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Gun gang jailed after police intercept sawn-off shotgun transfer

Police in the West Midlands prevented “very serious violent crime” after officers intercepted the transfer of a sawn-off shotgun and more than 100 cartridges.

A court has heard how a police surveillance unit monitored the deadly handover in a residential street in Weoley Castle on 12 February this year between Callum Haden and recipient Elijah Skeen-Thomas.

Later that day armed West Midlands Police officers stormed Skeen-Thomas’ flat in Tower View, Selly Oak, where the short-barrelled shotgun, ammunition and dozens of wraps of Class A drugs were recovered.

Skeen-Thomas (left) took delivery of the sawn-off shotgun from Haden

Detectives from the West Midlands Regional Organised Crime Unit (ROCU) discovered the gun transfer had been orchestrated by three serving prisoners.

Their investigation revealed that brothers Ryan and John Blakeney – who are serving long sentences in HMP Birmingham – and HMP Wymott inmate Alexander Blake had directed the exchange using contraband phones behind bars.

We found the firearm after raiding Skeen-Thomas' flat in Selly Oak

Markkell Facey was contacted as a potential source of the firearm and he in turn approached 20-year-old Haden to hand deliver the weapon to 27-year-old Skeen-Thomas.

Ryan and John Blakeney – aged 27 and 31 respectively – denied conspiring to transfer a firearm but were found guilty by a jury while Skeen-Thomas admitted the same offence. 

And at Birmingham Crown Court today (7 Dec) they were jailed for eight, seven and 10-and-a-half years respectively.

Blakeney brothers Ryan (left) and John directed the gun transfer from prison
Blakeney brothers Ryan (left) and John directed the gun transfer from prison 

Blake (27) was also found guilty of conspiring to transfer a gun while 24-year-old Facey, from Gregory Avenue in Weoley Castle, admitted being part of the plot; they will be sentenced at a later date.

Haden, from Fullbrook Grove in Weoley Castle, admitted transferring a firearm and 27-year-old Nageeb Almatari from Hurricane Way, Castle Vale, admitted possessing a firearm by driving Skeen-Thomas to the hand-over point.

He also pleaded guilty to supplying drugs with intent to supply after the ROCU investigation uncovered his lead role in a County Lines drug chain delivering crack cocaine and heroin from Birmingham to Derbyshire. 

They will also be sentenced at a later date.

(left to right) Blake, Facey and Almatari were also convicted

ROCU Detective Inspector Mark Walters, said: “This was a complex investigation following some great work by surveillance officers and West Midlands Police’s firearms team.

“The judge concluded in his summing up that the gun was going to be used in serious gang-related crime. We will never know exactly what the intended use was for the gun but there is every chance this investigation has prevented someone from being seriously hurt or even killed. 

“The Blakeneys, Blake and Skeen-Thomas have been linked to gang activity in the Highgate area for many years and have indeed boasted about their criminality in drill music videos.

“We will relentlessly pursue anyone linked to gang crime in order to protect our communities…our investigation has ensured that these dangerous individuals have been taken out of society for a long time.”

The sentences handed to the Blakeneys and Skeen-Thomas will not start until they have reached the point at which they are eligible for parole in relation to prison terms they are currently serving.

John Blakeney has only recently been jailed for nine years four months for an unrelated drug dealing offence.

Skeen-Thomas also admitted possessing heroin and crack cocaine with intent to supply.