This is the face of a thug who set the house of a young family on fire on the orders of a 16-year-old gang leader.
Mohammed Mohammed was a cannabis dealer for Harry O’Brien – the baby-faced yob behind three terrifying shootings and a firebombing. Mohammed, then 19, carried out the arson attack on O’Brien by pouring gasoline on the front door of a mother’s house and setting it on fire.
The victim and his children were having breakfast when flames engulfed their address in Dingle Lane. They ran for their lives as the fire spread from their hallway to the stairs and upstairs.
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O’Brien, now 17, and other members of his crew were locked up last month. Today was the turn of Mohammed, now 20, to be sentenced at Liverpool Crown Court.
Judge Neil Flewitt, QC, said the arson was organized by O’Brien “as part of an ongoing dispute”. He added that Mohammed’s “significant role” as a street trader in the gang’s plot was clear.
O’Brien’s gang terrorized the streets of south Liverpool in late 2020 and early 2021. The 16-year-old, then Buckland Street Aigburth, controlled a ‘grafted’ phone line selling cannabis to Dingle customers, but also had access to a Glock-type semi-automatic pistol, which he used in three shootings in just three weeks.
The attacks, including arson, targeted members and associates of two families, the Franchettis and the Rosarios, with whom O’Brien had a “quarrel”. Convicting O’Brien, Judge Flewitt said, “The lives of wholly innocent people, including young children, have been endangered by the callous and cowardly actions of everyone involved.”
Mohammed, of Kingsley Road, Toxteth, took part when O’Brien targeted the Dingle Lane house of Claire Bowness, home with her three teenagers. David Temkin, QC, prosecuting, had previously told the court: “Notably they were all from the Rosario family. Ian Franchetti senior is the uncle of these children.”
O’Brien has enlisted the help of a 14-year-old boy, from Toxteth, who cannot be named for legal reasons. O’Brien also enlisted then 19-year-old Sian Kanu, who recruited Mohammed.
The unnamed boy filled a can of petrol at a Shell garage on Aigburth Road on February 1 last year. He was taken by Mohammed to Ms Bowness’s home around 8am on February 5.
Mr Temkin said: “The fire spread through the property, moving from the hallway to the stairs and upstairs. Claire Bowness and the Rosario children, along with their dog, managed to escape through rear of the property. However, they all required medical treatment for smoke inhalation.”
Muhammad flees. But he had left the gas can outside the house and the screw cap contained his DNA.
Police also identified Mohammed in a photo, which showed him in The Elms, “pausing to catch his breath”, as he escaped. After the attack, the four conspirators met at the home of a vulnerable person in what prosecutors called a “post-arson debriefing”.
On February 11, the 14-year-old boy was arrested and interrogated. He revealed that he had filled up a gas can for O’Brien for his motorcycle. He said he looked up the address of the burned house on Apple Maps the day before the attack because O’Brien had asked him to show Mohammed where it was, but he didn’t know why.
The boy then said he knew O’Brien had a fight with someone in the house with the last name “Rosario.” He told police the next day at Kanu’s house that he had seen the others talking about the fire and O’Brien had given money to Mohammed.
From February 17 to March 26, 2021, Mohammed supplied cannabis to O’Brien. That day he was arrested, police raided a house in Toxteth, where cannabis and cash were seized, and found him hiding in a cupboard.
Mohammed claimed that the drugs and the money belonged to him and that he was going to smoke some of them and sell the rest. He was released but could not be located until he was arrested in Cumbria on September 9.
When questioned again, Mohammed denied knowing O’Brien, being involved in the arson or being broadcast on CCTV. He later admitted conspiring to commit arson, not knowing if life would be in danger, and conspiring to supply cannabis.
Jane Greenhalgh, defending Mohammed, who has a previous conviction for cannabis possession, said today he was recruited by O’Brien to do the group’s ‘dirty work’. She added that Mohammed had been informed that the Dingle Lane house was not going to be occupied at the time of the attack.
Ms Greenhalgh said: “He (Mohammed) was of course part of the plot, but not at the top of the tree. It is agreed that his role can be called significant.” She added: “Mr. Mohammed was recruited by them to do their dirty work efficiently. He had no personal grudge against anyone at this property. His motive, he said, was entirely financial.”
The court heard that Mohammed, now 20, was offered £150 as payment for the attack. Ms Greenhalgh said he may have been an easy recruitment target for O’Brien’s gang as he faced financial problems.
Judge Flewitt locked up Mohammed for five years, saying: ‘This is a charge of reckless arson and it was a very reckless act to pour flammable liquid on the door and set it on fire.’ He added: “There must have been a risk that at this time of day the house would be occupied. The scenario presented a real risk of people being trapped in this property and not being able to escape.”
Describing the arson as a: “revenge attack against the backdrop of a gang feud,” the judge told Mohammed: “If any of these children were trapped on this property, it is very likely that they would have died.”
O’Brien admitted the arson and cannabis conspiracies, as well as the conspiracy to possess a firearm with the intent to instill fear of violence. He was locked up for nine years and eight months, with a license extended for three years.
Jurors could not reach a verdict against Kanu, now 20, of Amity Street Toxteth, on the arson plot. He later admitted to participating in the criminal activities of an organized criminal group and was imprisoned for two years and three months.
The unnamed boy, now 15, admitted to the arson plot. He was given a two-year youth re-entry order, with a six-month home curfew.