Guilty verdict in ‘honey trap’ trial where gambler was kicked to death

CourtsBy Sunday World
Leonie Granger. (Inset) A video grab of the killers stuffing the stolen money into their underwear
Leonie Granger. (Inset) A video grab of the killers stuffing the stolen money into their underwear

A young woman wept as she was found guilty of setting a honey trap for a professional gambler who was kicked to death for the sake of his winnings.

Care assistant Leonie Granger, 25, deliberately targeted 56-year-old Mehmet Hassan in March last year after meeting him in a Mayfair casino.

Following a trial at the Old Bailey, she was found guilty of Mr Hassan's manslaughter by a majority but not guilty of murder.

Her co-defendants Kyrron Jackson, 28, and Nicholas Chandler, 29, were convicted of murder.

Granger began to cry in the dock after the guilty verdicts were delivered while Chandler lashed out angrily, shouting and swearing, and had to be grappled to the floor and removed by six dock officers.

Judge William Kennedy then warned the remaining pair they faced "significant and immediate" jail when they are all sentenced on Tuesday, April 28.

The court heard how Mr Hassan was oblivious to the sting as he wined and dined the woman he knew as Rachel, even bragging to his friends that he was not paying her to be with him.

After their first date, Granger, of Gillingham, Kent, was overheard by a taxi driver reporting back that Hassan was "flashy" and saying: "This guy is a professional gambler. He has never worked a day in his life."

On the night of the murder, Mr Hassan had taken Granger to the top Mayfair restaurant Nobu before going on to the Palm Beach Casino nearby where he gave her £1,000 in cash to gamble with.

Dressed in a strapless top, tight-fitting black trousers, high heels and a large gold necklace, Granger was spotted by a poker supervisor kissing Hassan "passionately" and she told the pair to "get a room".

Later, he took her back to his Islington flat where she made her excuses and left in a taxi - but not before letting in her boyfriend Jackson and his friend Chandler, who were poised to strike outside.

Using parcel tape, the two men tied up Mr Hassan in his bedroom then kicked him to death and ransacked his home as they searched for his stash of cash.

While Mr Hassan's beaten and bloody body lay undiscovered, the killers were filmed on Granger's mobile phone throwing wads of £50 notes around.

Granger's "soft target" was known to have two favourite casinos in Mayfair - the Playboy Casino on Old Park Lane and the Palm Beach Casino in Berkeley Street.

He sometimes won as much as £15,000 at a time and rather than using bank accounts, he would keep his winnings around his flat, even keeping thousands of pounds in his microwave.

The fact the divorced father-of-three "enjoyed the company of women" made him particularly "vulnerable to the unscrupulous", prosecutor Crispin Aylett QC told jurors.

He said Mr Hassan's death was the "culmination of the ruthless greed" of Jackson and Chandler who had been involved in two armed robberies at the same casino in South Kensington in January and February last year but with limited success.

In each case, guns were used and the victims were tied up and subjected to violence.

The jury was shown CCTV film of the dramatic raids as well as clips of Granger and Mr Hassan together in the casino hours before the killing.

They were also played a short clip of the three defendants literally throwing the victim's money around hours after the murder, with Jackson wearing a gas mask and stuffing a fist full of notes into his underpants.

In her defence, Granger admitted she had been involved in a plan to rob Mr Hassan, but denied being party to the murder.

She told jurors that on the night of the killing she saw Chandler waiting outside Mr Hassan's flat with another man she did not know.

While Jackson denied involvement in the murder, Chandler told the court they had both gone to an address in Islington.

He said while his friend went inside the flat, he had stayed in the car outside playing Flappy Bird and Candy Crush.

All the defendants were convicted of robbing Mr Hassan and conspiracy to falsely imprison him.

Jackson, of Romborough Way, Lewisham, south east London, and Chandler, of Lee High Road, south east London, were further found guilty of two counts of plotting to rob employees of Grosvenor Casinos, two counts of conspiracy to have a shotgun and imitation firearm in January last year, and two counts of conspiracy to falsely imprison.

Following the verdicts, victim impact statements were read out on behalf of the family of Mr Hassan, who had sat in court throughout the trial.

His sister Meyrem Musa described her brother as a "very special and unique man", a "witty and professional poker player" and a "devoted and committed father" whose violent death would "haunt" the family forever.

His daughter Stephanie Hassan told how her father had been cheated of a future and the chance to meet his grandchildren and see his own three children grow up.

She wrote that he was always there to support his family financially when they needed help, adding: "Every day we miss him and we love him."

Their statements were interrupted by an angry scuffle in the dock, as Chandler stood up and swore loudly while Granger cowered in a corner protected by a female dock officer.

After the case was adjourned for sentence, Detective Chief Inspector Andy Partridge said: "Mehmet Hassan was lured into a 'honey trap' by Leonie Granger, having been targeted for his affable nature and success at the casino tables.

"People who knew Mehmet Hassan - his family, friends and associates - described him as a likeable and generous man. His death was senseless, motivated by the greed of three people who exploited his generosity in the most callous manner imaginable."

Mr Hassan's nephew Hassan Gunay added: "Although nothing will ever replace Mehmet this just verdict provides an element of closure and relief that the callous perpetrators have been brought to justice and removed from our streets."