Drugs gang guilty of ammonia attack murder

Mugshot of Youssef Wynne, a man with short dark hair
Youssef Wynne was found to have orchestrated four ammonia attacks [Northumbria Police]

Four members of a drugs gang have been found guilty of murdering a man in an ammonia attack.

Andrew Foster, 26, suffered a fatal asthma attack after being sprayed in the face at his home in Gateshead in August, Newcastle Crown Court heard.

His killers were also found guilty of orchestrating and carrying out three other similar chemical attacks in the days before his death, one of which led to a woman losing an eye.

The men, led by Jarrow-based drug dealer Youssef Wynne, will be sentenced on 26 July.

Prosecutors said Wynne, who his lawyers claimed had been portrayed as the "Tony Soprano of Jarrow", orchestrated four so-called "taxing raids" on rival drug dealers across South Tyneside between 9 and 20 August 2023, carried out by his "enforcer" Paul Fawcett.

Fawcett's friend, John Wandless, assisted in the final three attacks, the last of which killed Mr Foster.

Josh Hawthorn was found guilty of helping to arrange the fatal raid.

In the other attacks, a woman at home in Jarrow lost an eye, while two other men suffered injuries in assaults in South Shields and Hebburn.

Mugshots of Paul Fawcett and John Wandless, one with a ginger beard and the other with a large tattoo on his neck
Paul Fawcett and John Wandless carried out the attack on Andrew Foster [Northumbria Police]

The month-long trial heard Mr Foster bought drugs from Wynne and made cannabis sweets which he sold around the area.

Shortly after 23:00 BST on 20 August, Mr Foster was sprayed in the face after answering a knock at the door of his home in Eighton Terrace, Wrekenton.

His partner Katie Harrison said she was in bed when she heard Mr Foster screaming and shouting he could not breathe.

She said she called 999 and tried to perform CPR but could "tell from his face" that he was dead.

'Breaks my heart'

Andrew Foster's mother, Karen, described him as "a big softy" who "loved life so much".

She said: "He was such a happy, loving young lad who lit up the room with his energy, and always had everyone laughing.

“It breaks my heart that I will never get to hear him say, ‘I love you Mam’ again."

Mugshot of a man
Josh Hawthorn was found guilty of helping to arrange the attack on Andrew Foster [Northumbria Police]

The court heard he was pronounced dead at hospital almost 24 hours later, with a pathologist saying the ammonia spray triggered a fatal asthma attack.

In a statement released after his death, Mr Foster's family said he was a "kind and funny boy who was so loved" and had "his whole life left ahead of him".

Lawyers for the four men had said there was no actual evidence of their involvement in the attacks.

The defendants and the verdicts are:

  • Youssef Wynne, 39 and of Wuppertal Court, Jarrow, guilty of murder, robbery, assault causing actual bodily harm, inflicting grievous bodily harm and two counts of attempting to cause grievous bodily harm with intent

  • Paul Fawcett, 33 and of Balkwell Avenue, North Shields, guilty of murder, robbery, inflicting grievous bodily harm and two counts of attempting to cause grievous bodily harm with intent

  • John Wandless, 33 and of no fixed abode, guilty of murder, robbery, inflicting grievous bodily harm and attempting to cause grievous bodily harm, having admitted handling a stolen VW Golf and arson for destroying the car

  • Josh Hawthorn, 22 and of Ashfield, Jarrow, guilty of murder and robbery

Speaking after the verdict, Det Insp Tam Fowler of Northumbria Police, described it as a "shocking and orchestrated crime spree" with the four acting together to "intimidate and cause serious harm".

He said: “Not only did their cowardly and vile actions lead to a young man tragically losing his life, but they also left a woman with life-changing injuries.

“You don’t have to deliver the fatal blow to contribute to someone’s death – and using a household item such as ammonia can still very much amount to murder."

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