Ex-soap star Brian Regan jailed over gang hit


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The Independent Online

A former soap star who admitted driving the getaway car in a gangland shooting has been cleared of murder, it can be reported today.

Brian Regan, 53, who played Terry Sullivan in Channel 4's Brookside, was found not guilty at Liverpool Crown Court over his role in the killing of nightclub doorman Bahman Faraji, 44.

He was convicted of two counts of perverting the course of justice by lying to police in the early stages of the murder investigation and disposing of a pair of gloves he wore on the night.

Regan, who was on bail for supplying cocaine when the murder took place, was jailed on January 25 for a total of four years and 10 months.

The facts can now be revealed after Mrs Justice Nicola Davies lifted reporting restrictions put in place to avoid prejudicing the trial of another defendant, Jason Gabbana, who was today convicted of murder.

Gabbana, 29, was found guilty of murder by an 11 to one majority at Liverpool Crown Court today after standing trial accused of ordering the execution of father-of-one Mr Faraji.

The victim, accused by Gabbana's defence of drug dealing and running an illegal protection racket, was gunned down at close range after he was lured to the Belgrave pub in Aigburth, Liverpool, on the evening of February 24 last year.

Ex-actor Regan admitted driving gunman Edward Heffey to and from the scene of the hit but told the jury he did not know his passenger was carrying a sawn off shotgun and planning to kill Mr Faraji.

Regan, of St Mary's Road, Liverpool, was hooked on cocaine and began dealing the drug to fund his habit following the demise of his showbiz career, his trial heard.

He had denied murder along with Heffey, 40, Lee Dodson, 42, and Simon Smart, 32.

Following a three month trial, verdicts were returned on January 24.

Smart, of Kylemore Way, Liverpool, who lured Mr Faraji to the pub, and gunman Heffey, of Beloe Street, both Liverpool, were convicted of murder by 11 to one majorities.

Dodson, of Logfield Drive, Liverpool, who was Regan's best friend and cocaine supplier, was found not guilty of arranging for Regan to drive the getaway car.

After he gave evidence in which he admitted driving the gunman, the court ordered security to be stepped up around Regan and security guards sat between him and the rest of the defendants.

He was also designated a "vulnerable prisoner" and held in an isolation wing in jail.

The verdicts in Regan's trial, which came after 43 hours and five minutes of jury deliberations over nine days, were met with dramatic scenes in court.

Hearing that he had been found not guilty, father-of-three Regan gave a deep sigh and slumped into his seat.

When Heffey's guilty verdict was delivered, a woman and a young man in the public gallery angrily interrupted proceedings and had to be bundled out by police.

In the dock, Heffey appeared to lunge towards Regan and was swiftly taken down to the cells by security officers.

Mrs Justice Davies was forced to halt proceedings as several women in the jury burst into tears and Smart shouted at them: "You're having a laugh. This is my life."

When told to be quiet, Smart turned his back to the jurors and responded "What do you want me to do? Just sit here like a mug?" as his mother sobbed in the public gallery.

The jury decided Regan gave a false statement to police and disposed of a pair of gloves he was wearing the night Mr Faraji was killed.

Passing sentence, the judge told Regan that interfering with the murder investigation "could not have been more serious".

"The eventual outcome cannot excuse what you did," she said.

Regan was also sentenced for two counts of supplying Class A drugs and two counts of possession of Class A drugs with intent to supply.

Nick Jones, defending Regan, said in mitigation: "In many respects he can be held up as an example of the awful effects of drugs.

"He has lost his wife, his home, his career and good standing and now he will lose his liberty."

The judge told the fallen star: "Whatever you lost in dealing cocaine, you assisted the spread of this addictive and destructive substance which brings misery to the lives of those who depend on it."

He was jailed for 28 months for each drugs offence, to be served concurrently, and 30 months for destroying the gloves and 12 months for lying to police, to be served concurrently but consecutive to the drugs sentence.

Regan showed no emotion as the judge directed the Prison Service to maintain his status as a vulnerable prisoner.

Gabbana, Smart and Heffey will be sentenced either tomorrow or on Monday, Mrs Justice Davies said today.

The jury was unable to reach a verdict on Regan's girlfriend Christine Line, 48, also of St Mary's Road, Liverpool, who was accused of perverting the course of justice by helping the ex-actor dispose of the gloves.

The matter was ordered to lie on file and the NHS secretary will not face a retrial.

Line, a mother of one, admitted permitting or suffering her premises to be used in the supply of cocaine and was sentenced to 30 months imprisonment suspended for 12 months with a 12-month supervision requirement.

Gabbana, who stood trial separately to the others because he was arrested only last August, showed no emotion as the guilty verdict was delivered today after 10 hours and 16 minutes of jury deliberations.

Mr Faraji's girlfriend, who sat with police officers in the public gallery, burst into tears.

In light of the events which unfolded at the last verdict, Mrs Justice Davies had warned those in the public gallery against interrupting the proceedings.

Liverpool-based Brookside began on the launch night of Channel 4 on November 2 1982, and ran for 21 years until November 2003.

Regan joined Brookside from episode six and his character was at the centre of some of the Close's most dramatic storylines until his final appearance in 1997.

He said he was in Brookside when he began taking cocaine but never used the drug while he was working.

Leaving the programme had a "dramatic" effect on his life and income, he said.

Gabbana was jailed for rape in 2003 but the conviction was later overturned by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) after it emerged police failed to disclose vital information to his defence.

The alleged victim, who was 15 at the time, had previously made a false allegation about another attack to police.

Gabbana's defence said that if the rape jury had known about the previous false allegation, it could have made a big difference to the verdict.

He was released after spending more than two years in jail.