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5 February 2013, 06:44
An Albanian man who killed a drug dealer in Hatfield has been jailed for 10 years for his manslaughter.
Mikel Cela, 22, (right) had gone to the ground floor flat in Northfield belonging to electrician Darren Leonard (below) to rob him of drugs, believing he had stolen his stash.
In a late night confrontation, heard by neighbours, 24-year-old Darren received two stab wounds on either side of his back. He died a few hours later in hospital.
A jury at St Albans crown court cleared Cela of Mount Way Close, Welwyn Garden City of murdering Mr Leonard on the night of Wednesday 11 July 2012. They convicted him of manslaughter by a majority of ten to two.
Judge Stephen Gullick jailed him for a total of 10 years.
Cela and his cousin Amariloo Brami, also 22, of Walnut Grove, Welwyn Garden City had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to rob Mr Leonard. Brami was jailed for 16 months. Brami had been cleared of murder on the direction of the judge.
The jury heard that the men went to Mr Leonard's flat because Cela believed he had stolen his £1,000 stash of cannabis. They had wanted to find out where he kept his drugs so they could take them from him.
Giving evidence Cela claimed Mr Leonard attacked him and in a struggle, in which he was being choked, he grabbed a knife and as their arms flailed the fatal blows must have been delivered.
Cela came to the UK with his family when he was aged 10. He had studied A levels at Ware College and went to Hertfordshire University to do a graphic design course before dropping out in the second year. During that time he worked in Sainsbury's and Pizza Express he also earned £50 a week playing football for Colney Heath.
In the past he said he had bought two ounces of cannabis in bulk for a total of £500 from Mr Leonard. He would smoke the drug himself and sell it to "a small circle of friends." On three or four other occasions he had bought small amounts from Mr Leonard.
In February 2012 he said his "stash" of cannabis was stolen and he was told Darren Leonard had taken it.
Prosecutor Michael Speak said a couple in a flat next door called the police on the night of the killing after hearing raised voices.
By the time the police arrived the men had gone Mr Leonard could be seen tied up on the floor in the hallway.
Officers eventually managed to get in and found the victim bleeding heavily from two stab wounds on either side of his back. He died a few hours later in hospital after doctors were unable to save him.