Two burglars who killed a man during a bungled bid to snatch nearly £100,000 of drugs from a cannabis factory have been jailed for life.
Shaddai Smith, 32, and Jason Sebran, 38, were found guilty of murdering 21-year-old Renato Geci and wounding his brother Vilson Geci, 29, after they broke into a house in Hounslow, west London, on March 22 last year.
On Monday, the pair were handed life sentences with a minimum term of 19 years.
They were also jailed for six years for wounding and three for burglary to run concurrently with the life sentences.
Judge Howard Crowson said that even though Smith delivered the fatal wound with a kitchen knife, Sebran provided “assistance and encouragement”, having restrained and stabbed Mr Geci with a screwdriver.
The judge told them: “In the event of a confrontation you were prepared to use lethal force to escape capture.
“I am satisfied the intent was to kill, although the intent was only formed a short time before the fatal blow.”
The judge also noted the “profound” effect on the victim’s family.
The Old Bailey trial heard that the property in Granville Avenue was the base of a “sophisticated” operation to cultivate more than 200 cannabis plants with an estimated value of £95,000.
Smith and Sebran climbed up a ladder and through a bathroom window, only to find the house occupied by the Albanian brothers.
The older sibling went to see what was going on, and was confronted by the intruders and sprayed in the face with what he believed was acid.
Prosecutor Crispin Aylett KC told jurors that a violent struggle ensued with Smith grabbing a knife from the kitchen and Sebran armed with a screwdriver.
Mr Aylett said: “Renato was stabbed to death with the knife as well as being stabbed with the screwdriver.
“As for Vilson, he was stabbed in the thigh with the knife and he also sustained a significant number of other injuries, albeit that most of them were fairly superficial.”
The defendants fled through a window and went to ground.
After his arrest, Smith, of Firwood Lane, Romford, admitted going to burgle the premises and claimed he had come under attack.
Sebran, from Stanford-le-Hope, Essex, told police that someone else had gone into the house while he waited outside in his car.
However, Vilson Geci’s description of one attacker’s tattoos matched letters and numbers on Sebran’s arms showing the names and birthdays of his two children.
Sebran told officers: “It’s not like I’m coming into someone’s house and nicking your TV and your video – it’s cannabis. They shouldn’t be doing it in the first place so I ain’t got no morals about taking it.”
But Mr Aylett told jurors: “All the same, those men were not acting in the public interest. Instead they were in it for money.
“An expert has suggested that the potential value of the cannabis could have been as much as £95,000.”
Jurors were told that both men had pleaded guilty to burglary but said they believed the premises to be unoccupied at the time.
Detective Inspector Garth Hall, from Scotland Yard, said: “Smith and Sebran’s claims that they believed the house they were entering was empty and that their intention was only to steal cannabis plants have been disproved by the jury.
“Both men had ample opportunity to leave the property when they found Renato and another man inside – however, they were driven by greed and the profit they saw they could make from stealing the cannabis plants.
“They decided to attack Renato, using lethal force as they overpowered him, and causing multiple injuries to their second victim before fleeing empty-handed.”