Victim of a deadly trap set for someone else: The killing of Giuseppe Gregory

The families of Halton McCollin, Louis Brathwaite and Giuseppe Gregory were each robbed of a much loved son by gun crime on the streets of Manchester. The killings were linked, and 14 years, two of those families – Halton’s and Louis’s – still haven’t seen anyone brought to justice. As police make a new appeal for information,the Manchester Evening News looks at the tragic connections between three senseless deaths.In this, the third piece in a series of special features, the MEN’s chief reporter Neal Keeling looks back at the murder of star pupil Giuseppe.

After being shot in a tit-for-tat attack at the William Hill bookmakers in Withington, Louis Brathwaite seemed to be improving.

Many visitors came to his hospital bed, and were reassured that their friend would pull through.

At the same time, rumors were buzzing about who had shot him. And one name kept being repeated.

That name burned in the minds of those who heard it, after Louis unexpectedly deteriorated and died of his injuries, aged just 18.

Louis had been hugely popular in south Manchester, where he was known to friends as ‘Smiley’.

Kids who had known and loved him went out and got tattoos. Among them was his boyhood friend, Hiruy Zerihun.

Hiruy Zerihun, 18, fired the murder weapon which killed Giuseppe Gregory.
Hiruy Zerihun

One of the tattoos Zerihun got read ‘RIP Louis never forget you Smiley’. Another simply read ‘LBR’.

Months later, standing in a dock at Manchester Crown Court, Zerihun would insist that it stood for ‘Love Before Revenge’.

Prosecutors thought differently. They believed it stood for ‘Louis Brathwaite Revenge’. By that stage, another young man had been shot dead-and Hiruy Zerihun was on trial for his murder of him.

One Sunday night in May 2009, Giuseppe Gregory, 16, met up with some friends.

Victim - Giuseppe Gregory
Giuseppe Gregory

He was the youngest of the group, a promising pupil at Cedar Mount School in Gorton, predicted to do well in his GCSEs.

By the evening, the group were sitting in a VW Golf on the car park of the Robin Hood pub, near Stretford Arndale, undecided about whether to join the party that was inside.

One of the group got out of the car to check how busy it was with a bouncer, before returning to tell the others.

They were just pulling away from the car park when shots rang out, shattering the windscreen.

For a few seconds it seemed like everyone was OK. Then the others noticed how Giuseppe was slumped in the back. He had been shot in the head with a 9mm handgun.

Just like Halton McCollin and Louis Brathwaite, whose killings were part of the same chain of violence – Giuseppe was not the intended victim.

The intended victim was someone else in the car – the person who the rumor mill said had shot Louis Braithwaite months earlier.

This young man had been arrested on suspicion of the murder and released by police without charge – and so became a target for street justice, meted out by Hiruy Zerihun and others.

But, just like the intended targets of the previous two shootings in the cycle, the onetime suspect escaped without injury – and someone else was killed instead.

Njabulo Ndlovu posing as a gangster.
Njabulo Ndlovu

In 2010 gunman Hiruy Zerihun, then 18, was jailed for life for the murder, alongside Njabulo Ndlovu, then 19.

A third member of the killer gang, Moses Mathias, who was just 15 at the time went on the run for two years, before being held in Amsterdam and eventually jailed for life.

All three were associated with Gooch gang splinter groups.

Wanted poster.  Have you seen Moses Mathias
Wanted poster for Moses Mathias

As the sentencing High Court judge, Mr Justice Timothy Holroyde put it: “It’s in my view clear from the evidence heard in the trial that this murder was gang-related and motivated by revenge.

“A bleak and disspiriting picture has emerged during the trial of young men engaged in wholly pointless inter-gang violence, based, it would seem, on nothing more than the unfounded assertion by each rival gang of a right to claim a certain small area of south Manchester as its own.”

James Gregory, Giuseppe’s father, would later become a director of Fathers Against Violence.

Five years after his son’s death, he laid out his feelings on the social context of the gun crime that caused it.

“A lot of children get hold of guns because of their vulnerability,” he said.

“If children are growing up in a house where there is no money or too many other children it can have a serious consequence if there is no father figure.

“That child whose mother is working two or three jobs is not always there to keep an eye on him and if the mum isn’t there to keep an eye on him then the streets will keep an eye on him and therefore you can be more likely to go down a bad side.

“If you take children to a morgue to see the devastation that guns can cause will they think that guns are still cool? Being behind a bullet is completely different to the person pulling the trigger.

“To a person involved in weapons and guns it can only end two ways – jail or death. and this is sadly happening and this is the message I am trying to send out in schools.

“As much as you do try to get the message of that out, there are people out there who are not going to adhere to it – I doubt they will reflect on their choices.”

Projects like James Gregory’s have been vital to reducing gun crime in Greater Manchester. But for families waiting for justice, there will be no sense of peace until their loved one’s killer is found.

Cold case detectives now believe they are on the brink of a breakthrough in one of the cases. There’s just one piece of the puzzle that they need.

Click here for the fourth in our series of special features, which looks at the shattering effect gun crime has had one family – and what cold case detectives now know.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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