Two men guilty of murder of father gunned down outside birthday party

Two men have been found guilty of the murder of a father-of-three, who was shot eight times as he left a birthday party in a “carefully co-ordinated execution”.

Robert Powell, 50, was gunned down in Roydon, near Harlow, Essex, in the early hours of June 13 2020, Essex Police said.

He had left the party in Water Lane at about 4.45am and died later in hospital.

One of the shots went through Mr Powell and hit two nearby women, injuring them.

Essex Police said Nana Oppong, 43, and Israar Shah, 39, organised and carried out the killing.

Nana Oppong
Nana Oppong (Essex Police/PA)

Both men fled the country in the days after the shooting but were tracked down and extradited to the UK last year – Oppong from Morocco and Shah from Spain.

The force said that on Tuesday both men were found guilty at Woolwich Crown Court of Mr Powell’s murder and possession of a firearm, after a trial.

Oppong was also found guilty of causing grievous bodily harm and possessing a prohibited weapon, and he admitted to conspiring to supply Class A drugs, police said.

Oppong and Shah will be sentenced at the same court on Friday, May 31.

Essex Police said it is likely other people were involved in the murder, and officers are continuing their work to identify and prosecute them.

Investigators found that a Ford Kuga car, later found to have cloned number plates, stopped near Mr Powell in the seconds before the shooting.

A person stepped out of the vehicle and gunned him down, the force said, and the car then left the scene.

It was later traced to an industrial estate in Epping, where it was dumped before being collected hours later.

Israar Shah
Israar Shah (Essex Police/PA)

The police investigation was assisted by the National Crime Agency’s successful cracking of EncroChat, an encrypted messaging service largely used by organised criminals, which established Oppong had likely been out to get Mr Powell.

It is believed that days before the shooting, on June 5, the suspects had planned an aborted attack on Mr Powell.

Other encrypted messages included a discussion about a specific type of 9mm ammunition, the same type used to kill Mr Powell.

In the hours after the shooting, Oppong’s EncroChat handle deleted a significant amount of data, suggesting he was trying to hide incriminating evidence tying him to the murder.

The EncroChat conversations further implicated Oppong in a conspiracy to supply cocaine and transfer criminal profits.

Shah was linked to a Toyota Prius recovered from his home address in the days after the shooting, and he is believed to have acted as a spotter.

This Prius was seen travelling in convoy with a Vauxhall Zafira, thought to have been a support vehicle, to the location of the murder, and away from the scene in the moments after the shooting.

The Prius is seen to drive past the party repeatedly in the hour before the murder,

Detective Superintendent Stephen Jennings, of Essex Police’s Serious Crime Directorate, said: “This murder was unusual in its level of sophistication, organisation and brutality.

“It was not a spontaneous act of violence, but rather a planned and carefully co-ordinated execution.

“While we may never know why the defendants carried out this murder, it is clear Oppong held a grievance against Robert Powell and was committed to seeing him killed.”

Samantha Woolley, a specialist prosecutor from the Crown Prosecution Service in the east of England, said: “Robert Powell was ambushed and shot eight times as he left a birthday party in a meticulously planned murder.

“Bystanders were left terrified and Mr Powell’s sons had to witness their father being treated at the scene before going to hospital where he died.

“Oppong was the mastermind and Israar Shah acted as a lookout.

“Both men were at the scene and then quickly fled the country.

“I worked with our extradition lawyers to get them back to the UK so they could be put on trial.

“I hope their murder convictions provide Mr Powell’s family with a sense of justice.”