A man named Courtney Ellis, 38, has been convicted of murder, along with other charges, in a trial at the Old Bailey that lasted for nine weeks, starting on October 17, 2023. The conviction relates to the murder of a man outside a chicken shop in Wembley back in 2019.
The murder victim, Michael Small (known as Craig), was apparently killed in the midst of escalating gang tensions. Courtney Ellis was also found guilty of attempted murder and perverting the course of justice. Additionally, Christopher Kyei was found guilty of perverting the course of justice in the same trial. Both individuals are scheduled to be sentenced at the same court on February 2.
At around 8:10pm on Friday 5 July 2019, Craig went to a chicken shop on Harrow Road, Wembley. While he stood outside waiting for his meal, a masked man ran along the pavement towards him. The man was less than a metre from Craig when he fired the fatal bullet. A second bullet was fired as Craig collapsed to the floor, narrowly missing him.
Craig was pronounced dead in hospital at 21:00hrs. He was 32 years old.
Detective Superintendent Helen Rance, from the Met’s Specialist Crime Command who led the investigation said: “Craig’s murder was the tragic culmination of a series of reprisal attacks linked to gang activity.
“Craig was targeted, his murder planned and brutally carried out in the streets of Wembley. Craig’s death is thoroughly senseless and serves as a tragic reminder of the utter futility of gang violence – it achieves nothing other than devastating families and unleashing more violence on London’s streets.”
After the shooting, eye witness accounts given to police reported seeing the gunman run around the corner and get into a waiting car. Detectives later learned it was Courtney Ellis waiting in the driver’s seat of a blue Mini using false registration plates.
Immediately after killing Craig, Ellis and the gunman drove to Bridge Road in Wembley. At the location, the gunman attempted to fire at the windscreen of a parked white Mercedes toward the intended victim. CCTV recovered by detectives showed that the gun failed to fire.
Detectives spent hours analysing CCTV footage to track the journey of a Mini eyewitnesses had reported seeing the gunman get into after shooting Craig. It was subsequently tracked it to key locations. The sun visors of both driver and passenger were lowered in an attempt to hide their identities.
Detectives identified a number of unregistered phones used by Ellis and Kyei in the lead up to Craig’s murder.
Police examined the phones and laptops recovered from their home addresses which were used to establish a longstanding relationship between Ellis and Kyei. Photos, voice notes and WhatsApp messages confirmed the link between the men as well as references to previous episodes of violence.
When questioned by detectives, Ellis and Kyei denied any involvement in the murder.
Craig’s mother, Carol Campbell said: “Not a minute goes by where Craig is still not at the forefront of our minds. His murder has totally destroyed what’s left of us as a family. Craig was a father of three young children and his loss to us all is immeasurable. A caring and kind man taken from us all with no justification. That fact is a burden we will have to carry until the day we die.
“We will never truly move on from what happened to Craig but would like to take a moment to thank the investigation team who have worked tirelessly to secure justice for Craig. I’d particularly like to mention Detective Superintendent Helen Rance and Detective Sergeant Terry Goodsman who both went above and beyond in this investigation for us, as well as Detective Constable Chris Lipson, our original Family Liaison officer. The three of them showed me that not all police officers are the same.”
Det Supt Rance continued: “It has been a long road to get to today’s verdict. Craig’s family have had to endure two trials and I can underestimate the immense difficulty they have been through over the past four years. They remained dignified but are utterly broken and devastated by his death.
“Over the course of this investigation, mobile phone data was key to establishing the movement of these two men both on the day Craig was murdered and their actions over the following days. There was significant planning that went into this attack, which officers were able to unpick with careful viewing of CCTV and connecting this to mobile data to prove to the jury these men were responsible for the planning, carrying out and careful disposal of the vehicle used in Craig’s shooting.”
“One key thing that we have not been able to overcome is the wall of silence about the identity of the gunman. Given the level of planning that went into Craig’s murder, the gunman’s identity will be known to others however so far there has been steadfast refusal to share this with police. If you have any information to identify him, please speak to police, or anonymously via to Crimestoppers to help us find the person responsible for firing the bullet that killed Craig.”
If you have any information that could help police please call 101 and give CAD 9128/5 July 2019 or Crimestoppers anonymously via 0800 555 111