07:09PM, Friday 29 January 2021
An 'extremely dangerous' man who attempted to kill someone on the Britwell estate with a shotgun at point-blank range has been sentenced to 24 years.
Billy Merryweather, 22, of Wentworth Avenue, was convicted of attempted murder in September last year. His co-defendant, Michael Omitiran, 23, formerly of Webb Close, Slough, received 13 years in prison for a lesser offence.
On March 26 last year, the two defendants approached a vehicle where the victim was sitting and Merryweather shot the victim, 26-year-old Malamin Sarr, through the passenger-side window with a sawed-off shotgun.
The bullet went through the victim’s shoulder and became lodged in his chest. He managed to escape the vehicle and run away. The pair were caught on CCTV outside the estate's youth club.
The defendants appeared at Reading Crown Court for sentencing via video link from Bullingdon prison in Bicester, Oxfordshire today (Friday).
The prosecution told the court that Merryweather was ‘high risk' and posed 'serious harm to members of the public’, citing a list of prior violent offences and convictions for possession of dangerous weapons dating back to 2014.
Merryweather’s defence team claimed that he had made a ‘pre-emptive strike’ against the victim, who he believed posed a possible threat to his family, including his young son.
The defence told the court the victim appeared to be ‘staking out’ the defendant’s house, in a van parked outside all day. The van was found to contain weapons, including a baseball bat and a knife.
Merryweather’s defence also contested that he was a danger to the public, saying that in all of his crimes, he only posed a threat to those he had ‘fallen out with’.
However, Judge Heather Norton rejected this and said the firing of a gun in a public street creates a risk to the public.
Merryweather’s co-defendant Omitiran made a statement to the court. In it, he apologised for his behaviour saying he was naïve and it caused him ‘nothing but shame and embarrassment’.
When sentencing, Judge Norton said that the men’s response to a threat was ‘wholly wrong’ but considered their eventual admission of guilt, their ages and Omitiran’s good character references and statement of apology as mitigation.
She described Merryweather’s actions as ‘criminality of the most serious of lethal kind.’
“Your ready willingness to show violence to others and the ease with which you obtained and used a gun is a great worry,” she said.
She added that she did not believe that the perceived threat of harm to the defendant and his family was any excuse.
“When that threat seems to stem from involvement in criminality, that is no mitigation at all,” she said.
Merryweather received 24 years in prison in total, with the final three years to be served ‘on licence’ in the community.
He was also convicted of one count of possession of a firearm with intent to commit an indictable offence and received a seven-year sentence to be served concurrently.
He must serve two thirds of his sentence, 14 years, before he will be eligible for parole.
Omitiran received 13 years for possession of a firearm with intent to commit an indictable offence and intent to endanger life.
Senior investigating officer, Detective Chief Inspector Andy Howard, of the Thames Valley Police Major Crime Unit, said: “This was a violent and utterly irresponsible incident, which put a number of people in danger, and which was intended to result in a loss of life.
“Merryweather set out that evening to kill his victim, and it is only through luck that this did not occur.
“He is an extremely dangerous offender, who is quite prepared to commit offences like this, literally on his own doorstep.
“Not only did Merryweather clearly intend to kill the victim, he and Omitiran also showed a shocking and blatant disregard for the safety of other members of the public by discharging further shots across Wentworth Avenue as the victim fled.
“This case demonstrates that Thames Valley Police will not tolerate serious violence and that we will use all available resources to pursue, arrest and prosecute those involved in the criminal use of firearms.”
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