A London rapper has been dramatically cleared of gunning down an innocent young man on the streets of North London after a murder trial at the Old Bailey collapsed.
David Osadebay, 30, also known as grime star Cbiz, was accused of arranging for 27-year-old Oliver Tetlow to be mowed down with a Skorpion submachine gun in a drive-by shooting in Harlesden shortly after 10pm on 9 March last year.
The flamboyant MC – whose online music videos attract millions of views – was alleged to have recruited co-defendant Mohamed Siamino, 20, to carry out the "revenge" killing after becoming enraged when his gold bling was stolen by members of a local gang known as the Church Road Soldiers.
Tetlow was said by the prosecution to be the innocent victim of that revenge – executed on Church Road after being mistaken for a member of the gang.
But the four-week murder trial into the shooting collapsed on Tuesday (10 January) after lawyers for the two defendants successfully argued there was insufficient evidence against the pair.
The defence said cross-examinations of witnesses during the trial had uncovered major holes in evidence, including that the alleged killers' mobile phones, vehicles and social media accounts had been misidentified by the prosecution.
On Tuesday morning, Judge Gerald Gordon directed the jury to acquit Osadebay, of Crest Road, Neasden, and Siamino, of Boddington Gardens, Acton.
He told the jury: "My conclusion was in respect of both of these defendants there was not sufficient evidence. I will be asking you to return a verdict of not guilty."
He added of the trial's collapse: "You have had the privilege of seeing something in real life that rarely happens – it happens all the time on television, but not in real life."
Osadebay and Siamino, who had changed out of their prison clothes for their acquittal, were discharged and left the dock moments after the verdicts of not guilty were returned.
The pair's acquittal means 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.
The trial, which caused a sensation among fans of London's underground grime scene, had begun with four defendants in the dock – Osadebay, Siamino, another rapper named Romarne Young, 22, of Stafford Road, South Kilburn, and Jahmico Trott, 29, from Hulme, Manchester.
All four men were accused of murder under joint enterprise, with each facing a lengthy sentence behind bars if convicted.
But all denied any involvement, entering pleas of not guilty.
The prosecution claimed the motive for the alleged murder was that of "revenge", namely a gross overreaction by Osadebay after having his gold bling stolen while out with friends at Tape nightclub in Mayfair the night before the shooting.
Church Road Soldiers
The thieves, said by the prosecution to be members of the Harlesden-based Church Road Soldiers gang, had brandished the haul of jewellery in a video posted on Instagram as a "taunt" to Osadebay.
The clip included Osadebay being "mocked" by a rival rapper called Nines – real name Courtney Freckleton – and another individual named Carlos Abreu, the court heard.
"It so annoyed [Osadebay] he arranged a revenge attack," prosecutor Thomas Kark QC told the court during the opening of the trial on 7 December.
"Osadebay enlisted the assistance of the other defendants to hatch a plan to kill one of the members of the Church Road Soldiers.
"The murder had been planned that day by the four defendants, each of whom played a distinct role."
Kark said Tetlow was mown down in a hail of bullets on Church Road the next day, on the night of 9 March, after a being mistaken by Osadebay and his co-defendants for Abreu.
His killer is alleged to have escaped in a black Ford Kuga, which was later found burnt out in neighbouring Ealing.
Kark told the court : "The prosecution is unable to say which of the men actually pulled the trigger but this is a case of joint enterprise. Each man intended the death or serious injury of someone and each is equally guilty of murder."
Tetlow died at the scene after suffering 14 gunshot wounds to his chest, stomach, hand and leg, the court heard.
How the case collapsed
But halfway through the trial, on 22 December, the prosecution's case began to unravel.
The jury saw extraordinary scenes when a prosecution witness, Marcus Smith, unexpectedly provided an alibi for Young and Trott for the night of the shooting.
It prompted the prosecution to offer no evidence against the two men and the judge to direct that the pair be acquitted.
Judge Gordon later told the jury Smith had lied to the police before giving evidence, changing his story during the trial.
While Osadebay and Siamino remained in the dock still charged with murder, the acquittals of their co-defendants prompted their own lawyers to apply for the case to be thrown out based on insufficient evidence.
Two days of legal arguments at the Old Bailey last week saw them accuse the prosecution of having made a catalogue of serious mistakes during presentation of the case, telling the judge all the evidence against Osadebay and Siamino was entirely "circumstantial".
This included being unable to provide sufficient proof either defendant had been driving the Ford Kuga – said to be a shared "drug pool" car – at the time of the shooting, nor had been using an implicated mobile phone also said to be shared.
The judge also agreed with the defence that social media accounts under Osadebay's name, in which the prosecution said he publicly threatened revenge for the theft of his jewellery moments before the killing, could not be proven to be his.
Judge Gordon told the jury: "Your time has not been wasted. It's only when you get to this stage that matters can really be got into and tested by the adversarial system."