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28 January 2019, 18:46 | Updated: 29 January 2019, 10:07
Two men who stabbed their friend to death in a sustained attack have been jailed for life.
Jordan Shepherd, 24, and Ashley White, 21, lured Sam Mechelewski, 20, to a secluded wooded area of Hinchingbrooke Country Park, in Huntingdon, on 31 January 2018.
They stabbed him to the throat and neck and assaulted him with a baseball bat.
Sam’s body, which was later found to have more than 20 separate injuries, was discovered by a dog walker the next day.
Cambridge Crown Court heard how Sam had been involved in drug dealing – particularly cannabis - with a notebook found at the scene linking him to both Shepherd and White.
Examination of Sam’s mobile phone also revealed he regularly stayed with Shepherd at a property in Mayfly Close, Chatteris.
On the day of the murder White and Shepherd were captured together on CCTV visiting Tesco in Huntingdon, where they purchased two black sweatshirts and two pairs of jogging bottoms.
At about 8pm Sam went to Sainsbury’s in Huntingdon and then visited an associate half an hour later before meeting White and Shepherd.
Between about 8.50pm and 10.30pm both White’s and Shepherd’s phones were inactive, believed to be switched off.
At about 9pm three figures matching the men’s description were captured on CCTV walking towards Hinchingbrooke Country Park.
Following a meeting with police Shepherd, together with another man and a woman, removed Sam’s property from the flat in Mayfly Close and returned it to his family. They also used a black Audi to dispose of a mattress Sam had been sleeping on.
When officers searched the address in Mayfly Close they found a mobile phone belonging to Sam, with Shepherd’s fingerprint on, and his birth certificate in a wheelie bin.
Other items at the property included cannabis, a Taser and two baseball bats.
Identification of retailers stocking the baseball bats and information on sales showed two were sold in quick succession on 17 November in the Grande Arcade, Cambridge. Examination of a mobile phone belonging to Sam showed he was in the area at the time of the sale.
Forensic tests performed on the baseball bats revealed blood on one of them. DNA from more than one individual was discovered, but the major profile, and therefore highly likely to be the blood, matched Sam’s profile.
Shepherd, of Mayfly Close, Chatteris, and White, of West End, Brampton, admitted being in the area close to Hinchingbrooke Country Park with Sam, but blamed each other for the murder and denied individual involvement.
However, today (Monday 28th January) at Cambridge Crown Court they were found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in prison. White will serve a minimum of 29 years and Shepherd 28 years and six months.
Ciara Ratcliff, 22, of Sycamore Drive, Huntingdon, was found not guilty of perverting the course of justice and being concerned in the supply of cannabis.
In a statement Sam’s family said:
"Today justice has been done for our gentle, caring and loving Sam.
Sam’s death has devastated our family; no words can even come close to describing the bleak void it has created. Fresh hurdles, challenges and grief present themselves every day. The loss we feel is unending.
We will suffer for the rest of our lives because these two men valued his life so cheaply. At some point they will regain their freedom; but Sam will never be able to return to his family."
Detective Chief Inspector Adam Gallop said:
"This was quite an extraordinary crime, motivated by the cannabis market in Huntingdon, a vicious targeted attack for reasons that remain difficult to truly comprehend.
Jordan Shepherd and Ashley White seemed to consider themselves gangsters, and I wonder if they really appreciated the reality and the seriousness of what they were doing.
They are dangerous young men, with the proven propensity to commit significant and devastating acts of violence. In the process they have ruined their own lives."
DCI Gallop said it was a very challenging investigation, which had taken a year to reach resolution.
"Many witnesses, some friends of Sam and some not, courageously came forward, for which I and Sam’s family are truly grateful. Those witnesses, many of them young people should be very proud of what they have done. Some witnesses did not engage with the investigation, possibly through fear, or through some sense of loyalty to the murderers, others were very challenging to engage with as their minds and memories were ruined by drug abuse.
Through all these challenges Sam's family have remained dignified, determined and patient and have been an inspiration for me and the team of officers committed to this investigation. To Sam's family our deepest sympathies, I hope this result is of some assistance as they learn to live with this tragedy."