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Attempts to kill two men 'a gangland reprisal': Shootings followed kidnap, court told

THE attempted murder of two men shot in the grounds of a Leeds hospital was a gangland reprisal, a court was told yesterday.

Robert Samuels, 25, and Clifton Bryan, 23, were seriously wounded by masked attackers as a punishment after they kidnapped teenager Mark Smith and blackmailed his associates, magistrates at Leeds were told.

Mr Smith, 19, of Lingfield Drive, was appearing before the court on a charge of conspiring to murder the two men on Monday of last week. Reporting restrictions were lifted at the request of his solicitor.

The masked attackers shot and wounded the two Leeds men as they fled from Hamilton Place, in the city's red light district of Chapeltown, to St James's Hospital.

Earlier, the shooting victims had kidnapped Mr Smith for allegedly assaulting Michelle Midgley, who was connected with their gang, Stephen Fox, for the prosecution, said. He was allegedly bundled into a car boot and released after his associates had paid the two men's ransom demand of pounds 2,900.

A further pounds 7,000 was to be handed over for Mr Smith and an arrangement was made for the cash to be picked up in Chapeltown on Monday of last week. When Mr Bryan and Mr Samuels drove there, Mr Smith was not around, Mr Fox went on. 'Another car was parked further along. It followed them. They stopped, the car pulled alongside and someone fired off a double-barrelled shotgun. It was the first of nine discharges that night,' he added.

Mr Samuels was badly injured and Mr Bryan believed he was dead. He drove towards the hospital pursued by the gunmen. By the hospital's Chancellor wing a gunman again blasted the men to try to finish them off, Mr Fox said.

Stephen Hipps, for Mr Smith, said that police sidestepped proper procedure to keep him in custody, charging him first with attempted murder, which was discontinued, then assault, which would be denied, and now conspiracy to murder. The solicitor said that his firm had taken a writ for habeus corpus to the High Court last Friday and a judge had ordered Mr Smith's release. Mr Hipps said that police ignored the judge's direction and quibbled over the wording.

Mr Smith was finally released - but was rearrested on a conspiracy charge. 'They decided to change horses,' Mr Hipps added. 'They didn't have enough evidence to charge him with attempted murder so they switched to a conspiracy charge.'

Mr Smith was remanded to police cells until tomorrow.