Robbers ‘used assassins in Leeds plot to murder rival’

THREE serious organised criminals arranged for “assassins” to shoot dead a rival as part of a carefully planned murder plot, a jury heard.

Dennis Slade.

A court was told how convicted robbers Dennis Slade, Richard Pearman and Michael Baxter were arrested when serious organised crime officers moved in during a surveillance operation.

Slade, Pearman and Baxter have gone on trial accused of conspiracy to murder Ralph Roberts in the East End Park area of Leeds between February 22 and March 4, 2008.

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Jurors were told the three men were tried and convicted for conspiracy to murder and other charges in 2009. The defendants appealed their convictions, which were quashed, and a retrial was ordered.

The prosecution allege Slade, Pearman, Baxter and their “confederates” used vehicles to carry out surveillance on their intended victim and possessed a shotgun and ammunition in order to carry out the shooting.

Paul Greaney, QC, prosecuting, told the court: “The operation was planned with care, involving the use not only of the vehicles but...the possession of technical surveillance and anti-surveillance equipment. In short, a sophisticated group of organised criminals was at work.”

Describing each defendant’s involvement, the prosecutor said: “Their role was not to act as the assassins but probably rather, in the case of Richard Pearman and Michael Baxter, to provide support and, in the case of Dennis Slade, to perform an organisational or directional role.

“But the prosecution does not have to establish precisely what role each defendant played in the conspiracy, only that he played some part.”

The prosecution allege the plot involved an attack on a Vauxhall Vectra parked near to Mr Roberts’ home on York Road on the evening of March 4, 2008, in order to draw him out into the street. Mr Greaney said an alternative possibility is that the men wished to cause a distraction to enable them to place a tracking device on Mr Roberts’ car so they could kill him at a time and in a place more convenient to them. Officers had installed a listening device on one of the vehicles associated with the defendants - an Audi RS6 - and mistakenly feared the damage being inflicted on the Vectra represented the discharge of a firearm.

Some officers went to the area in which the Audi RS6 was dumped and torched. Other officers went to Ivy Terrace, a location less than 350 metres from the location where the Vectra had been attacked.

There they discovered the three defendants seated in another black Audi estate motorcar, an Audi A4, which had been reversed into a driveway.

All three were arrested and the vehicle was searched. Police discovered a bin liner and a rucksack. Mr Greaney said: “The rucksack contained equipment suitable for the surveillance of their intended victim and on the floor of the vehicle was found a tracker device which had been hurriedly placed there by Dennis Slade.

“The defendants’ mobile telephones were in the vehicle and, notably, the batteries for those phones had been removed, no doubt in an attempt to thwart surveillance on the defendants.”

All three defendants plead not guilty to conspiracy to murder and an alternative count of conspiracy to cause grievous bodily harm with intent. The also deny criminal damage and arson.

Slade and Baxter also deny a charge of handling stolen goods. The trial is expected to last six weeks.