Jury rejects man’s claim he didn’t intend to shoot boxer

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A MAN faces a life sentence after he was convicted of murdering a father of two who was shot in the face from a car.

Afzal Arif, 24, was unanimously found guilty by a jury at Leeds Crown Court yesterday of the murder of Gavin Clarke, 34, who was gunned down as he walked in a street in Chapeltown, Leeds, on the evening of August 8 last year, at a time of riots elsewhere in England.

Police last night paid tribute to Mr Clarke’s family and the local community for their support in helping to keep tensions down in the area after the shooting, avoiding large-scale disturbances seen in other cities.

Arif, of Elford Grove, Harehills, Leeds, had admitted the manslaughter of Mr Clarke and denied his murder but the jury rejected his claim that he never intended to pull the trigger.

He said in evidence he planned only to scare Mr Clarke, maintaining the gun went off when he “tensed up” as his victim approached him.

After Arif drove off, shocked residents and friends rushed to help Mr Clarke who was taken to Leeds General Infirmary where it was found shotgun pellets had entered his brain. He died four days later on August 12.

A second defendant, Sohail Mahmood, 23 of Savile Road, Chapeltown, was found not guilty of murdering Mr Clarke but was found guilty of conspiring to pervert the course of justice, a charge which Arif admitted.

The prosecution had claimed he provided information to Arif about Mr Clarke, a boxer, who liked to train in Savile Park and was there with friends shortly before the shooting.

Ibrar Din, 24 of Mexborough Street, Chapeltown was also found guilty of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice but the jury cleared Arif’s uncle Shahid Hussain, 32 of Harrogate Road, Alwoodley, Leeds, on the same charge. Three other people have admitted that offence.

Arif and Mahmood are expected to be sentenced on Monday. After the verdicts Detective Chief Inspector Lisa Griffin of the Homicide and Major Enquiry Team said Mr Clarke was in the prime of his life when he was gunned down on a sunny August evening “with a sawn-off shotgun in a busy public street; a street where children enjoy playing outside their homes.”

“This event took place during civil unrest across the UK and it is to the credit of his family and local people that there was not widespread disorder across Leeds as a result. Many members of the Chapeltown community worked hard to support the police in keeping tensions under control and I am grateful to all those who assisted with this large-scale murder investigation.

“My sympathies remain with Gavin Clarke’s partner, children, family and friends, who have to face a life ahead without the man they loved so dearly.”

“Hopefully the sentences which follow will bring some sense of closure to them and serve as a stark warning to those who are prepared to use firearms and people who lie to the police in an attempt to shield those responsible.”