Wanstead gang member guilty over murder of innocent man shot dead by mistake

Hamza Ul-Haq, from Wanstead. Picture: Met Police

Hamza Ul-Haq, from Wanstead. Picture: Met Police - Credit: Archant

Three gang members, including a 21-year-old Wanstead man, have been found guilty of murdering an innocent man who was shot dead by mistake during a bloody turf war.

Joseph Williams-Torres, shot dead in a case of mistaken identity in Walthamstow last year. Picture:

Joseph Williams-Torres, shot dead in a case of mistaken identity in Walthamstow last year. Picture: Met Police - Credit: Archant

Joseph Williams-Torres, 20, was targeted by three hooded youths as he sat in a van with a friend in Walthamstow on the evening of March 14 last year.

Hamza Ul Haq, of Burden Way, Wanstead, was one of three attackers who mistakenly identified Mr Williams-Torres as a member of a rival gang, pulled out a gun and fired, before running off in less than two minutes, jurors heard.

The victim was hit in the chest and legs.

He died on the way to hospital less than an hour later.

Prosecutor Allison Hunter QC told jurors the shooting was part of a series of related and "retaliatory" acts of violence that had its roots in a dispute between rival groups of youths.

Ul Haq, 21, Loic Nengese, 19, of Arkley Road, Walthamstow, and a 16-year-old from Hackney, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, denied murder but were found guilty following a trial.

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Ms Hunter said the defendants were friends who were associated with the same gang which had become increasingly confrontational and angry since the murder of one of their own, Elijah Dornelly, in May 2017.

They were engaged in a "turf war" with other gangs, jurors heard.

In November 2017, Ul Haq had been squirted with acid and another boy was stabbed by a group of masked hooded males in Walthamstow, the court heard.

Ul Haq presumed it was gang rivals as they set out to avenge the attack on March 14, jurors were told.

Ms Hunter said: "Joseph Williams-Torres, however, was murdered by mistake.

"It was undoubtedly a ruthless and planned attack on a rival group member, but he was not the intended target.

"They had, it would appear, mistakenly identified him for another."

She said the intended target was the same height and build and even wore the same beanie hat as Mr Williams-Torres, who lived locally.

Jurors were told how the defendants were captured on CCTV cameras and the youth dropped his mobile phone at the scene.

Ul Haq and Nengese denied being the attackers caught on CCTV.

The youth admitted being at the scene but declined to name who he was with, saying it was not his co-accused.

He claimed he thought it was going to be a robbery and did not know anything about a gun.

Following their convictions, Judge Anthony Leonard QC remanded the defendants into custody to be sentenced on January 10.

Ul Haq will also fall to be sentenced for attempted aggravated burglary.

The family of Mr Williams-Torries wept as the verdicts were delivered and hugged the prosecution team as they left court.

Mr Williams-Torries father Tony, on behalf of the family, said: "Joseph never deserved to die and we will never be able to forgive those responsible for doing it. There will never be a harsh enough sentence or punishment for what they have done. Our hearts are forever broken.

"No matter how much time passes our lives will never ever be the same.

"A part of our lives ended when they took our Joseph."

Det Sgt Ian Valentine from Specialist Crime said: "Joseph's murder was the result of ongoing retaliation and tit-for-tat incidents between rival gangs. Joseph wasn't a gang member but sadly that night he was mistaken for someone else.

"Many lives in this case, and others, are being destroyed by gang violence. We need to turn the tide.

"If you know someone involving in gang activity, drug dealing, carrying weapons please come forward. You don't need to speak to police, you can contact the independent charity Crimestoppers or fearless.org.

"Please provide information to help us save lives and prevent others being ruined."