, Detective Sergeant Katie Smith, of Northumbria Police’s Homicide and Major Enquiry Team (HMET), said: “If you discharge a firearm in a public place then you should expect to be put behind bars. “On this occasion Kenneth Thompson has behaved in a reckless and dangerous manner when he reached out of that car and pulled the trigger. “That kind of behaviour puts lives at risk and on another day that action could have easily resulted in someone being seriously injured or killed.
Organised cirme families are nothing new in Newcastle and last year a family were jailed for a similar shooting for revenge incident. The fourth and final member of a Newcastle crime family who plotted a revenge shooting has been convicted and jailed.
In March this year, Thomas Tams and his two daughters Kerry and Charlotte were jailed for more than 15 years after the relative of a rival was shot in the leg in Elswick.
The incident was the result of a bitter feud between Kenneth Thompson and Leon Haq, which had seen the latter request the help of the Tams and associate Barry Lynn.
After Thompson fired shots at a car belonging to the Tams, a plot was hatched to get back at him, culminating in the Bentick Road shooting.
And now, the final member of the Tams’ organised crime group has been sentenced for her role.
Thomas’s ex-partner, Mary Egan,48, had always denied her role in the conspiracy, but was today (Thursday) found guilty and jailed for more than four years after an eight-day trial at Newcastle Crown Court. It was alleged the 48-year-old had tried to cover up the attack which happened on August 7, 2019, by disposing of the weapon however Egan denied this and the weapon was never recovered.
Her conviction ends criminal proceedings which had already seen six people jailed for more than 40 years following a complex investigation launched by Northumbria Police’s Homicide and Major Enquiry Team (HMET). Speaking after the trial, senior investigating officer Detective Chief Inspector Ed Small, said: “I want to make it absolutely clear that there is no place whatsoever for this type of behaviour and it will not be tolerated.
“Today’s conviction and sentencing marks the end of a complex investigation and I want to thank all members of the public, officers, crime scene investigators and digital experts who have helped us piece together what happened on the evening of these shootings.
“Every single person involved in this case has now been brought before the courts and held responsible for their truly appalling actions. “We will continue to tackle organised crime in all its forms under the banner of Operation Sentinel and help ensure the area remains one of the safest in the country to live, work and visit.”
In the early hours of August 7, 2019, they were informed a 19-year-old relative of Thompson had been admitted to hospital with a gunshot wound to his leg.
Their enquiries quickly uncovered a second shooting had taken place just hours before the teenager was injured where a car belonging to the Tams family had been damaged by a gunshot.
Egan, of Hawthorn Walk, Elswick, was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in jail.
Previously, Thomas Tams, 61, of Bishop’s Road, Benwell, was jailed for six-and-a-half years. His daughter Kerry, 27, of Hawthorn Walk was jailed for six years and her sister Charlotte, 21, of Silvermere Drive in Ryton, was jailed for three years. All were found guilty of possessing a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence.
Both Leon Haq, 40, and Barry Lynn, 41, initially denied the same charge and a section 20 assault before changing their pleas to guilty during their trials.
Haq, of Newbold Street, Byker, also admitted two counts of making threats to kill and was jailed for 10 years. Lynn, of Colby Court, Benwell, was jailed for nine years.
Kenneth Thompson, 47, of Bentinck Street, Elswick, was jailed for six years after he admitted possession of a loaded firearm in a public place and criminal damage.