'The killer was my front seat passenger but I won't name him,' murder accused tells Sheffield Crown Court

A man accused of murdering a Sheffield man in broad daylight says his front seat passenger was the killer - but claims he will not name him under 'any circumstances'.

The scene in Daniel Hill, Upperthorpe following the murder of Aseel Al-Essaie (inset) in February last year
The scene in Daniel Hill, Upperthorpe following the murder of Aseel Al-Essaie (inset) in February last year

Matthew Cohen, aged 29, Dale Gordon, 33 and Keil Bryan, 32, are alleged to have fatally shot Aseel Al-Essaie at ‘point blank range’ as he sat alone in a Mercedes car parked on Daniel Hill, Upperthorpe, on February 18 last year.Giving evidence at Sheffield Crown Court on Tuesday, Cohen said he was not involved in any plan to kill Mr Al-Essaie and the first indication he had of any trouble was when the front seat passenger in his VW Golf and Mr Al-Essaie became involved in a 'road rage' incident on Daniel Hill.

Cohen also told jurors he had never seen or heard of Aseel Al-Essaie, or of his brother, Ali, until the murder took place.

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"I heard him [Mr Al-Essaie] saying I'll f****** kill you, and the passenger was giving the same back, as you would when someone's swearing at you," said Cohen, of Bramwell Close, Netherthorpe.

He added: "I heard a bang, it sounded like a firework and it didn't sound like it but obviously it was a shot. I turned, I put my foot down, I'm gone, flying, going as fast as I can."

When asked by his barrister, Simon Csoka, to name the front seat and back seat passengers in his car at the time of the murder, Cohen said: "Not under any circumstances, I've got my reasons."

Cohen continued by saying that neither he or his back seat passenger had any idea that the murder was going to happen, or that the front seat passenger had got into his car with a firearm on the day of the murder.

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He added: "Whoever it was should be man enough to say what happened, stop being a little b**** and putting people in situations they shouldn't be in."

Cohen also faces a second charge of perverting the course of justice, relating to the destruction of his VW Golf following Mr Al-Essaie's murder.

He changed his plea from not guilty to guilty on Tuesday.

Explaining why changed his plea, Cohen said: "When I thought about it I'm still guilty of getting rid of my own car."

The judge, Mr Justice Stephen Males, told jurors on Tuesday he had ruled that three of the seven defendants in the case 'no longer had a case to answer for' and asked for the jury to formally acquit them.

The three defendants were: brothers Razwan Mirza, 35, and Mohammed Mirza, 30, both of Staniforth Road, Darnall, who were both charged with assisting an offender, and Cohen's mother, Patricia Sharp, 58, of Bramwell Close, Netherthorpe who was charged with perverting the course of justice.

James Good, 32, of Velocity Towers, St Mary’s Gate, denies one count of perverting the course of justice.

Cohen, Gordon, of Mather Road, Darnall and Bryan of Brackley Street, Pitsmoor all deny one count of murder.

The trial continues.