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Two men jailed after shooting a bullet through a van window in Newcastle
30 Sep | 17:38

A man who was convicted of shooting a gun through the window of a white van driver in a shocking case of “mistaken identity” has been jailed for life.

Mark Exley has been handed the sentence at court today (Monday) while his co-accused Christopher Jones who was jailed for 18 years for the shooting in Kingston Park in February.

The pair pleaded guilty midway through their trial in July following the incident on Windsor Way in February this year.

The court was told how the victim, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, was targeted by the pair while he waited at traffic lights in the morning rush-hour.

He was left stunned after a masked man appeared at his passenger window, brandished a firearm and pulled the trigger.

The shot shattered the glass but miraculously missed the driver who was able to slam his foot on the accelerator and escape the scene.

The gunman then got back into a blue Rover, driven by an accomplice, and fled the area before the vehicle was burnt out near to a primary school in Benwell.

An investigation was launched and officers scoured hundreds of hours of CCTV which ultimately led to the identification of two prime suspects.

Those men were identified as Exley, who lived nearby, and Jones who were arrested, along with 10 others  suspected of being involved in the offence. 

Exley and Jones were later charged with attempted murder and possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life.

They denied the charges but midway through their trial at Newcastle Crown Court the pair dramatically entered guilty pleas to the charge of possession of a firearm to endanger life.

Despite his admission, Exley, 44, was today jailed for life with a minimum term of ten-and-a-half years. Jones, 34, was jailed for 18 years with an extended licence of three years.

Northumbria Police’s senior investigating officer, Detective Chief Inspector Dave Cole, welcomed the life sentence handed to Mark Exley.

He said: “I am pleased with the sentences handed down by the judge and in particular I welcome the life sentence handed to Mark Exley.

"He has a previous conviction for using a firearm in very similar circumstances and spent a number of years behind bars but he has not learned his lesson.

"Now he will spend a significant period of time behind bars and the streets of Newcastle are a safer place with this man in prison.

"We take an extremely firm stance on organised crime and these two men have admitted using that weapon believing the occupant of the van to be a rival criminal.

“What they didn’t know was that the person sitting behind the wheel was an innocent member of the public.

“He is incredibly lucky not to have been hit by the bullet and we could have easily been talking about a murder investigation and conviction.

“The victim has been incredibly brave throughout these proceedings and I know what happened to him has had a big impact on his life.

“I want to make it absolutely clear that the illegal possession and use of firearms will not be tolerated in the Northumbria Police area.”

Northumbria Police’s Assistant Chief Constable, David Felton, said: “I want to praise the team of detectives who brought this case to court and secured convictions that will see these men jailed for a significant period of time.

“Through the work of Operation Sentinel we are committed to tackling organised crime and we will take robust actions on the rare occasions that incidents like this take place.

“These sentences should send a strong message to anyone involved in organised crime. You may think you can get away with it but you will not and will find yourself behind bars for a very long time.”

The attempted murder charge against Exley, of Benwell Grange, Newcastle, and Jones, of Whitbeck Road, Slatyford, was dropped after they pleaded guilty to the firearms offence.

Ashley Rice, 30, of Benwell Grange, Newcastle, was also charged with perverting the course of justice after providing a false alibi for the men.

She initially pleaded not guilty but also changed her plea and was jailed for 17 months at Newcastle Crown Court on August 1.

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