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Three who hired hitman to settle drug debt receive combined jail term of over 70 years

Three criminals who hired a hitman to carry out a shooting to settle a drug debt have been jailed for more than 70 years in total.

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Connor Palmer, Craig Miller and Elijah Stokes were convicted of conspiracy to murder a Birmingham man who owed money to a high-level drug dealer based in Dubai.

In May 2020 the victim’s partner opened the door to their home in the Sheldon area of the city to find a man wearing a supermarket jacket and a high-vis vest standing there.

He asked if she was ‘expecting a delivery’ and said: “He’s here, isn’t he” before walking into the house and opening fire at the victim who was shot five times. He was taken to hospital where he was left fighting for his life, but survived.

A young child was in the house at the time but not injured.

Birmingham Crown Court heard how Palmer and Miller and another man formed a group which was paid £100,000 by the drug dealer, who was from the UK, to kill their victim.

The group paid a gunman, who has never been identified, £40,000 to carry out the hit.

Stokes arranged for the car and gun to be delivered to the hitman.

In the weeks after the murder, the high-level dealer told Miller he wanted another man to be killed.

He sent a photo with the caption ‘That’s him’, to which Miller replied ‘Clips going in his head’.

The messages were found on an EncroChat phone belonging to Palmer. EncroChat was an encrypted communication service use by criminals.

Miller, 37, of Epsom, and Palmer, 40, of Redhill, both in Surrey, were convicted of conspiracy to murder the man who was shot and were sentenced to life in prison with minimum terms of 30 years and 23 years respectively. Stokes, aged 38, of Whoberley Avenue, Earlsdon, in Coventry, was sentenced to 27 years with a minimum term of 18.

Miller was also found guilty of conspiracy to murder the second person, although that shooting never actually took place. All the defendants will be sentenced at a later date.

Detective Inspector Gemma Currie said: “The messages we uncovered as part of this investigation make for truly chilling reading and are like something from a movie.

“It was a miracle that the victim of the shooting in Sheldon survived. It was thanks to the EncroChat breakthrough that we were unable to unravel this conspiracy to murder.

“The gang thought that they were able to communicate securely about their murderous plans, but thanks to the international law enforcement community, we were able to show exactly what they were planning and how they planned it.”

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