Guilty Verdicts in Richard Long case

Richard Long's widow, Micki, blamed his death on the gang culture that she claims is blighting some Luton estates.

Her 22 year husband, from Houghton Regis, had been lured to a rendezvous in Lewsey Farm to purchase a £6,000 kilo deal of skunk cannabis on behalf of a friend.

But the prosecution alleged there was never going to be an exchange of drugs - the intention all along was to rob him at gun point of the cash he was carrying.

It ended with him being shot through the head as he lay on the ground by a 17 year old youth who may have been taking his chance to 'play with the big boys', said prosecutor, Miranda Moore QC at Luton Crown Court.

Simeon Johnson, now 18 was using the street name 'Blacks' and posting 'gangster style' messages and pictures on the internet.

But behind the killing was a self confessed cannabis dealer, referred to in news reports as 'M', who provided the murder weapon and ammunition in an £800 Louis Vuitton bag.

At only 19 he had all the 'trappings' of a drug dealer's life style. He wore designer clothes, holidayed in Cancun, and was pictured posing with guns, swigging from £250 bottles of Crystal champagne and sitting on posh cars.

Johnson, of Wheatfield Road, Luton and 'M' both pleaded not guilty to murdering Mr. Long on Sept 1 last year in Haymarket Road. They were unanimously convicted by the jury.

Johnson pleaded guilty to possessing ammunition that day.  M denied that charge but was convicted by the jury.

M also denied possessing crack cocaine with intent to supply on Aug 28 and was found guilty of that. He pleaded guilty to possessing a prohibited weapon and two charges of possessing ammunition which are not connected to murder charge and were found in searches on Sept 10 on the estate. He also pleaded guilty to possessing cannabis with intent to supply on Oct 11 last year - the day of his arrest in Hatfield.

They will be sentenced on June 25. Judge John Bevan QC said the sentence for murder would be detention for life.

The court was told that in the week before his death Mr. Long's wife, became aware that a cannabis deal was being arranged. They had a young daughter and he was stepfather to her two sons.

The prosecution said "She was very unhappy about him getting involved and had a lot of rows with him, however he was keen on making a bit of money for himself. She did all in her power to stop him. She arranged a trip to the zoo on the day to keep him out of the way but when they returned the deal was set up and the plan was thwarted. " said Miss Moore.

Mr. Long and another man met up with Johnson, who was using the name Dean. He got in the back of their car, but then produced the hand gun and demanded the money.

She told the jury of eight men and four women: "When the gun was produced Mr. Long ran off but was chased. He tripped, it is thought, and Simeon Johnson kicked him, put the gun to the side of his head, quite literally, and shot him whilst he was lying supine on the ground. The bullet went in one side and out the other, and has never been found."

Johnson told the jury he thought he was playing his part in a genuine cannabis deal and it was only at the very last minute that he was given a gun and told to rob 'the customers'.

He believed the gun was unloaded and said it went off accidentally during a struggle.

'M' said he had been asked to supply the cannabis, which he did and that was the end of his involvement. He denied supplying the firearm or suggesting a robbery saying it would be 'bad for business'.

Speaking after the verdict, the senior investigating officer, Detective Chief Inspector Steve Collin from the Beds and Herts Major Crime Unit, said: "I am delighted that the jury have today convicted these two men for the murder of Richard Long. It has been a difficult investigation from the start due to the fact that the defendants were prepared to supply drugs on the estate where they lived, which meant those witnesses also living in the area knew of them and were frightened to come forward and help the police.

"Despite this we worked tirelessly with witnesses in order that they felt sufficiently reassured and protected to give evidence and as a result this case highlights the fact that people within our communities can make a difference. The police, Crown Prosecution Service and courts can and will assist people giving evidence, in this case by allowing them to do so anonymously. We hope people take heart from this and know that their bravery has made a difference.

"This case has told the story of Richard Long, who foolishly decided to purchase a kilogramme of cannabis from the defendants and who, in my opinion, did not foresee the dangers and in doing so paid for it with his life. The people he was involved with were organised and were not afraid to use lethal force to achieve their aims.

"The young men and their families involved in such enterprises need to be aware of the dangers that exist. One man has been killed, and their young men will now face life imprisonment. This is a truly tragic waste of life.

"I would also like to pay tribute to the professionalism of the many detectives and staff from the Beds and Herts Major Crime Unit, who investigated and managed this case. In particular, their management of witnesses was exceptional. Finally I would like to pass on my condolences to Micki, Richard's wife, and his family, who have been so badly affected by his loss."

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