July 24 2014 Latest news:
by Tim Lamden
Friday, March 14, 2014
A man facing life in jail for the doorstep execution of a former friend will stay behind bars after his appeal was rejected by the country’s top judge.
The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Thomas, said there was nothing wrong with Lundrim Gjikokaj’s conviction for murdering Cima Sogojeva, 27, outside his Golders Green home in 2008.
Gjikokaj, 32, of Western Elms Avenue, Reading, was handed a life sentence for shooting and stabbing Mr Sogojeva to avoid paying back a massive debt.
During his trial, the jury heard Gjikokaj, a Kosovan national, arrived on the doorstep of his friend’s flat in Caroline Court, Highfield Road, Golders Green, in a fake gesture of goodwill, before pulling the gun.
Since his October 2012 conviction at the Old Bailey, Gjikokaj has continued to claim he is innocent and took his case to the Court of Appeal in January.
Appearing before Lord Thomas, Mr Justice Simon and Mr Justice Mitting, Gjikokaj’s barrister, Paul Mendelle QC, argued that the conviction was “unsafe”.
Gjikokaj had always claimed he was not there when Mr Sogojeva was shot at about 11.12am on October 6, 2008.
CCTV cameras captured images of what may have been his car leaving the area minutes before, while telephone evidence suggested he had been in Hayes, Hillingdon, 30 minutes later.
At the appeal hearing, Mr Mendelle said: “If he was in Hayes making phone calls, it was highly unlikely that he could have been in the flat at 11.12am.
“That would have left him about 21 or 22 minutes for a journey that police timed at 19 minutes with sirens blazing and going through every red light.
“It did not conclusively prove that he wasn’t there, but it was an important part of the alibi and it is something the learned judge should have dealt with.”
He said the jury might have been wrongly led into thinking that the defence had to prove it was Gjikokaj in the car, rather than the prosecution having to show it was not.
The barrister also criticised the way forensic evidence was dealt with at the trial.
Lord Thomas reserved judgment on the appeal after the hearing in January, but returned to court on Tuesday to dismiss Gjikokaj’s appeal.
He said the forensic evidence was rightly included in the trial and rejected the claim that the jury had been misdirected on how to consider their verdict.
“It is plain that the jury understood that it was for the Crown to prove that Gjikokaj was present at the time the deceased was murdered and had not left at the time he contended and before the murder occurred,” said Lord Thomas.
“In our judgment, the whole of the evidence, the case for the Crown and for Lundrim Gjikokaj, was fairly put before the jury.”
Gjikokaj will serve at least 28 years in prison before he can apply to the Parole Board for release on licence.