Hitmen gunned down grandad in 'highly organised, utterly cold-blooded murder'

Robert Powell
-Credit: (Image: Essex Police)

Two hitmen who gunned down a grandfather partygoer in front of his kids have been convicted of murder. Nana Oppong, 43, and Israar Shah, 39, organised and carried out the drive-by killing of grandfather Robert 'Fox' Powell, 50, in Roydon, Harlow, in the early hours of June 13, 2020.

Mr Powell, who had left at around 4.45am, was shot eight times and later died in hospital. A Ford Kuga, later found to be on cloned number plates, stopped near Mr Powell in the seconds before the shooting, before an individual stepped out of the vehicle and gunned him down.

A shot went through Mr Powell, then hit and injured two nearby women. The Ford Kuga then sped off from the scene.

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Oppong's mugshot
Oppong was caught trying to enter Morocco using fake documents -Credit:Essex Police

It was traced to an industrial estate in Epping, where it was dumped before being collected hours later. After cracking into EncroChat (an encrypted messaging service), officers found that Oppong had likely been out to get Mr Powell.

They also saw that there were conversations surrounding a particular type of 9mm ammunition – the same kind used to kill Mr Powell. It is also thought that before June 5 the suspects had planned a separate botched attack on Mr Powell.

In the hours following the shooting, Oppong’s EncroChat handle deleted numerous messages, which police believe meant he was trying to hide incriminating evidence tying him to the murder. The EncroChat conversations also linked 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 following the shooting. It was caught travelling in convoy with a Vauxhall Zaifira to the murder scene and away from it just after the shooting.

It was also seen to drive past the party repeatedly in the hour before the murder. Shah, in the Prius, acted as a spotter on the lookout for Mr Powell, while the Zaifara was a support car.

Both vehicles were there to assist the gunman in the Kuga in carrying out the hit. Both Oppong and Shah fled the country in the days following the killing and were eventually arrested.

Oppong was arrested in Morocco in September 2022 after trying to enter the country using fake documents. He was extradited back to the UK in June last year.

Shah was found in Spain in December 2022 and extradited back to the UK in March 2023.

Both Oppong and Shah were trialled at Woolwich Crown Court for murder and possession of a firearm. Oppong was further charged with causing grievous bodily harm and possessing a prohibited weapon.

Both defendants were convicted on all charges earlier today (May 28). Oppong admitted a charge of conspiring to supply Class A drugs shortly before the trial. They will be sentenced on Friday (May 31).

Shah's mugshot
Shah was found in Spain -Credit:Essex Police

'A smile that warms my heart'

Mr Powell’s mum paid tribute to her son In 2022 - the second anniversary of his death. She said: “My son was an awesome person with a smile that still warms my heart. He was a father of three children and a grandfather of two.

“He was a well-loved son, brother, nephew, uncle, cousin and friend to many, and we all love and miss him. He would call me every week or every other day, we would Facetime each other and talk about the family, and the plans we have for the future.

“But others chose to take his dream and future plans for his family from him."

'Highly organised, utterly cold-blooded murder'

Investigation leader Detective Superintendent Stephen Jennings 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. Robert’s murder has left his family utterly devastated and they have displayed dignity throughout a years-long investigation and now, a difficult trial.

“We have dedicated countless hours to this investigation, trawling through thousands of hours of CCTV and analysing hundreds of phones. Oppong is a committed and high-level criminal, and thought he could use his knowledge of law enforcement tactics and encrypted messaging to evade justice.

“He enlisted the help of Israar Shah to act as a spotter, striking the moment Robert was seen to emerge from a party he had been attending. We quickly focused our investigation on the movements of three key vehicles, seen travelling in convoy and clearly used solely to effectively carry out the murder.

“Our investigation then extended to working with partners, including the National Crime Agency, to locate and arrest our suspects. It quickly became clear they had fled the country, and thanks to partnership working with law enforcement agencies in the UK and abroad, the net soon closed in on Oppong and Shah."

Got a story? Please get in touch at rafi.benady@reachplc.com

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