Drug dealers lose appeals over convictions of murder of Great Yarmouth man Andrew McGowan
PUBLISHED: 14:15 22 June 2017 | UPDATED: 14:21 22 June 2017
Two London based drug dealers who knifed a rival to death after moving their operation to the Norfolk coast lost their appeals at the High Court today.
Warren Blake, 19, and Tevin Birmingham, 22, stabbed 33-year-old Andrew McGowan when he turned up at their stash house in Great Yarmouth armed with a hammer.
Mr McGowan, who was high on drink und drugs, suffered five stab wounds and bled to death at the scene at Dickens Court.
It was claimed the victim was in a rage at the pair for stealing his clients and for selling drugs to his pregnant partner.
Blake and Birmingham had moved their business from south London to Great Yarmouth a few months before the killing on 14 November 2015.
They had set up their outfit in the flat of two drug addicts in a so-called ‘cuckoo’ operation.
After the killing, they gathered up their cash, drugs and belongings and fled the scene, leaving Mr McGowan bleeding to death.
A female witness told police that Blake had later boasted to her he about the murder on the phone.
Blake, who wielded the knife, was convicted of murder by a jury at Norwich Crown Court and jailed for life with a minimum term of 17 years.
Birmingham was cleared of murder but convicted of manslaughter on the grounds he knew Blake had a knife and intended to use it.
He was jailed for 15 years with an extended licence period of five years.
Both men pleaded guilty to drug dealing charges ahead of trial.
Today Birmingham appealed to have his conviction quashed on the grounds he hadn’t inflicted any of the injuries on the victim.
Blake tried to have his 17 year minimum term reduced on the grounds he was the ‘junior partner’ in the business and was nine days shy of his 18th birthday at the time of the killing.
Steven Perian QC, for Birmingham, said: ‘There’s no evidence that Tevin Birmingham was involved in the stabbing and no evidence the say he incited the stabbing.’
‘His clothes were seized by police, they didn’t disclose any forensic material and there’s no evidence he participated in the attack on the deceased.’
He added: ‘The fact that Mr Birmingham and Mr Blake left the scene without contacting the police is not indicative that my client was involved in the murder.
‘We say that a jury properly directed couldn’t exclude all other reasonable possibilities.
‘The one occasion that Mr Birmingham saw Mr Blake with the knife he asked him to put it away and not to play around with it.
‘The Crown argues that there’s no real explanation of how Mr Blake managed to stab the fatal wound [to the chest] and also managed to stab Mr McGowan to the back, but we submit this is the wrong basis to find there is a case to answer against Mr Birmingham.
‘Warren Blake just hasn’t explained how he managed to inflict all five injuries which he accepts he did [inflict].
‘There’s no evidence that Mr Birmingham knew or intended that the deceased would be caused serious bodily harm or would be killed.
‘We don’t dispute that Mr McGowan was murdered. What we dispute is that Mr Birmingham was ever in possession of the knife.’
Prosecutor Andrew Radcliffe QC said: ‘These two men had travelled to Great Yarmouth and set themselves up at the relevant time.
‘There were drugs, cash and a knife or knives – it was available to the jury to consider the judge’s direction upon guilt or innocence.’
Julian Winship, for Blake, argued that his sentence should be reduced because of his age at the time and the situation he found himself in.
‘The victim was an aggressive, older man armed and filled with drink and drugs – none of that is controversial.
‘Mr Blake was a young man faced with that situation and he reacted in a way that reflected his lack of maturity.’
Rejecting their appeal, Sir John Royce said: ‘It is unclear why Mr McGowan attended that address – either to seek revenge on these two appellants for supplying drugs to his pregnant girlfriend or to rob them of their cash and drugs.
‘The two appellants had moved to Great Yarmouth from London in a so-called cuckooing operation and set up in the flat of two drug users who seemed to be for them to have access to their flat.
‘The victim arrived at this flat and an argument started.
‘When they were arrested, Mr Blake admitted stabbing him and said he had done so using a knife he had used to eat a meal earlier that evening.’
He continued: ‘Mr Birmingham said he had not participated in the attack and did not intend to kill or cause serious bodily harm.’
‘Mr Blake accepted he had stabbed the victim five times and that he and Mr Birmingham had left the flat without summoning the emergency services.’
‘They had a knife and had a knife and agreed that one or the other would use it to protect their cash.
‘Referring to the evidence, Mr Blake stabbed the deceased to protect their property - we reject the appellant’s version of self-defence.
‘We reject the submission that this was self-defence that went over the top. This was murder to protect cash and drugs.
‘A knife was on the premises in order to protect the assets of the business – the appellant used the knife to kill rather than risk losing those assets.’
Dismissing the appeals, he said: ‘This was a bad offence committed by dangerous men against a background of serious class A drug dealing.’
Blake, formerly of Thorncliffe Road, Clapham, southwest London, and Birmingham, formerly of William Kett Close, Norwich, must both serve the original sentences imposed by Norwich Crown Court.