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A compulsive gambler with spiralling debts has been jailed for life after gunning down a friend who had leant him £250,000.

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Lundrim Gjikokaj had been under mounting pressure to repay his debtor, 30-year-old father Cima Sogojeva, of Highfield Road in Golders Green.

Kosovan Gjikokaj had racked up thousands in debt from gambling and his struggling business – a bar in Reading hotel.

The 31-year-old agreed to meet Mr Sogojeva, a career criminal who pinched cash from West End parking metres, at his home to hand over the cash on October 6, 2008.

Later that day armed police found Mr Sogojeva’s bullet-riddled body sprawled on the living room floor of his flat in Caroline Court after a neighbour raised the alarm, the Old Bailey heard.

A post-mortem revealed the father-of-one had been shot six times and stabbed in the head and neck with kitchen knives.

Following a four-year police investigation, involving appeals to the Kosovan community in London and complex forensic work, police charged Gjikokaj with murder in January.

On Thursday (October 25) a jury found Gjikokaj, of Elms Avenue in Reading, guilty of murder and he was sentenced to life imprisonment with a recommendation he serve a minimum of 28 years behind bars.

Det Chief Insp Tim Duffield said: “Lundrim Gjikokaj presented a carefully crafted alibi to the police after his arrest, cynically claiming that he had been elsewhere at the time, and that he had been a ‘close friend’ of the victim who claimed to be ‘heartbroken’ at hearing of Cima’s demise.

“A detailed investigation established that Gjikokaj, a compulsive gambler, had in fact meticulously planned the fatal events, and his motivation was purely to avoid paying a significant and rapidly escalating debt.”

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