THREE men were today facing life sentences after dramatically admitting the murder of a drug dealer blasted to death with a sub-machine gun in Willowbrae.
Mohamud Mohamud, 30, Cadil Huseen, 23, and Hussein Ali, 26, were half-way through a trial over the slaying of 25-year-old Mohammed Abdi when they changed their pleas to guilty.
Abdi, who came to Edinburgh from Somalia as a teenager, died from a gunshot wound to the chest from a powerful Mac-10 weapon following a street battle involving several men.
The murder on May 26 last year took place against the backdrop of a bitter feud between rival factions of a London-based organised crime group operating in Scotland.
Witnesses said the gangsters were making £15,000 a week from peddling drugs including crack cocaine.
Following their guilty pleas at the High Court in Glasgow, Judge Lord Turnbull said: “This is a level of criminality seldom seen in our country, and mercifully so.”
Co-accused Ahmed Ahmed, 28, Liban Ahmed – also known as Jama, 30, Said Fadal, 32, and Said Tarabi, 27, had their not guilty pleas accepted by the Crown.
Detective Chief Superintendent Gary Flannigan, who led the investigation, said phone records, CCTV footage, forensic science and eyewitness testimony had brought the killers to justice.
The four-week trial heard the three murderers and Abdi had been friends, but fell out over the seemingly innocuous loss of a flat tenancy for which Huseen – known as Jamie –was blamed.
The dispute escalated days before the shooting when Huseen’s flat in Gilmerton, and the flat of Ali – known as Bash – in Captain’s Drive, Gracemount, were vandalised.
On the night of May 26, Abdi and his associates were chased through the streets of the Capital by men in two vehicles, including a VW Sharan, in a pursuit lasting up to four hours, on and off.
Eyewitnesses spoke of hearing cars chasing each other at around 1am before the VW Sharan crashed into the fence of Abercorn Tennis Club and the sound of gunfire erupted in Abercorn Avenue.
Mohammed El-Halili, who was driving Abdi in the car and admitted his friend was a drug dealer, described to the jury “everything kicking off”, with Abdi armed with a baseball bat and an associate clutching a knife.
El-Halili told how Abdi went past his vehicle “with a big smile on his face” amid the apparent chaos.
Witness Paul Coleman, 24, said he was driving on Willowbrae Road when he saw a number of black men running about. One of them was carrying a knife and another a baseball bat.
Taxi driver Mohammed Irfan, 34, described hearing loud bangs. He said: “It was continuous for one or two seconds. It was like something you hear in the movies.”
As gunfire echoed in the darkness, Abdi was blasted with shots fired from the Mac-10 machine gun pointing from inside the crashed VW Sharan.
Officers on a passing patrol quickly arrived at the scene, along with members of the public, initially believing they were dealing with the aftermath of a road smash. It immediately became apparent they had stumbled upon a serious incident.
A quick-thinking officer detained one suspect at the scene after a struggle while Abdi lay lifeless on the street.
Witness Gregory Martyn, 37, told the trial: “I saw there was a man on the ground, half on the pavement and half on the road.
“There was a police officer putting handcuffs on to a man and he asked me to tell his colleague there was a knife and a broken golf club lying on the ground.”
Abdi was pronounced dead at the scene while a police helicopter was deployed above the area to try to trace suspects who had fled on foot.
Crime scene examiners found the Mac-10 hidden in undergrowth near where Abdi was hit. The team also recovered a revolver and a bullet from the VW Sharan.
A post-mortem found Abdi had been shot three times, with pathologists ruling the fatal wound was to his chest.
A forensic expert concluded at least five shots were fired from the converted replica machine gun. Another bullet was fired from a converted revolver found in the Volkswagen car.
The accused were part of a Somalian “sub community” who regularly met up in places such as gyms. They frequented nightclubs in Edinburgh and Glasgow, splashing out £100 at a time on bottles of expensive vodka and cognac.
Jade Davren, a friend of both Huseen and Ali, told the court she became suspicious they were involved in drug dealing.
In a police interview she spoke of “Jamie” going out clubbing with “wads of cash”.
Another friend of Huseen, Jordan Cockburn, 21, said she once spotted what she thought was a lump of cheese on his kitchen table. She was asked: “What did Jamie tell you it was?” and she replied: “Crack cocaine.”
Abdi’s grieving father, Omar, 59, told the court he had warned his son over his involvement in drug dealing before his death.
He said: “I told him anyone involved in this either ended up in jail or being murdered.”
Det Chief Supt Flannigan said: “The investigation was large-scale and complex – this was a fatal shooting on the streets of the capital city, something which is thankfully a very rare event but which resulted in one man being murdered.
“Those involved set out with the intention of causing serious harm and engaged in a course of conduct, which put members of the public at risk through the discharge of a high-powered weapon, their violent behaviour and a vehicle pursuit which showed recklessness in the extreme.”
Lord Turnbull called for background reports on the three guilty men before sentencing.
Chief Superintendent Mark Williams, the city’s policing commander, said: “We welcome the verdict, which comes at the end of a long and very professional inquiry into what was an incredibly serious but rare incident.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Every crime is a tragedy and one offence involving a firearm is one too many but gun crime in Scotland is mercifully rare – the most recent statistics show firearms offences have dropped by 71 per cent since 2006-7 and are now at their lowest since current records began in 1980.”
‘Seduced by Somalian Gangsters’
MOHAMMED Abdi – known as Mo – was described as a “very intelligent person” who was “always smiling”.
But after falling in with Somalian gangsters, he became embroiled in drug dealing and the bitter feud which ultimately led to his death.
A pupil at Drummond Community High School after his family fled war-torn Somalia when he was a teen, he was a regular at the Central Mosque at Potterrow for Friday prayers.
His father, Omar Abdi, was described as being a “second imam” who often led prayers at the mosque and taught children. The 59-year-old, a lecturer in Arabic and Somalian, came from Somalia to Scotland in 1990.
Abdi went on to work for a security company and studied painting and decorating at Telford College.
His family moved to Birmingham two months before the shooting, but he remained in the Capital. Following the shooting, a friend said: “We considered him a family member. Mo was always at our house and loved my mother’s cooking. He was a great guy. Mo was such a loyal friend and he had a pure white heart. Everyone who knew him loved him and respected him.”
But Somalian gangsters are said to have seduced Abdi into joining them.
The friend said: “The Somalis took advantage of Mo. They exploited the fact that they were from Somalia, saying to him ‘we’re blood, we speak your language’. They got him involved with drug dealing but he was not that type of person.
“They were guys who were going to nightclubs and ‘popping bottles’ – spending lots of money on champagne – and trying to impress the ladies. That’s how Mo met them, he started chatting with them in a club.”
Gang’s movement plotted using mobile phone tracking
DETECTIVES traced the journey of the gang responsible for the fatal shooting from London to Glasgow and then on to Edinburgh.
Their movements were pieced together using mobile phone tracking technology to link the devices to individuals.
The route of the two cars which the gang used were tracked in parallel to mobile phone data using a network of CCTV cameras.
Forensic analysis of the interior of the VW Sharan, from where the shots were fired, also identified suspects in the car at the time of the incident.
Detective Chief Superintendent Gary Flannigan, who led the inquiry, said: “The murder of Mohammed Abdi took place within weeks of the formation of Police Scotland and the establishment of Major Investigation Teams throughout the country as part of the Specialist Crime Division.
“The span of our investigation crossed the UK – from Willowbrae to London – and abroad in terms of our search for those responsible and significant witnesses and involved a number of other agencies, including the National Crime Agency. Using a combination of highly technical methods, surveillance and eyewitness accounts, the investigation established the identities of those involved, their movements and their intentions.”
Forensic teams were deployed at several addresses across the city as the hunt for the killers continued. Armed police with machine guns were sent to Abdi’s flat in Buchanan Street, Leith, after he was shot dead.
Before the shooting, Abdi was arrested following a police raid at the first-floor flat. He appeared from custody in court on May 3 last year, charged with being involved in the supply of drugs.
He was also charged with attempting to pervert the course of justice and offences under the Proceeds of Crime Act before being released on bail.
Operation Amend resulted in the arrests of 25 people, along with the seizure of £300,000 worth of drugs and almost £250,000 in cash.
The ‘spray and pray’ gun
THE Mac-10 is a highly-compact machine gun first produced in 1970.
The guns were used by CIA and Navy SEAL units during the Vietnam War, and were also issued to members of the SAS in the UK.
Acquiring the nickname “spray and pray” due to their indis-criminate firing at high velocity, the weapons have been used in several UK murders. Firing 33 rounds in less than two seconds and at less than a foot long, they are easily concealed.
Gunsmith Grant Wilkinson was jailed for 11 years in 2008 for converting 90 replica Mac-10s into wea-pons linked to a string of gangland murders. Wilkinson purchased the replicas under an assumed name, claiming they were to be used as props in a James Bond film.
The guns are notoriously difficult to acquire and are rarely seen in Scotland, but the Evening News revealed fears in 2008 that a Mac-10 had fallen into the hands of gangsters in the Capital.