Knife fight on millionaires' row kills drug dealer

Businessman held after murder in Alderley Edge, home to Man Utd stars and soap actors

Jonathan Brown
Thursday 11 February 2010 01:00

He has twice stood trial accused of murder and narrowly survived a bar-room attempt on his own life 13 months ago, so Arran Coghlan has become a familiar name to the police charged with investigating Manchester's violent underworld.

Yesterday the businessman was once more under arrest on suspicion of murder after the body of a drug dealer was discovered in the bathroom of his £2m mansion on Cheshire's millionaires' row – apparently stabbed during a fight.

The tranquility of Alderley Edge, where Premier League footballers, pop and soap stars rub shoulders with the traditional county gin and Jag set, was disturbed by blaring sirens on Tuesday afternoon as dozens of police descended on the 38-year-old's converted chapel. They had been alerted by a 999 call made by Mr Coghlan who was heavily bleeding after sustaining serious knife wounds to his upper body.

The dead man, Stephen Akinyemi, 36, was also known to police, and had been wearing a stab-proof vest. He was from the inner-city Manchester suburb of Cheetham Hill where he was part of a drugs gang. The two men apparently knew each other.

Cheshire Police said Mr Coghlan's injuries were not life threatening and the rest of his family had been taken into custody for their own protection. Last night he was under police guard in hospital. Detectives called for any witnesses to come forward.

Mr Coghlan, who fiercely protested his innocence of the earlier murders – insisting he is the victim of a campaign by police against him – had a well-documented taste for the high life. He drove a Bentley Turbo with personalised number plates, collected antique furniture and liked to sport chunky gold rings and necklaces.

He is still pursuing a civil law claim against Greater Manchester Police, along with five co-accused, in connection with their failed prosecution for the still-unsolved murder in 1999 of small-time drug dealer David Barnshaw. The 32-year-old had been kidnapped from a Stockport pub and locked in the boot of a car before being driven to an industrial estate where he was forced to drink petrol and set alight. The victim's terrified screams were recorded on a mobile phone message that was played to the jury at the trial at Preston Crown Court in 2002.

The trial, which cost £10m, collapsed after it emerged that police had withdrawn information given to them by an informant which implicated another suspect. The judge said officers, including a senior detective, were guilty of "extremely serious, deliberate and dishonest misconduct" and referred the papers in the case to the Director of Public Prosecutions – no charges were forthcoming. In 2004 Greater Manchester Police were condemned by a High Court judge for allowing a Detective Chief Inspector to retire while still facing possible disciplinary proceedings in connection with the affair.

In 1996 Mr Coghlan was acquitted of murdering Stockport's "Mr Big", Chris Little, dubbed the "Devil Dog Mobster", because of his penchant for menacing rivals with fierce rottweilers. The notorious drug dealer was shot dead at the wheel of his Mercedes two years earlier. The case has never been solved.

In 2008 it was Mr Coghlan who was left fighting for his life after he was stabbed repeatedly in the head, back and face while celebrating New Year's Eve at a bar in Stockport. He told reporters he was an innocent bystander to a fight.

Speaking from his hospital bed at the time he said: "I thought I was doing someone a favour in trying to prevent a fight, and I hate to see my past brought up in the press again. I am a family man who has settled down and moved on since I was cleared of those allegations."

Meet the neighbours: Cheshire's celebrity residents

*Hailed as the place where more champagne is drunk than any other, where no gravelled drive is complete without a Bentley Turbo and no rear garden fully-adorned sans heated swimming pool, Alderley Edge is home to money both old and new. Since the Beckhams and Cristiano Ronaldo moved out and following his elevation to England captain, the footballing resident in chief is Rio Ferdinand, whose gabled mansion he shares with his wife and two children. Team-mate Michael Carrick is a near neighbour in Mottram St Andrews. He lives opposite former Manchester City manager Mark Hughes and near to England cricket hero Freddie Flintoff, who is currently constructing his own mansion there. The local MP is Shadow Chancellor George Osborne while New Order's Peter Hook and Bernard Sumner are long established villagers as are the better-off Coronation Street actors. Samia Ghadie who plays Maria Sutherland in the soap recently married her property developer boyfriend at the local St Philip's Church. Veteran TV commentator and It's a Knockout legend Stuart Hall also lives there as does Alan Garner, author of The Weirdstone of Brisingamen.