Rival Organised Crime Group members from Manchester and Burnley jailed after shooting in Burnley

Eight members of a Manchester-based organised criminal gang (OCG) have been jailed for more than 80 years following our investigation into a shooting in Burnley.

During the incident, which centred around the attempted taxing of a £220,000 cannabis farm in Salus Street on February 4th, 2021, two people suffered gunshot injuries, one man suffered a serious head wound and vehicles were rammed. A car was later set alight in an attempt to destroy evidence.

Police were called at shortly before 12-30am to reports of disorder on Wilton Street in the town where a number of individuals were seen attacking a man with weapons.Shortly afterwards the ambulance service were called to a nearby address to a report of a man with a cut to the head. The man was taken to hospital with serious buy not life-threatening injuries.At just after 1-15am police called to Burnley General Hospital where a 39-year-old man was being treated for a gunshot wound to the leg. At 4-30am police were called to reports a silver BMW estate car had been found burnt out on Melville Street.

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Operation Callaway discovered that defendants Besim Zeka, Elion Gllava, Andon Bita and Ibrahim Beldie travelled from Oldham and South Manchester in three vehicles, including a silver BMW 3 Series, on the late evening of February 3rd after receiving information that their cannabis farm was about to be ‘taxed’ by a rival Burnley-based OCG.

The aftermath of the shooting in Burnley

Arriving around 11-50pm the vehicles circled around the Salus Street area for half an hour as they lay in wait for the Burnley-based OCG to begin their attack.

CCTV footage obtained from the area showed people carrying weapons, including, sticks and saws, as well as cars belonging to members of the Manchester OCG ramming other vehicles. Residents also described hearing gunshots and people saying: ‘they have got guns.”

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One member of the Burnley-based OCG suffered a gun shot wound to the leg after a member of the Manchester-based OCG fired a gun as he tried to flee the scene. Police also recovered a bullet fragment from the scene, which contained DNA from a second member of the Burnley-based OCG – suggesting he had also been shot, as he tried to flee the scene.

A third member of the Burnley-based OCG suffered a significant headwound after being attacked with a machete-type weapon.

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None of those injuries were life-threatening and all three injured men and other members of the Burnley-based OCG have since been arrested as part of Operation Coolant.

Operation Coolant has seen our officers disrupting OCG activity throughout the east of the county by acting on intelligence to target properties and individuals linked to cannabis cultivation and taxings and seize cannabis crops and weapons before rival groups can get to them.

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Following the violence in Salus Street, three members of the Manchester-based OCG left the scene in the BMW 3 Series.

However, one of the cars used by the Manchester-based OCG in the disorder – a BMW estate – was so badly damaged it was unable to be driven away.

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Zeka, who was stranded in Burnley, contacted defendant Mazhar Shah to collect him in his Mitsubishi Evo and return to south Manchester.

At 4am on February 4th, Shah and defendant Gulam Rauf travelled from Cheetham Hill to Burnley where they were captured on CCTV setting the stranded BMW estate alight.

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Despite the OCG’s best efforts to destroy evidence, Zeka’s DNA was found inside the burnt-out BMW.

On 13th July 2021 Lancashire Police and Greater Manchester Police worked together in order to execute 18 simultaneous warrants, where the defendants were arrested. Zeka was arrested the following day at a hotel in London.

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Following a trial at Preston Crown Court five of the defendants were found guilty of criminal activity on behalf of the Manchester-based OCG.

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Besim Zeka (30/10/1990), of Burder Street, Oldham – found guilty of conspiracy to cause grievous bodily harm with intent, conspiracy to possess a firearm with intent to endanger life, and conspiracy to supply a controlled drug of Class B. Jailed for 17 years.

Elion Gllava (13/10/95), of Hollins Road, Oldham – found guilty of conspiracy to cause grievous bodily harm with intent, conspiracy to possess a firearm with intent to endanger life, and conspiracy to supply a controlled drug of Class B. Jailed for 19 and a half years.

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Ibrahim Beldie (16/11/89), of Hollins Road, Oldham – found guilty of conspiracy to cause grievous bodily harm with intent, conspiracy to possess a firearm with intent to endanger life, and conspiracy to supply a controlled drug of Class B. Jailed for 17 years.

Andon Bita (6/5/75), of Ellen Wilkinson Crescent, Manchester – found guilty of conspiracy to cause grievous bodily harm with intent, conspiracy to possess a firearm with intent to endanger life, and conspiracy to supply a controlled drug of Class B and conspiracy to possess criminal property. Jailed for 17 years.

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Mazar Shah (03/01/82), of Alms Hill Road, Cheetham Hill, Manchester – found guilty of assisting an offender. He pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice, which included the arson. Jailed for three years.

The below individuals pleaded guilty part way through the trial.

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Gulam Rauf (12/6/83), of Hartley Avenue, Prestwich - perverting the course of justice, which included the arson. Jailed for 27 years.

Murtaza Ahmed (22/11/83), of Berry Street, Brierfield - conspiracy to supply a controlled drug of Class B and conspiracy to possess criminal property. Jailed for four and a half years.

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Andreas Zekaqis (1/5/91), of Acacia Road, Oldham – conspiracy to supply a controlled drug of Class B and conspiracy to possess criminal property. Jailed for four and a half years.

Passing sentence, Judge Philip Parry commended the outstanding quality of the investigation.

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Det. Supt Nick Connaughton, of East Division, said: “The truly appalling violence that took place was completely unacceptable. It is more through luck than judgement that nobody was killed or an innocent bystander wasn’t seriously hurt.”