A TAXI driver who copied a set of keys for the empty house where a man was fatally shot said he 'didn't know a murder was going to take place'.

Faisal Azam was paid £150 by one of the gang accused of carrying out the execution-style killing of Hemwand Ali Hussain in a prospective cannabis farm site.

The 30-year-old was lured to his death in Hartlepool by a rival drug gang in September 2019, Teesside Crown Court heard.

Mr Azam acted as an intermediary for men accused killing the father-of-two when he agreed to get a copy of the keys for the house on Charterhouse Street in return for money.

Anxelo Xhaferi, Noza Saffari, Dorian Pirija and Qazim Marku were charged with his murder although detectives have identified a number of other people they believe were involved in the murder.

John Elvidge QC, representing Saffari, quizzed the witness about his actions in the days leading up to the fatal shooting.

The barrister asked Mr Azam why he hadn't told the property owner that he was going to get a spare set of keys cut. He said: "Was it because you thought that whatever you thought was going to be happening within the property?"

He replied: "What was supposed to be happening? Obviously, I didn't know that a murder was going to take place.

"I didn't know anything was going to happen or somebody else's intentions."

Earlier the court had heard how Mr Azam had been in contact with the gang and was handed £150 in cash after getting the keys cut.

Jurors were told that Mr Hemwand suffered a fatal gunshot wound to head within minutes of arriving at the terraced property in Hartlepool.

CCTV and mobile phone records were used by detectives to identify a number of men seen running away from the scene.

Xhaferi, 24, of Acton Street, Middlesbrough; Saffari, 39, of Park Lane, Middlesbrough; 33-year-old Pirija, of Trillo Avenue, Bolton; and Qazim Marku, 24, of West Drayton, all deny murder. The trial continues.