A case of apparent mistaken identity combined with a deadly feud between two gangs of young men involved in drug dealing led to a murder that shocked Sheffield.
Jordan Thomas was just 22 years old when he was shot dead by a masked gunman in a targeted assassination.
He was a passenger in a car stopped at traffic lights on Derek Dooley Way when he was shot twice in the chest on December 21 last year.
The gunman and two other men had followed him as he was being driven around the city by his friend Neshaun Ferguson, who was also shot.
The Mitsubishi Shogun car used by the killer and his accomplices was dumped minutes later at Ponderosa park – after being bought just two hours before the murder.
It was a murder that appalled the city – and the subsequent trial has shone a light into Sheffield’s normally hidden criminal underworld.
Ready access to guns and bitter rivalries between groups involved in drug dealing featured heavily in the evidence presented to the jury during the eight-week trial.
Witnesses repeatedly spoke of fearing ‘retribution’ against them and their families as a result of giving evidence.
One even changed his evidence in the witness box after having previously told police he had seen defendant Jama Ahmed with a gun looking for Jordan the night before the killing.
Kalim Akhtar denied being under pressure to alter his evidence and said he had been bribed by Jordan’s grandmother to make the original statement – a claim later dismissed by trial judge Mr Justice Green as ‘completely unfounded’.
There was tight security at the trial, with guards in the dock flanking the two main defendants and Ahmed taken from custody to court by a large police escort each day.
Jordan’s killing was part of a long-running feud between ‘rival groups’ of young men – one made up of Somalians living in Broomhall and the other involving people from Pitsmoor and Burngreave.
The jury learnt over the course of the trial that both sides appeared to have involvement in drug dealing, as well as access to firearms.
The court was told the police had evidence Jordan Thomas, said to be part of the Pitsmoor and Burngreave group, was involved in drug-dealing, while Ahmed was a ‘sophisticated drug dealer’ who was part of a wider Somali gang.
Ahmed is not believed to be the person who fired the shots that killed Jordan, but helped arrange the murder and was said to be in the car when the shooting happened.
He was jointly charged with murder alongside drug addict Asif Yousaf, who was said by the prosecution to have been the driver of the vehicle during the killing.
But Yousaf was found not guilty after the jury accepted his story he had bought the car at the request of Ahmed but had not known what it was going to be used for and was not inside when the killing happened.
Sentencing, Mr Justice Green said Ahmed had arranged the purchase of the car and then used Yousaf as an ‘innocent dupe’ to go and pick it up in return for some free crack cocaine.
The jury heard that the feud between the two groups dated back to September 2011, when James Knowles, who was Jordan’s cousin, killed Mubarak Ali.
Knowles was subsequently convicted of manslaughter in March 2012 but acquitted of murder after that trial heard the stabbing of Mubarak Ali had occurred after a group of Somalian men including Mr Ali attacked Knowles in a barber’s shop on Abbeydale Road.
Knowles was sentenced to 10 years in jail and in his sentencing remarks, Mr Justice Openshaw said Mr Ali had been a ‘prominent’ member of a ‘Somali gang involved in violent crime in Sheffield’.
Mr Ali’s supporters brawled with police officers outside Sheffield Crown Court following the verdict.
Bad blood remained between the two groups and spilled over into violence two nights before Jordan’s murder. On Friday, December 19, Jordan Thomas and his friends were at the Forward nightclub in Sheffield city centre.
They had a confrontation outside with Ahmed’s gang, who were chased back to the Broomhall area and had a shot or shots fired at them.
During the confrontation, one of the Somalian group dropped their mobile phone.
The court heard a series of phone calls were made between the two rival groups via the mobile phone, with a friend of Jordan Thomas making comments to Ahmed about Mubarak Ali being in a ‘body bag’ and saying ‘1-0 to us’.
Ahmed wrongly believed he had been speaking to Jordan – leading to the plan to ‘hunt down and kill’ him, which Mr Justice Green said was partly down to a ‘thirst for revenge’ over Mr Ali.
He said the gang viewed Jordan as the ‘nearest available substitute’ for his cousin, who was in prison.
Neshaun Ferguson, who was in the car with Jordan when he was shot and was injured himself, said Mr Thomas appeared to be ‘panicking’ on Saturday morning about the Somalian group mistaking him for being responsible for the phone calls.
Later that day, Jordan went to Birmingham after hearing that ‘the Broomhallers had come looking for him and put a gun in someone’s face’ close to his family home in Burngreave – with the armed man later identified as Ahmed.
Jordan returned to Sheffield the following day – only to be the victim of the shooting within a couple of hours of his return. Unanswered questions remain about the murder, with the person who actually fired the shots that killed Jordan yet to be brought to justice.
Mr Justice Green told Ahmed: “Most of your associates have now fled the country to evade justice.”
Police today said the investigation into the murder continues.