Hartlepool drugs murder accused tells jury he picked up 'agitated' men from torched vehicle
An Albanian man on trial for murder says he had no idea a cannabis dealer had been shot dead at a house in Hartlepool.
Dorian Pirija is standing trial with three other men for the murder of Kurdish-born Hamawand Ali Hussain who was shot and killed inside an empty house in Charterhouse Street on September 14 in 2019.
Prosecutors allege an Albanian drug gang lured Mr Hussain, 30, to the address on the pretext of wanting to use it for a cannabis growth and killed him in a dispute.
Giving evidence in the trial at Teesside Crown Court, Pirija told the jury he picked up four agitated people in his car close to a burning vehicle off the A19 in North Yorkshire on the day of the murder.
That is alleged to be a black Hyundai Santa Fe seen driving five people away from Westbourne Road near the murder scene shortly after Mr Hussain was shot.
But Pirija, 33, said he did not know what had happened.
He said Qazim Marku, who is also on trial, and three others who have not been traced by police, got into his car.
Pirija said one of the men swore and said: “What did he do to us?”
He said he asked his front seat passenger, who is a relative, what had happened.
Pirija said: “He said ‘nothing, nothing just drive’.”
Asked what the atmosphere was like Pirija said: “They were agitated.”
He added the men were sweating and pale. He said he drove them to Bolton where he also lives.
Pirija was arrested near Sheffield on suspicion of murder five days later on September 19.
Asked in court if he knew what had happened in Hartlepool, he said: “No I had no idea at all.”
Thomas Kark QC, defending, asked: “Up until that point did you have any idea that a murder had taken place?”
Pirija answered: “No.”
Under cross examination, he accepted being in ‘constant contact’ with the man said to have been in charge of several cannabis houses.
Francis FitzGibbon QC, prosecuting, said: “I suggest you knew full well that [he] was engaged in some sort of dispute with people in Hartlepool.”
Pirija, of Trillo Avenue, Bolton, said: “No, I didn’t know anything about this Hartlepool.”
He denies murder and the trial continues.