Monks Park murder: Cannabis dealer denies knowledge of gang war which saw Neasden man shot in the head, court hears

Kwasi Mensah-Ababio. Picture: Met Police

Kwasi Mensah-Ababio. Picture: Met Police - Credit: Archant

A drug dealer at the centre of a suspected revenge killing in Wembley which saw a Neasden man shot in the head insists he had “nothing to do with it” and “barely knows” the men accused with him.

Kwasi Mensah-Ababio was found slumped on a park bench in Monks Park with a gun shot wound to his head on July 7.

The 26-year-old ,from Neasden, was killed two days after rapper Craig "Smalls" Walters was gunned down on the Harrow Road in what is believed to be a gang-related murder.

Taalib Rowe, now 25, from Luton, is the first of four defendants to stand in the witness box after Rene Montaque, 24, declined to give evidence.

Alhassan Jalloh, 20, and Karlos Gracia, 22, both of Stonebridge Park, have also been charged with Mr Mensah-Ababio's murder.

Rowe told jurors at the Old Bailey today that he "didn't know" the two younger defendants prior to his arrest.

The court heard that Rowe, who grew up in the area, was related to Mr Walters and following the rapper's death had been in Wembley on July 5,6 and 7 "to pay respects" to the grieving family in Macarthur Close.

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On the day of Kwasi's murder he was with a group of people at a memorial shine in Harrow Road which had been built following the daylight shooting of Mr Walters.

He told jurors he "heard a bang" that day "which sounded like a gunshot" coming from the park but didn't know what it was about.

Asked by both the defence and prosecution lawyers if he knew of a group called the Thugs of Stonebridge and the rival St Raphs gang, Rowe said: "No (…) I found out after I was arrested."

Alison Morgan QC prosecuting, asked Rowe who shot Kwasi to which he replied: "I don't know, I wasn't there."

She asked him if it was "all a very unhappy coincidence" that he "happened to be in Monks Park" when the shooting happened. "Just like Mr Mensah-Ababio, in the wrong place at the wrong time, same for you is it?"

"Yes," he said.

He told the jury "I'm not a drug dealer, I sell cannabis to friends and family" including Montaque who he was contacting on the days leading up to the murder to sell him the drug.

Asked if he knew Darren Buchanen, a member of the St Raph's gang, who was believed to be the murderer's intended target he told jurors he didn't.

Ms Morgan asked if he was "trying to keep himself safe" by dealing drugs in the "right area" of Stonebridge.

"You felt safe because you were part of this group with Craig Smallz?"

"No," he said.

All four defendants deny murder.

The trial continues.