Craig Small, 32, from Wembley, was a ‘peacemaker’ who ‘had changed his life for the better’, his mother had said and he was gunned down in daylight near a shop in Harrow Road, Monks Park, at 8.10pm on Friday 5th July 2019.
Today at the Old Bailey a jury has not been able to reach a verdict in relation to his murder trial.
A retrial will take place next year.
He was shot at point-blank range whilst standing outside a chicken shop in North London, a court has heard he was shot through his right cheek in a “carefully planned” attack on July 5, 2019, that saw his alleged killer escape through a series of pre-arranged getaway cars.
Courtney Ellis, 37, and Aaron Youngsam, 30, have denied his murder, in what the prosecution say was an example of gangland rivalry “boiled over”. Two others have denied perverting the course of justice by helping destroy evidence, after a blue Mini involved in the attack was disposed of.
An Old Bailey jury heard that the successful rapper, who had featured in the music video ‘Bizzy’ on YouTube, was targeted while he stood outside the fast food restaurant Cottage Chicken and Pizza on Harrow Road, Wembley. Ellis is alleged to be the driver of the blue Mini, which pulled up next to Craig whilst an unidentified man got out of the car.
Jurors heard that the victim was approached by the man, who was wearing dark clothing and a face mask, before being shot with a handgun less than a metre away from his face. The bullet struck his right cheek and passed through the base of his brain, before his attacker fired a second shot that hit the pavement, with a fragment of it striking Craig’s eye.
Craig collapsed to the ground, whilst his attacker jumped back into the passenger seat of the Mini which quickly sped away. The fast food shop owner dialled 999 as a large group gathered around the musician, including his girlfriend who arrived at the scene three minutes after the incident.
Despite the best efforts of paramedics, who rushed Craig to St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington, he was pronounced dead at 9pm, with cause of death established as a gunshot wound to the head.
Seven minutes after the attack, the driver of the Mini dropped the gunman at a nearby off-licence, where he tried to open fire at a white Mercedes, which contained another musician called Serge Mukendi. No bullet was seemingly fired, and the occupants of the Mercedes were all unharmed.
Prosecutor Anthony Orchard QC argued this murder was not a “spontaneous argument” but a “carefully planned” operation between the four defendants and the gunman, who remains at large. He told the jury that this formed part of a “tit-for-tat” rivalry between the Stonebridge gang in Brent and the Church Road Soldiers from the Church End Estate in Brent.
Both the victim and the second target, Mukendi, had appeared in rap videos with members of the Stonebridge gang, which had a long-standing rivalry with the Church Road Soldiers.
In the hour ahead of the fatal shooting, phone records show a significant amount of contact between the defendants. In the immediate aftermath of the incident, Ellis made two quick phone calls to his alleged accomplice Youngsam, who owned a black Volvo.
The blue Mini initially used in the shooting had false number plates, and after making its getaway, it sped towards Wembley Park tube station for the second attempted attack. Shortly afterwards, it made its way towards Kingsbury, where the two occupants were picked up by a black Volvo.
Mr Orchard told the court: “The requirement for a second vehicle, the Volvo, was pre-arranged. Planned escape was necessary and couldn’t be left to chance. The blue Mini would immediately be circulated by police as the suspect vehicle. Those in it needed a ready-made escape plan.
“The Volvo driven by Youngsam was integral to that plan. The driver had to be someone who could be trusted. Youngsam was such a person. He would know the identity of the gunman and driver. He would have to be part of the plan before the shooting, he would have known the details of the plan, what was intended and have been prepared to act as part of a team at a moment’s notice.”
A few minutes later, Ellis contacted Christopher Kyei, 34, in what the prosecution believe signifies “the beginning of the clear-up operation”. The following day, the Mini was collected by a flatbed pick-up trust and disposed of. Kyei, a fellow rapper who goes by the name ‘Skrapz’, has denied helping Ellis destroy the Mini at a scrapyard between July 5 and July 7, 2019. Horaine Nicholas, 32, is also accused of helping the men destroy the car.
Following Craig’s death, flowers, candles and Chelsea flags were left outside the shop where he died, with one person writing in chalk on the pavement “RIP Smalls”.
In a touching tribute to the dad-of-three, his mum Carol said: “He was a loving son, a father, an uncle, he was a peacemaker. He was the soul of the family, he lit up the room and now the light has gone. Our family are broken by this, we urge everyone with information to come forward. Silence empowers this violence.
“Craig had a past but he had changed his life for the better, he was moving in the right direction. His life has been taken senselessly, he did nothing to deserve this.”
Ellis, of Brentford, and Youngsam, of Brent, both deny murder and attempted murder. Nicholas and Kyei, from Hertfordshire have denied perverting the course of justice.