Footballer Gavin Grant jailed for gun murder

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The Independent Online

Footballer Gavin Grant was jailed for life today for shooting a former friend and told he would have to serve at least 25 years.

The 26-year-old former Millwall striker thought he had got away with murder after Leon Labastide, 21, was gunned down outside his parents' home in 2004.

Grant had been cleared in August 2007 of the shooting murder of Jahmall Moore.

But justice caught up with him when he was charged with Mr Labastide's murder after new witnesses came forward.

Gareth Downie, 25, and Damian Williams, 32, were also jailed for life and given minimum terms of 25 years - Downie for murdering Mr Labastide and Williams for conspiracy to murder.

As Grant was being sentenced at the Old Bailey, a woman shouted from the public gallery: "It's all fixed" and "You are coming out".

Uproar broke out in the public gallery as the men were led to the cells. Williams lifted a fist defiantly and told his supporters: "Fight".

The Recorder of London, Judge Peter Beaumont, said Mr Labastide's murder had been in revenge for a series of "tit-for-tat" shootings.

He said: "He was executed by shooting."

Mr Labastide's mother, Diane Havill, said in a statement: "Leon was a keen footballer who shared his passion for the game with all who knew him. He loved life.

"His senseless killing by so-called friends who grew up with him has left it hard for me to understand the futility of snatching Leon's future whilst, in the same breath, destroying their own."

She said she had moved her family from the Stonebridge Park area because she could not face seeing the relatives of his killers.

Grant, from Kenton, north London, Williams, of Southwark, south London, and Downie, of Markby Road, Birmingham, looked angry as they were sentenced.

A charge that Grant had committed perjury at his trial for murdering Mr Moore, 22, was allowed to lie on file.

Roberto Parchment, 24, originally convicted of Mr Moore's murder, was found guilty again following a retrial in December brought about by supergrass Darren Mathurin's involvement.

Grant has also played for Gillingham and Wycombe Wanderers and was with Bradford City last season.

Nigel Rumfitt QC, for Grant, said: "Whatever he did in the past, he had turned his life around by the time it was resurrected."

Stephen Batten QC, prosecuting, said that many of the people involved in the case had been linked to shootings and drug-dealing on the Stonebridge Park Estate in Harlesden, north-west London.

He told the jury: "Attitudes and standards are different. It is more the law of the jungle than the law of civilised England.

"You will hear about and see people whose behaviour will probably disgust you and make you wonder if there is any hope for the human race."

Former associates had preferred to seek vengeance with weapons rather than get help from the police.

The court was told it was Mr Labastide's killing which led to the second murder and a spate of shootings on the estate.

Grant denied involvement and said Mr Labastide, who was known as Playboy, was a friend.

Operation Trident gun crime detectives believe there were up to 30 connected shooting incidents in the area arising out of the fall-out.

Following the arrests of Grant and others, officers said shootings fell by almost 50% in the area.

Stonebridge Park, although still notorious for drugs and crime, has seen improvements with a £250 million regeneration.

Detective Inspector Steve Horsley said: "Gavin Grant thought he had got away with murder.

"He carried on his footballing career while, all along, he had blood on his hands."

The jury heard that trouble started with a burglary in which three women were terrorised and it was suspected that £20,000 in drug money was taken.

A 16-year-old girl, who had been in the house, gave evidence under an assumed name in the trial.

It was rumoured that Mr Labastide was behind the burglary, and Williams arranged for Grant and Downie to shoot him.

In the spate of shooting incidents which followed, Mr Moore was gunned down by Parchment in mistake for Sean Cephanis following a hate campaign he was suspected of starting.