Man found guilty of manslaughter - Hatfield

04/02/2013

A man has today, Monday, 04 February 2013, been jailed for 10 years after being found guilty of the manslaughter of Hatfield man Darren Leonard.

Mikel Cela, aged 22, of Mountway Close, Welwyn Garden City, was sentenced at St Albans Crown Court to eight years and eight months for manslaughter, and one year and four months for conspiracy to rob. The sentences are to be served consecutively.

A jury returned the guilty verdict for manslaughter by a majority of 10-to-two, following a four-week trial at St Albans Crown Court. Cela had already pleaded guilty at the start of the trial to conspiring to rob 24-year-old Mr Leonard.

Mr Leonard died on 11 July last year following an altercation at his home in Northfield, Hatfield. He suffered multiple injuries during the incident including fatal stab wounds.

His death prompted a murder inquiry, codenamed Operation Bulrush, by the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Major Crime Unit.

Baljit Ubhey OBE, Chief Crown Prosecutor for Thames and Chiltern Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), said: "We have worked closely with Hertfordshire Constabulary since this investigation was launched. This was a tragic crime, which led to the untimely death of Darren Leonard.

"The jury returned a guilty verdict for manslaughter despite Cela's denials. The prosecution accept the verdict of the jury.

"The Crown Prosecution Service praises the strength and courage of Darren's family who sat through the trial and listened to the horrific details of how Darren was stabbed to death in his own home, without provocation following an altercation.

"As a result of the hard work and diligence of the prosecution team, a just outcome has been achieved for Darren and his family and friends. We hope that the conviction and sentence will in some way help Darren's family and friends come to terms with this tragic event.

"Cela has today been sentenced to a total of 10 years. However, no matter how long the prison sentence is, we acknowledge that nothing can make up for the loss felt by the family and friends of Darren. Our thoughts are very much with them at this time."

Detective Chief Inspector Mark Ross, who led the investigation, said: "First and foremost our thoughts are with Darren's family at this time. Darren sadly met a tragic end when he was bound up and tortured in his own home. No one should lose a loved one in this terrible way, but I hope this sentence will be of some comfort to them. The Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Major Crime Unit work relentlessly to pursue criminals who commit these crimes."

Welwyn Hatfield Chief Inspector Dave Wheatley added: "We have heard in court that a drugs dispute may have led to Darren's death. No one should die in this way and I'd like to reassure people that we take a strong stance against drugs in our community, working in various ways to identify and tackle those who may be involved in drug dealing or use. If people do have concerns following this trial, they can speak with their local Safer Neighbourhood Team officer."