Brothers’ appeal against shotgun murder conviction rejected by judges
TWO brothers behind the “execution” of a drugdealing taxman with a sawn-off shotgun have had challenges to their murder convictions and sentences thrown out.
Edward Bennett shot crooked HMRC valuation officer Mark Jones as he sat in his Audi A3 at Lletty Bends, Mountain Ash, on July 26, 2015.
Mr Jones, 43, led a “double life” as, on one hand, a respectable family a man and civil servant and, on the other, a drug dealer.
Bennett, 49, of Station Terrace, Mountain Ash, and his brother, Stephen Bennett, of Masefield Way, Pontypridd, 54, were convicted of his murder last year.
Jurors heard the brothers had wanted to “extinguish” a large drugs debt which was owed to Mr Jones. They were jailed for life at Cardiff Crown Court in November 2016 and each ordered to serve a minimum of 30 years behind bars.
At London’s Criminal Appeal Court yesterday, senior judges heard their lawyers attack the “safety” of their convictions.
Lady Justice Hallett, sitting with Mr Justice Stuart-Smith and Mrs Justice Lang, said Mr Jones was blasted twice at close range with a sawn-off shotgun.
Edward Bennett fired the gun and his brother Stephen was on hand to assist, the court heard.
Mr Jones survived initially but died in hospital almost two months later after a string of operations failed to save his life.
Before his death he was interviewed by police and identified the Bennett brothers as his attackers.
The case against them was also bolstered by forensic evidence and mobile phone data.
Key evidence included the dead man’s blood and firearms residue found on their shoes.
Stephen Bennett’s work van was also logged as being in the area at the time of the shooting.
Lawyers for the pair argued that Mr Jones “may have had many enemies” due to the nature of his “double life”.
They claimed he had “chosen Edward Bennett as an easy fall guy” to blame for shooting him before he died.
A possible motive was his desire to protect his family and himself from further attacks by the real killer, they argued. The trial judge’s directions to the jury were also criticised.
And lawyers argued that one of the brothers was “ill and on strong medication” during a police interview.
But Lady Justice Hallett said: “The directions overall were adequate and would not have led to the jury placing undue weight on any adverse inference.”
She said of Stephen Bennett: “His brother may have pulled the trigger but, by going with him, he was fully involved in this murder. Permission to appeal against conviction is refused.”
Also challenging the brothers’ minimum jail terms, lawyers said they had not intended to kill Mr Jones.
But, rejecting that argument, Lady Justice Hallett said: “Shooting a man in a car at close range with a shotgun to extinguish a drugs debt is scarcely consistent with an intent to cause only some serious harm.”