Yorkshire contract killers lose appeal

Christopher Hartley.
Christopher Hartley.
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Two men jailed for life over a love triangle contract killing have failed in their appeals to overturn their murder convictions.

Christopher Hartley, 45, of Tingley, Leeds, was shot dead in a lay-by near Huddersfield, in September 2009, after it seemed he was getting in the way of his gay lover’s new relationship with a woman.

The original prosecution at Bradford Crown Court claimed David Matthew Large, 37, wishing to get rid of Mr Hartley to allow him to continue his heterosexual relationship, paid Simon Keith Mullen, 41, thousands to kill him.

After Large, of Rona Croft, Rothwell, Leeds, and Mullen, of South Shields, were convicted of murder at Bradford Crown Court they both vowed to clear their names.

But at the Court of Appeal in London three senior judges rejected their appeal arguments and upheld the guilty verdicts.

Mrs Justice Rafferty, sitting with Lord Justice Richards and Judge David Paget QC, dismissed the appeal in less than 90 minutes.

The original trial heard that Large had been in a relationship with Mr Hartley for 15 years, but was beginning a relationship with a woman he met online.

However, Mr Hartley was “getting in the way” and Large told the woman they could only be together properly if Mr Hartley was killed.

The prosecution alleged Large enlisted Mullen, who drove to West Yorkshire and shot Mr Hartley after luring him to a rural location for a drug deal.

Both men denied any part in the killing. Large had ensured he was nowhere near the scene and Mullen claimed his meeting with Mr Hartley never went ahead.

The men’s lawyers argued the trial judge had been wrong to tell the jury they could convict even if they were not sure Mullen was the gunman.

They claimed that was not the prosecution case and amounted to serious prejudice rendering the trial unfair.

However, Mrs Justice Rafferty said: “There was nothing wrong or unfair in what occurred. This is a simple and common direction given by a judge, an experienced tribunal. He was perfectly positioned to assess the prejudice, potential or real.”

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