A ‘businessman’ and the hitmen he hired to launch a grenade attack on a man’s home have been jailed for a total of almost 70 years following a West Midlands Police investigation.
Danyal Gurjee paid Merseyside hitmen Stephen Cronin and Bradley Harrington to embark on a campaign of intimidation against the 43-year-old who he accused of costing him £400,000 in a failed business venture.
The 40-year-old, from Bramhall Lane in Preston, ploughed the money into a property business venture in the Democratic Republic of Congo alongside the Moseley businessmen who are also understood to have invested heavily.
However, the deal collapsed towards the end of 2017 and prompted Gurjee, who lost his full stake in the proposed project to send a series of threatening text and phone calls to his would-be business partner demanding his money back.
His vengeance took a sinister turn when he paid Liverpool men Cronin (31) and 30-year-old Harrington £8,000 to ramp up the pressure on his behalf.
In the early hours of May 24 last year, the pair pulled up in an Audi A3 near the victim’s home in Anderton Park Road and forced open security gates before Cronin smashed a downstairs toilet window and Harrington tossed an improvised grenade inside.
Seconds later it detonated causing damage running into tens of thousands of pounds but thankfully the property was empty and no-one was injured.
West Midlands Police detectives set about a painstaking CCTV trawl that saw them trace the Audi’s movements for up to three miles as it headed south of the city.
Detectives suspected they were heading towards the M42 − and the hunch proved correct when examination of Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras picked up the hatchback heading onto the motorway.
The car registration was shown to be active across Merseyside and was seen on camera heading south towards the West Midlands on the night of 23 May − and detectives also found footage of the men buying burgers at a motorway service station.
Just over a month later − on 26 June − a relative of the victim received a phone call from a man with a Merseyside accent asking for a message to be passed on that they could “come to some sort of arrangement” but warning they were “not to be messed with”.
And the next morning the victim’s mother awoke to find a greetings card with a handwritten note urging her son to contact a mobile phone number.
Officers found the card − featuring a sausage on the front and the words “You Silly Sausage” − was stocked at a local supermarket and CCTV revealed two men buying the card at a self-service till.
It enabled detectives to identify Harrington and Cronin − whose fingerprints were found on the card − and more painstaking CCTV analysis revealed their Audi A5 Quattro had travelled from Liverpool to Birmingham and back overnight between 26-27 June.
They were arrested days later and charged with conspiracy to cause an explosion.
A mobile phone seized from Cronin showed regular contact with numbers associated with Danyal Gurjee and his brother Abdul Gurjee.
In one message Cronin, from Pilch Bank Road in Dovecote, Liverpool, tells Abdul Gurjee “he gave me 3k for a 10k job. I’m not letting this go… the same be happen to his house that’s a promise”.
It prompted Danyal Gurjee to retort: “You ain’t getting more dough. You’ve had 8k. Done further more you could have had a lot more. Don’t threaten me I don’t take lightly to that”.
In the face of overwhelming evidence gathered by West Midlands Police, Cronin admitted conspiracy to cause an explosion, possession of two hand grenades, possessing a sawn-off shotgun and ammunition, plus possession of a .22 rifle.
The other charges were brought after a van was seized on 16 April last year in Liverpool after being spotted on cloned plates; it was later found to contain the guns and another grenade which police forensically linked to Cronin and Harrington.
Harrington, from Access Road in Liverpool’s West Derby region, and Danyal Gurjee both denied conspiracy to cause an explosion but were found guilty by a jury.
Harrington was also found guilty of possessing grenades and a firearm, while the Danyal Gurjee and his brother Abdul Gurjee, aged 36 from Tabley Lane in Preston, were found guilty of blackmail.
And at Birmingham Crown Court on Friday (15 March) Harrington was jailed for 23 years and Cronin for 21 years and eight months.
Danyal Gurjee was given a 16-year prison term and his brother sentenced to eight years behind bars.
West Midlands Police Detective Inspector Tom Hadley, said: “The investigation was detailed and complex… carried out with exceptional skill and tenacity by our officers. It’s a fact not lost on the prosecution barrister who, at court, praised the determination of the investigation team.
“The team went to great lengths to identify the offenders by painstakingly examining CCTV from around Birmingham, tracking their car to Merseyside and uncovering vital CCTV evidence from service stations and shops.
“It’s not clear how the Gurjees came across Cronin and Harrington but it’s suspected they were customers at a mobile phone shop where Abdul worked − and he simply thought they were sinister types who could help his brother exert more pressure on the victim.
“These are very dangerous hitmen who were prepared to use extreme levels of violence in order to threaten and intimidate. In my view they would happily have seriously injured someone of killed had the price been right − and the public are much safer with them behind bars.”