DETECTIVES have welcomed the sentence of a key player in a plan to murder a drug rival but have re-iterated their determination to arrest three suspects who fled the country.

Eugert Merizaj played a pivotal part in persuading Hemawand Ali Hussein to turn up Chapterhouse Street, Hartlepool, in September 2019, where he was shot at point blank range.

The 31-year-old managed to flee the country following the murder but was arrested in Belgium before being extradited to face his trial at Teesside Crown Court.

The Northern Echo: Hemawand Ali Hussein. Picture: CLEVELAND POLICEHemawand Ali Hussein. Picture: CLEVELAND POLICE

The plot to kill the Stockton father-of-two was the culmination of a long-running feud between rival Kurdish and Albanian groups on Teesside, which included a gunfight between the two warring parties in Middlesbrough.

Last year, Noza Saffari, Dorian Pirija and Qazim Marku were convicted for their roles in the killing of Mr Hussein but were cleared of his murder.

Read more: Family's heartbreak after dad-of-two blasted to death with a sawn-off shotgun

Detectives from Cleveland Police are continuing to hunt for muder suspects Sajmir Dodoveci, 36, 30-year-old Daniel Kadiu, and Armando Marku, 22. However police believe these individuals may also be known by other names.

The Northern Echo: HUNTED: Sajmir Dodoveci, 36, top, with 30-year-old Daniel Kadiu, and Armando Marku, 22, below. Pictures: CLEVELAND POLICEHUNTED: Sajmir Dodoveci, 36, top, with 30-year-old Daniel Kadiu, and Armando Marku, 22, below. Pictures: CLEVELAND POLICE

Today, the judge, Honourable Mr Justice Nicholas Lavender QC, sentenced Merizaj to a minimum of 32 years in custody for his role in the gangland slaying.

Read more: Man jailed for life after dad-of-two was blasted to death with sawn-off shotgun

Speaking after the hearing, Detective Chief Inspector Sarah Robinson, who led the investigation, said: “I welcome today’s sentence which sees another defendant in this long running case being dealt with – there are still three suspects outstanding and we remain absolutely committed to bringing them to justice.

“This has been a very complex and long running inquiry which as we know, began with the calculated and brutal execution of Mr Hussein – a much loved partner, father and son.

“Our inquiries involved many teams from within the Force and they were also supported by police colleagues across the UK, the National Crime Agency (NCA) and the Belgian Federal Police as well as the numerous witnesses whose assistance was invaluable.

“Nothing can bring Mr Hussein back but I sincerely hope today’s result may bring a further degree of closure for his family who have gone through unimaginable pain since his death.

The Northern Echo: Eugert Merizaj. Picture: CLEVELAND POLICEEugert Merizaj. Picture: CLEVELAND POLICE

“Eugert Merizaj did all he could to evade capture however he was caught and I’m pleased he has now faced justice. He undoubtedly caused further distress to Mr Hussein’s partner and family by denying his involvement in his death and putting the family through another trial.

“Tackling serious and organised crime remains a priority for Cleveland Police and we will continue to work with our communities, policing colleagues in the UK and beyond to bring perpetrators to justice.”

Noza Saffari, 39, of Park Lane, Middlesbrough, was jailed for 15 years after he was convicted of manslaughter and cleared of murder.

Read more: 'Gangland execution' - three members jailed for role in brutal killing

The Northern Echo: Saffari, Pirija and Marku. Pictures: CLEVELAND POLICESaffari, Pirija and Marku. Pictures: CLEVELAND POLICE

Qazim Marku, 25, of Maxwell Road, West Drayton, in London, Dorian Pirija, 33, of Trillo Avenue, Bolton, each got 19 years after they were also found guilty of manslaughter and cleared of murder.

A fourth man, Anxelo Xhaferi, was cleared of both charges.

Merizaj, of Montague Street, Leicester, was found guilty of murder last month.

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