A London rapper dramatically cleared of mistakenly murdering an innocent bystander in an alleged gangland hit gone-wrong has slammed police after the collapse of the trial – saying officers were duped by "false stories" online and "social media speculation".
David Osadebay, also known as Cbiz, spent eight months in prison after being charged with the drive-by shooting of 27-year-old Oliver Tetlow.
Police said the killing, in Harlesden, north London, on 9 March last year, was ordered by the rapper in "revenge" after a video was posted online mocking him following the theft of his gold bling.
Tetlow was said to be the innocent victim of that revenge after being mistaken for an individual who featured in the video.
But on Tuesday (10 January) the trial collapsed after the judge ruled there was insufficient evidence to allow a jury to convict Osadebay or 20-year-old co-defendant Mohammed Siamino.
Two other defendants – Romarne Young, 22, of Stafford Road, South Kilburn, and Jahmico Trott, 29, from Hulme, Manchester – had already been acquitted earlier in the trial.
In a statement sent to IBTimes UK, written by his lawyers, Osadebay said while he was grateful to the judge for his ruling, he felt "deeply aggrieved by having to spend eight months in jail waiting for his name to be cleared".
It added: "Whilst Mr Osadebay understands that the police have a job to do, it is a matter of continued disappointment to him that they chose to believe social media speculation and false stories about his involvement in the murder of Oliver Tetlow and then tried to build a circumstantial case around the flawed theory that he was behind the crime."
Osadebay also said he "wishes to extend his sympathy and condolences" to Tetlow's family for their loss.
The rapper – whose online music videos attract millions of views – added that he planned to resume his musical career following his acquittal (his full statement can be read below).
'Trial by social media'
The shooting of Tetlow in Church Road caused a flurry of speculation on social media at the time, with users on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat all pointing the finger at Osadebay.
Theories posted online were similar to that eventually adopted by the police and the prosecution, namely that the rapper organised the shooting to exact revenge on a gang who stole his gold bling the night before.
The four-week murder trial, at the Old Bailey, had seen the prosecution claim Osadebay had become "enraged" by the theft and by a video subsequently posted online mocking the rapper.
The clip was said to feature rival rapper Nines, real name Courtney Freckleton, and other members of the Harlesden-based gang Church Road Soldiers holding up Osadebay's stolen jewellery.
Osadebay, of Crest Road, Neasden, was said by the prosecution to have then posted a threat on social media in response to the clip shortly before the shooting.
Posted to Freckleton under the Instagram account "cbiz_er_", it read: "When I see you no mickey mouse business!!!!"
But Osadebay's defence said the account was a fake and created by someone pretending to be the rap star.
Michael Ivers QC, for Osadebay, told the court: "It looks like somebody getting in on the act of publicity."
He added: "Anyone who has some fame and a social media presence will have accounts purporting to be them, but that aren't them ... There are a number of fake accounts with regard to Cbiz."
Cross-examination during the trial saw expert witnesses for the prosecution unable to confirm if the "threat" message was sent by Osadebay.
Ivers told the court: "This is a misidentification. My client was wrongly identified as having made these [social media] statements."
The trial relied heavily on what the defence said was "circumstantial" evidence.
Police had no CCTV of the shooting, no DNA evidence from a burnt-out Ford Kuga allegedly used by the gunman, and no murder weapon – said to be a Skorpion submachine gun.
The prosecution's case relied instead on mobile phone site data and the tracking of implicated vehicles using automatic number plate recognition cameras and CCTV.
But the trial's turning point came not in the collapse of social media evidence, but in the conduct of a witness.
The prosecution saw their case severely impacted when Marcus Smith, known to the defendants, changed his story midway through the trial and provided an alibi for Young and Trott, leading to their acquittal.
The judge said Smith had lied during police interviews over his movements at the time of the shooting, and changed his story in court.
The collapse of the trial will mean questions will now be asked of how the police intend to continue the investigation into Tetlow's killing, for which a conviction has still not been brought.
Heartbroken Pamela Humphrey, mother of Oliver Tetlow, said in a statement at the time of her son's death: "The only way to stop this happening again is for people to come forward and provide information that will see the killer and accomplices brought to trial as soon as possible."
She continued: "Please, please help me and yourselves to bring the killer of my son and the accomplices of the killer to the full justice of this country.
"My son's death will not then have been in vain, you may save some innocent person, or the life of one of your family or close friends.
"I miss my son very much. Our family miss him very much; he was loved and is still loved. I hope you're never put into the awful situation that we find ourselves in right now. Please, please help me, help my family and in turn help provide safety for yourselves and your families in helping us."
Statement from Osadebay in full