Jury hears how shotgun blast in face killed man at park

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A CLEANING supervisor died four days after he was blasted in the face with a shotgun by a man who had been stalking him looking for the right opportunity to shoot him, it was claimed to a murder trial jury.

Afzal Arif was sitting in the driver’s seat of a car in Savile Avenue, Chapeltown, Leeds on August 8 last year when his victim Gavin Clarke approached.

Paul Greaney QC, prosecuting, told Leeds Crown Court yesterday Mr Clarke had minutes earlier been training in the park nearby but as he neared the car Afzal pointed the shotgun through the driver’s open window at him and pulled the trigger.

Mr Clarke was struck on his face and neck by 85 shotgun pellets and dropped to the ground fatally injured,

Mr Greaney said it was the Crown’s case that it was not a random shooting. “Afzal Arif had travelled to this area for the very purpose of shooting Gavin Clarke.”

He had been alerted to the presence of Mr Clarke in Savile Park by a friend, Sohail Mahmood, who was jointly facing the murder charge because of his part in the attack plan, he said.

Mr Greaney told the jury Arif admitted pulling the trigger and killing Mr Clarke unlawfully but claimed he shot him unintentionally, only planning to scare him.

The reason for the shooting remained, at the moment, the subject of some uncertainty, a mystery, but could involve a relationship between Arif and Hope Gatewood, known as Addeka, who was a cousin of Mr Clarke.

Some time before his death Mr Clarke had told his partner he believed that Arif had been beating Addeka up and that he did not like it.

“The prosecution do not invite you to conclude that Afzal Arif had in fact been violent towards Hope Gatewood or beating her up,” he said.

“Whether he had been or not is not, in the context of a case as important as this one, significant.”

“The important things is that Gavin Clarke believed that Afzal Arif had behaved in this way.”

Mr Greaney told the jury Mr Clarke, 34, was a fit, strong man who had a background in boxing and “it is clear that he had a real physical presence.” He suggested being spoken to by Mr Clarke in that situation “could well, you might think, involve more than words.”

He said whatever the reason, something had caused Arif by August 8 to have the shotgun with him when Mr Clarke approached.

Mr Clarke was a creature of habit and each workday met friends at Savile Park to exercise.

Mr Greaney suggested Arif began to “stalk” Mr Clarke about 5.30pm that afternoon, circling the area in one or more cars and using his friend Mahmood to scout him, out.

Mahmood later admitted to police having spoken to Arif on the phone but denied he told him of Mr Clarke’s whereabouts.

Shortly before the shooting a friend of Mr Clarke’s saw him “slapping his fist into the palm of his hand” as he marched towards a Vauxhall Vectra which drove off.

Mr Greaney told the jury it was possible it might have been someone associated with Arif, trying to draw Mr Clarke away from the park, but from his reaction in slapping his fist it strongly suggested that he saw Arif.

Mr Clarke started to walk up Savile Avenue which was where he was shot by Arif from a car, other pellets striking the wall of a house behind him.

After the shooting, he said, Arif involved friends and relatives in a conspiracy designed to prevent his arrest and frustrate the police investigation.

Arif, 23 of Elford Grove, Harehills, Leeds denies the murder of Mr Clarke but has admitted his manslaughter and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

Mahmood, 23, of Savile Road, Chapeltown, denies all three charges.

Shahid Hussain, 32 and Sajad Hussain, 28, both of Harrogate Road, Alwoodley, Leeds and Ibrar Din, 23 of Mexborough Street, Chapeltown, Leeds each deny conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. Three other people have admitted the conspiracy charge.

Mr Greaney said after the shooting Mr Clarke briefly got to his feet but then stumbled and fell to the floor.

Armed police had to check the area before paramedics could attend and he was then taken to Leeds General Infirmary.

The pellets were found to have entered his brain and on August 12 he died.

The trial continues.