Two men have been found guilty of murder after they broke into a cannabis factory and attacked the occupant.
Shaddai Smith – 32 (07.03.90) of Firwood Lane, Romford and Jason Sebran – 38 (06.10.83) of Freemans Court, Stanford-Le-Hope, Essex were found guilty of the murder of 21-year-old Renato Geci following the conclusion of a trial at the Old Bailey on Wednesday, 28 September 2022.
They were also found guilty of wounding with intent in relation to a second victim, and burglary.
Both men were remanded in custody ahead of sentencing at the same court on a date to be confirmed.
The court heard how both men had been part of a gang who had targeted a property in Granville Avenue, Hounslow they knew was being used to cultivate cannabis plants. Smith and Sebran planned to break into the address and steal the cannabis plants in the early hours of 22 March 2021; their idea being that the property would be unoccupied and they would make a quick entry and exit.
However, their plan was scuppered when they found Renato and another man inside the property. After being arrested, both Smith and Sebran insisted to police that they did not intend to cause any harm to those they found inside and attempted to flee. But the evidence gathered by police and put before the court showed that both men were prepared to resort to lethal violence if required to do so.
After driving across London to the property in a convoy of vehicles, Smith and Sebran – in the company of at least five others – arrived in Granville Avenue in the early hours of Monday, 22 March 2021.
Smith and Sebran got a ladder from the boot of one of the vehicles and proceeded to use it to climb on to a lower part of the roof and then up to a bathroom window. Sebran – who was in possession of a screwdriver – opened part of the window and the pair climbed in.
Renato, and the second man, were asleep inside the property. On hearing a noise upstairs, they went to investigate and were confronted by both Smith and Sebran.
The pair fled back downstairs and blocked themselves in their bedroom, while Smith and Sebran attempted to force their way in.
After a short while they managed to gain access and a struggle ensued. During the melee Renato was stabbed in the chest – a wound that would prove to be fatal.
Both Smith and Sebran fled the house via a front window and made off in the waiting cars.
A neighbour who had heard the commotion and witnessed the cars leaving the scene called police. On arrival, officers found Renato unconscious in the kitchen of the house. They performed CPR until paramedics arrived but despite all their efforts, Renato died.
An investigation was launched and quickly identified the vehicles involved – one of which was traced back to Sebran. Painstaking work tracked the vehicle back to a rendezvous point in Redbridge where a vehicle belonging to Smith was located.
Mobile phones attributed to the pair showed that in the hours prior to the murder they moved in unison from Redbridge to Hounslow. These phone numbers ceased to be use almost immediately after the attack in Granville Avenue.
A forensic examination of the inside of the house also yielded a DNA match for Smith who had been injured in the fight.
The second man who had been attacked alongside Renato also provided an account to police; he described one of the attackers had having distinctive tattoos on his upper arms, which were remarkably similar to those on Sebran.
Both men were arrested. Sebran claimed he had never entered the house and a third, unidentified man had gone into the property with Smith. After the incident they had driven back to the rendezvous point in Redbridge and gone their separate ways. However, when shown a CCTV image of the car returning and only one person getting out, Sebran became evasive. Smith and Sebran were subsequently charged with murder.
Detective Inspector Garth Hall from Specialist Crime South who led the investigation said:
“Smith and Sebran’s claims that they believed the house they were entering was empty and that their intention was only to steal cannabis plants have been disproved by the jury.
“Both men had ample opportunity to leave the property when they found Renato and another man inside; however – they were driven by greed and the profit they saw they could make from stealing the cannabis plants.
“They decided to attack Renato, using lethal force as they overpowered him, and causing multiple injuries to their second victim before fleeing empty handed.
“Thanks to a detailed and comprehensive investigation by detectives, both men were identified and arrested. The weight of evidence against them left the jury in little doubt as to their guilt.”