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Two men found guilty of murder following the death of Aranit Lleshi

Custody images of Brikel Palaj and Radian Lika

Two men have been convicted of murder following the death of a 32-year-old man in Bristol, while a third has been convicted of manslaughter.

Aranit Lleshi died of injuries he sustained during a violent clash between two groups over a cannabis factory in May 2022.

The factory, set-up inside a property in Bloomfield Road, Brislington, contained around £95,000 worth of cannabis.

A jury at Bristol Crown Court heard how the criminal group who “owned” the cannabis crop were protecting it from another group who intended to steal it. Aranit Lleshi was part of the group protecting the crop.

Following a trial, the following defendants were convicted of offences:

  • Brikel Palaj, 33, of Plumstead, London – found guilty of murder (pictured top left)
  • Radian Lika, 35, of Islington, London – found guilty of murder (pictured top right)
  • Nikola Palaj, 28, of Plumstead, London – found guilty of manslaughter (pictured below)
    Nikola Pilaj

    In addition, 34-year-old Kastriot Mhillaj, of no fixed address, admitted a charge of violent disorder prior to the trial starting.

    They will all be sentenced at a date to be confirmed.

    Sadik Lleshi, 35, of Tottenham, London, was found not guilty of violent disorder, while Rinush Behari, 33, of Woolwich in London, was found not guilty of murder and violent disorder.

    DCI Phil Walker said: “This was a horrendous incident played out on a spring evening in a quiet residential street and witnessed by those who lived there, as well as those passing by.

    “These two groups, who are both from the London area, engaged in extreme levels of violence, using any weapons they could lay their hands on.

    “CCTV footage shown to the jury during the trial (see below) captured two of the defendants (Brikel Palaj and Radian Lika) going into a nearby supermarket to buy four large kitchen knives – a deliberate purchase to cause serious harm.

    “The fact a young man has lost his life in this incident is a tragedy, and our thoughts remain with his family.

    “This was a vast and complex investigation in which we had to trace the movements of both groups in the hours and days leading up to this fatal incident. It involved examining and securing many hours of CCTV footage, so we could piece together the movements and the motives of those involved, overlaying this with intelligence gathered and analysis of mobile phones used by the defendants.

    “We’d like to thank all the witnesses who provided statements and evidence in this case, as well as the Bloomfield Road community for their patience and continued support of the police investigation.”

    Stella Waata, Senior Crown Prosecutor for the CPS South West Complex Casework Unit, said: “The violence used by those involved in this incident was ferocious and must have been frightening for those that witnessed it. While incidents like this are rare, it shows the risk posed by organised crime groups and why we and our police partners are determined to work together to dismantle them.

    “They bring untold misery to our communities, and we will robustly prosecute cases, particularly those involving weapons. I would like to thank the local community for supporting the investigation and those who came forward as witnesses. 

    “The CPS worked closely with the police investigation team to build a robust case that developed a clear picture of the defendants’ actions before, during and after the fight on Bloomfield Road. This enabled the Prosecution Team to present a strong case to the jury. The evidence gathered was complex, with large amounts of material that included forensics work, CCTV, cell site evidence, ANPR and live witness accounts. It was reviewed at pace, in order to bring the matter to trial as soon as possible.”

    DCI Walker added: “There is often organised criminality behind cannabis grows and while it’s rare for extreme violence like this to result, the risk is always there.

    “We’d encourage anyone with suspicions about a property in their neighbourhood being used for illegal drug activity to report their observations and concerns to the police – either by calling 101, contacting us online, or providing information anonymously through the independent charity Crimestoppers.”

    You can contact us through our website: Contact us | Avon and Somerset Police

    Or you can call Crimestoppers 100 per cent anonymously on 0800 555111, or through their website – they never ask for your name or trace your call.

    Cannabis factories/grows – what to look out for?

    • Strong odours – Cannabis crops take around three months to grow, odours can be potent in the final weeks.

    • Covered up windows – Curtains always drawn up or windows covered/boarded up from the inside. Windows may also be covered from the inside with plastic or polythene.

    • Excessive security measures – Excessive security measures such as extra locks or grilles on windows.

    • Lots of condensation – Look out for condensation on the windows, especially in the summer months.

    • Lots of visitors – Frequent visitors at unsociable hours.

    • Resident only visiting address twice weekly – Some cannabis growers are extremely organised and only tend to the plants a couple of times a week.

    • Plant growing equipment – Look out for potential growers taking lots of plant growing equipment in and out of properties, such as soil/fertiliser and plant waste.

    • Lots of cables and wiring – Cannabis farm set ups require lots of cables and wirings for all the equipment. If wires are still hanging from ceilings/walls after a week, this may be a sign of a grow.

    • Excessive electricity bills (For landlords) – Have the electricity bills suddenly spiked or dropped?

    • Snow – Cannabis farms produce a lot of heat. Be wary of a property without a snow-covered roof.

    • Bright lights day and night – Cannabis plants need light to grow, look out for properties with bright lighting.

    • Buzz of ventilation – The constant noise of a fan could be for ventilation for cannabis grows.

    • Vulnerable adults – Sometimes foreign nationals are forced to tend to cannabis farms and are victims of human trafficking/modern slavery.