A man who claimed he accidentally shot a drug dealer in Peterborough has been jailed for over 30 years.
Lewis Hutchinson, 30, stood trial at Peterborough Crown Court earlier this year where a jury convicted him of the murder of 29-year-old Mihai Dobre.
The court heard how Mr Dobre had driven to Crabtree, Paston, at about 12.30am on 13 April last year, with his partner to deliver class A drugs.
He remained in his car, parked under a streetlight, when Hutchinson and Christopher Pycroft, 40, approached the car from either side.
Suspecting he was about to be robbed, Mr Dobre attempted to drive off but was fatally shot in the back of the head by Hutchinson.
The court heard from Pycroft who told them an order had been made to a drugs delivery line, known as ‘The Turks,’ and he and Hutchinson were planning to rob him.
He told the jury Hutchinson had come up with the plan after they had been drinking and smoking crack cocaine together and he turned up at Pycroft’s home with a shotgun.
The plan was for Hutchinson to pull out the gun and tell the driver to hand over the drugs, however, Hutchinson pulled out the gun and shot through the rear driver’s side window, hitting Mr Dobre in the back of his head.
Hutchinson claimed this was all lies – he told the court how he had known of Pycroft for some years, but only met him recently when he began to buy prescription drugs from him.
On the night of the killing, he claimed he met Pycroft at his home in Crabtree to buy sleeping tablets but left after he was told he had none.
He returned a while later to see if a friend was there, again when he was told no, he left to walk to his home in Eastern Avenue, Dogsthorpe, when Pycroft said he would walk with him as he needed to pick up some drugs.
Hutchinson claimed a few yards into their walk, Pycroft pulled a shotgun from his jacket and asked him to hold it while he bought the drugs, so not to scare off the man.
He agreed and carried on walking, stopping about four or five metres behind the car when he pulled the gun out to see it in the light, holding it in both hands “like a baby” and somehow the trigger went off. He told the jury he “was devastated”.
A firearms expert told the court it takes three to four ounces of force to pull a trigger – in comparison to about two to flick a light switch – therefore it being near impossible for the trigger to have gone off on its own.
After the shooting, Hutchinson made his way to a nearby traveller’s site where he hid for a few hours.
He told the jury: “I knew police would be everywhere, so I sat in one of the scrap cars for a few hours. Then went into one of the brick sheds, bungalows, for a few hours.”
Later that morning, he got a taxi into Peterborough town centre where he carried on drinking, before using a phone box to call his grandmother – Diane Riley, 65, – telling her he had been a “bad boy and hurt someone” and asked if she could pick him up from Peterborough to go back to her home in Skegness.
Riley, along with her daughter – Hutchinson’s aunt, Jeanie Stewart, 45, of Waddington Way, Skegness, – drove down to Peterborough to collect Hutchinson.
Once back in Skegness, the pair provided Hutchinson with new clothing and trainers, and helped dispose of the items worn at the time of the offence.
The following day (14 April), at about 9pm, Hutchinson was called out of his grandmother’s home in Spirewic Avenue by armed police officers and arrested on suspicion of murder.
KC Stuart Trimmer, prosecuting, said to the jury: “He could’ve said someone gave him a gun and it went off in his hands by accident, but he didn’t, because that’s not what happened.
“He had many opportunities to tell the truth about what happened – or his version of events – which he didn’t, because he made it up.
“He wanted to keep it to himself until 13 December when he entered a defence statement, the truth of all of this is Mr Hutchinson was in a moment of being thwarted that evening and did in fact pull that trigger.”
Today (Monday), he appeared at Peterborough Crown Court where he was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 31 years after being found guilty of murder and conspiracy to commit robbery.
Pycroft, who admitted conspiracy to commit robbery, was sentenced to five years and three months in prison at the same court on 9 May.
From a starting point of 14 years, Judge Enright reduced Pycroft’s sentence by half to take into account the evidence he gave in support of the prosecution case, and by a further 25 percent for his guilty plea.
Riley and Stewart previously admitted charges of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, they are due to be sentenced on 7 July.
Detective Inspector Richard Stott, from the Beds, Cambs and Herts Major Crime Unit, said: “This is a tragic case where a father, son and partner has lost his life after getting involved in supplying drugs.
“While firearms offences are extremely rare in this county, and even more so fatal firearms offences, sadly we see all too often people losing their lives or being seriously injured through drug-related violence.
“Given the evidence against him, Hutchinson had no choice but to admit he was there that night and that he was responsible for the killing, but he lied when first questioned, and then lied again trying to claim he was not part of the planned robbery and stating the gun went off by accident as he held it momentarily for another person.
“He stated he couldn’t recall if he pulled the trigger and had no intention to seriously harm or kill Mr Dobre.
“I am pleased the jury could see through these lies and we have managed to get justice for Mr Dobre, his wife and two young children who he has left behind. Hutchinson will now be spending a considerable amount of time in prison.
“I would also like to add my thanks to the police investigation team, Crown Prosecution Service and prosecution counsel for the hard work and team effort in the case.”
When sentencing, Judge Enright said Hutchinson “had taken a well-aimed shot” at Mihai Dobre and felt his remorse was not genuine.
Anyone with information or concerns about drugs should report to police online.
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