Two men jailed for life for kidnap, firearms and drugs offences - St Albans

12/05/2014

Two men appeared at St Albans Crown Court today, Monday, 12 May 2014, and were sentenced to life imprisonment and to serve a combined minimum term of over 16 years for the kidnap of a man from St Albans last year (2013).

Clayton McKenzie, aged 36, from High Street, Harlesden, and David Rhoden, aged 28, from Flowers Close, Neasden had been on trial since 17 March. Last week they were both found guilty of kidnap, carrying a firearm with criminal intent, possessing a Class A drug with intent to supply, possessing a firearm at the time of committing an offence, and assault occasioning actual bodily harm (ABH). Rhoden was also found guilty of making use of a firearm with intent to resist arrest and possessing a firearm with intent to endanger life.

Rhoden was jailed for life and is to serve a minimum of 10 years 190 days and McKenzie was jailed for life and is to serve a minimum of 6 years 190 days.

The court heard that the victim, a 30-year-old man from London, had been walking along Hatfield Road, St Albans on the morning of 16 November 2013, when a silver Peugeot 306 pulled over. The driver called the victim to the vehicle before getting out and hitting him to the back of the head. The man was then dragged unconscious into the car.

The same car was seen at around 12.05pm that day on the M1 southbound in the vicinity of Junction 6 by two Hertfordshire Constabulary police officers who were deployed as part of the proactive Operation Sentinel team. The registration showed on the Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) system that the MOT had expired in September 2013.

Officers followed the car and attempted to stop it.  However, the vehicle sped off resulting in a police pursuit. The Peugeot travelled south towards London reaching speeds of over 100MPH whilst weaving in between lanes and narrowly avoiding collisions with other motorists.

The vehicle exited at Junction 4 and headed into Edgware, North London followed by police. As the vehicle pulled into Broadhurst Avenue the driver and front seat passenger decamped. At that point the car was still moving, but came to rest against a curb. The two officers, who had been following, got out of their vehicle and gave chase.

As they ran, one of the offenders (Rhoden) fired backwards with two guns towards one of the officers.  Thankfully no-one was injured. These guns were later found to be a revolver and a handgun, both of which were recovered along with a block of 63% purity cocaine.  At this point a number of other officers, including colleagues from the Metropolitan Police, attended the scene to assist in the search for the offenders. Extensive searches of the area were made.  However, no one was arrested.

The victim was found in the back of the car tied up and was taken to hospital for treatment.

McKenzie was arrested the following day in London, whilst Rhoden was arrested on 29 November following a firearms warrant at an address in Neasden.

Adrian Foster, Chief Crown Prosecutor for Thames and Chiltern Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said: "This case involved the horrific kidnap and assault of a 30-year-old man, and a Hertfordshire police officer being indiscriminately shot at, which could have had far worse consequences.

"At about midday on 16 November 2013, two officers were on patrol when they attempted to stop a Peugeot, which had no MOT, but it failed to stop and made off at speed.  Two men eventually decamped from the moving vehicle and the officers pursued them on foot. Rhoden, the passenger, had a hand gun in each hand and whilst fleeing across front gardens he fired both guns in the direction of one of the officers.  One bullet lodged in a garden wall and ballistic strike marks were found in a garage door and on a faade of nearby Greville Lodge.  As many as five shots were fired.

"Rhoden's actions showed a complete disregard for the safety of the officers or the numerous members of the public that were walking nearby.  The unarmed officers were forced to stop their pursuit.

"Using a courtroom display system, the prosecution were able to present compelling CCTV footage, audio clips, evidence of gunshot residue, cell site evidence and sophisticated DNA evidence to the jury.

"McKenzie tried to claim to police that his car had been stolen and that he had in fact been kidnapped and dumped in a country lane and denied any involvement in the offences despite being identified from CCTV stills by another police officer.  Rhoden failed to answer police questions, but during the trial also denied the offences.  The jury saw through their lies and found them guilty despite their denials.

"The incident highlights the dangers police officers face while doing what thousands of police officers do every day - protecting the public from dangerous criminals.  The officer bravely put his life at risk in an attempt to detain Rhoden and I commend his actions.  I would also like to thank the witnesses, who came forward and gave evidence in very difficult circumstances.

"We have worked closely with Hertfordshire Constabulary since this investigation was launched and as a result of the hard work and diligence of the prosecution team, a just outcome has been achieved for the victim and the police officers.  I am pleased that these dangerous men are off our streets.

"Understandably the events on that day have had a significant impact on the victim and the police officers.  I hope that the convictions and sentences will in some way help them come to terms with these horrifying events with the knowledge that those that subjected them to the terrible ordeal have been brought to justice.  Our thoughts are very much with them all at this time."

Detective Chief Inspector Jason Gordon from the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Major Crime Unit led the investigation and said: "These two men took a man from the street in broad daylight making threats to kill him,  before putting officers lives at risk in an attempt to evade arrest. Clearly these men are dangerous and I am pleased with the sentences they have been given.

"What the officers believed would be a routine stop turned into an extremely dangerous situation and despite being fired at, they continued in the course of their duty to pursue the offenders. This truly highlights the serious and potentially fatal risks faced by police on a daily basis and their bravery should be fully commended.

"A large number of officers and staff were involved in this case from the initial incident to subsequent investigation and trial. I would like to thank each and every one of them, including our colleagues in the Metropolitan Police who assisted significantly, for their support in ensuring these men faced justice."

Passing sentence Judge Andrew Bright QC said: "I am quite certain that you are both leading members of a well organised criminal network engaged in the importation and distribution of Class A drugs.

"I am in no doubt that you are both extremely dangerous men who are willing to carry loaded firearms and use them when necessary in furtherance of your criminal activity."