Page last updated at 00:10 GMT, Monday, 17 October 2005 01:10 UK

When a blood feud came to Britain

By Chris Summers
BBC News

Two men have been sentenced for murdering an Albanian man in London. The case involved a blood feud with its roots in Albania, as BBC News website reveals.

Petrit Manahasa
Manahasa wore a picture of his brother around his neck

On 21 January 2000 Mikel Manahasa was shot dead near the railway station in the central Albanian town of Peqin.

Manahasa's best friend, 22-year-old Denis Ceka, claimed a gun had gone off by accident but, fearing the consequences, he fled the country and eventually ended up in Britain.

He was tried in his absence and sentenced to 12 years for murder.

Manahasa's family, in the tradition of the blood feud, sought to gain 'proper' retribution for their loss.

'Obliged to seek revenge'

Detective Superintendent Richard Freeman, who led the investigation, said: "As the eldest brother Petrit felt obliged to avenge his brother's death.

"There is a photograph of Manahasa showing him wearing a necklace with a large photo of his brother on it. That says a lot about his motivation."

Manahasa learned Ceka had gone to Britain and decided to seek him out and kill him.

As the eldest brother Petrit felt obliged to avenge his brother's death
Detective Superintendent Richard Freeman

Accompanied by his cousin, Shpetim Selhaka, he travelled to Britain through the usual trafficking routes for illegal immigrants.

They arrived in June 2002 and immediately claimed asylum but, unlike many Albanians, they had no intention of staying in the UK permanently.

Ceka had arrived in Britain in September 2000, with his brother Besnik, hidden in the back of a lorry.

By the summer of 2002 Besnik had been deported to Italy, leaving Denis, also facing deportation, alone in Northampton, home to a small Albanian community.

Manahasa and Selhaka were initially locked up at the Oakington detention centre in Cambridgeshire.

They were refused leave to stay but were released pending an appeal and ended up living in Hounslow, west London.

Denis Ceka
Denis Ceka was followed to Britain from Albania by his killers

They started trying to find out where Ceka was and eventually Selhaka - who was not known to him - located him and persuaded him to move to Wood Green, north London.

On 20 September 2002 Ceka told his flatmate he was going over to Hounslow to watch football on TV with some other friends.

'Lured to house'

Det Supt Freeman said: "He was lured to this house in Hounslow and at some point Manahasa came into the room and stabbed him to death."

The body was wrapped in a bedspread and dumped in undergrowth under Heathrow's flightpath.

On 25 September 2002 a workman digging a ditch for a communications cable for the new Terminal Five discovered the body.

Detectives initially thought it might have been a stowaway who had fallen out from the undercarriage of a plane as it came in to land.

But the stab wounds soon proved otherwise.

Eurostar train
The killers tried to escape on a Eurostar train

The body was quickly identified and good detective work soon led police to the scene of the crime and the prime suspects.

But they had vanished.

On 21 September they had been caught at Waterloo station trying to get onto an outward bound Eurostar train with doctored Italian travel documents.

They were fined 100.

Difficulties leaving Britain

Det Supt Freeman says: "There are systems to get people into this country without documents but they had difficulty in getting out of the country."

Police monitored their mobile phones but were unable to prevent the pair sneaking out of the country, probably by stowing away on a lorry in Kent.

There are around 60,000 ethnic Albanians living in Britain and detectives persuaded an Albanian-language newspaper, Gazeta Shqiptare, to run appeals for information in their London edition.

Marc Emur checks his gun in case someone comes for him
Even elderly relatives can be targeted in blood feuds

Eventually the pair were arrested in Albania and the authorities in Tirana agreed to put them on trial in their home country.

Detectives travelled from London to brief police and prosecutors on the evidence they had unearthed.

Manahasa, 33, and Selhaka, 26, recently pleaded guilty to the killing during a hearing in the town of Elbasan.

Det Supt Freeman, said he understood the practice of blood feuds was quite common in some parts of Albania, especially villages in the north of the country.

He said: "When they returned home they would have had great status in their community. When the police came for them they were not hiding in any way."

It's concerning that criminal elements from different cultures are coming to this country in the belief that they can conduct serious criminality
Det Supt Richard Freeman

Det Supt Freeman said the Albanian community, and others, should heed this case: "We will progress any murder in this country the same way whatever the cultural origin of the case.

"It's concerning that criminal elements from different cultures are coming to this country in the belief that they can conduct serious criminality but we are proving on a regular basis that we will target these criminals, adapt our policing and obtain convictions."

He said: "With Europe expanding and Albania wanting to become part of the wider Europe an extradition treaty will no doubt be established once the prosecution system is balanced with European expectations."

Det Supt Freeman said of Denis Ceka's killing: "It was totally premeditated. They came to the UK to commit a murder, as a result of a blood feud in Albania."

An Albanian court recently sentenced Manahasa to 20 years in jail and Selhaka to 19 years. But both men have appealed and under Albanian law the sentences are not final until the appeal is heard.

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