Broth­ers’ ap­peal against shot­gun mur­der con­vic­tion re­jected by judges

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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.”

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