Operation Venetic: Gangland enforcer sentenced to life imprisonment after acid attack and plots to blind victims - National Crime Agency

2022-06-15 13:24:13 By : Mr. Kevin Wang

A gangland enforcer who launched a horrifying acid attack on a victim and plotted to blind other victims has been sentenced to life behind bars.

Jonathan Gordon, 34, was jailed today at Liverpool Crown Court with Judge David Aubrey telling him he must serve a minimum of 24 years and eight months.

When he is eventually released he will spend his life on parole.

Describing Gordon’s acid attack as a “truly wicked act of barbarity,” the judge told him: “You have reached the depths of inhumanity.”

Gordon, who charged £6,000 to commit an acid attack and £10,000 to blind someone, took instructions from an unidentified boss of an organised crime group (OCG) on the encrypted communications platform EncroChat.

On 14 April 2019 he nearly permanently blinded his first victim by throwing a container of acid in his face.

Gordon lay in wait for the victim who emerged from his home in Milton Street, St Helens, to get a charger from his car.

The victim managed to get back inside his house and doused his face with water. He was blinded . He regained partial vision in one eye months later after extensive medical treatment and identified Gordon at an identity parade – but said his “health and recovery teeter on a knife edge”.

In a heart-rending victim impact statement, the victim described the terror and agony of the attack.

He said: “My skin felt like jelly. As I washed my face it felt as if my skin was falling off my face. My eyes and skin continued to burn and I was in agony.”

Speaking of the devastation on his life, the victim said he was “left in a world of darkness, depression and dependency”.

He said: “I thought first about my family.

“They needed me, but I couldn’t support them in the state I was.

“I worried that I would forget my children’s faces. I thought about the fact they would age and their faces would change, but I would only ever know them as children.

“I accepted I would never be the father they deserved. I’d never be able to drive them anywhere. I’d never be able to see them play their football matches.

“I’d never see their school play. They would bring me painting and drawings home from school and I would pretend I could see the picture in front of me."

Gordon used the handle Valuedbridge on EncroChat and was a member of the Deli Mob in Liverpool.

He planned a second acid attack on a man in Blackpool – with his paymaster declaring the victim “needs a good litre on him” – and a third attack on a man in Warrington.

The Blackpool attack was cancelled because it was scheduled during the first lockdown when the roads were empty and the offenders were worried about police spotting their stolen car.

On 6 April 2020 Gordon, who is from Kirkdale but of no fixed abode, instructed Dylan Johnston, 27, and Stephen Wissett, 28, to drive a stolen Ford Fiesta to Birtles Road, Warrington, and throw acid on a man who lived at the property. Gordon remained in Liverpool at the time but pretended to his crime boss that he had also attended.

Spotting the house had CCTV the offenders abandoned the attack and decided to return the next day in disguise.

But the next day, 7 April, while in Liverpool, the three offenders were approached by Merseyside Police patrol officers. Gordon, Johnston and Wissett ran off but the car was seized and the attack prevented.

Forensic examination found Wissett’s DNA on a Lucozade bottle, the steering wheel and a pair of gloves. Johnston’s DNA was on another pair of gloves.

EncroChat was taken down in 2020 with international law enforcement able to access messages criminals had sent.

The National Crime Agency launched Operation Venetic – UK law enforcement’s response to the takedown of EncroChat.

Previously encrypted messages showed Gordon was taking instructions from the unidentified crime boss who was undeterred by the failed bid on 7 April and wanted Gordon to go back to Birtles Road and “double the dose” and “cook” the intended victim with acid.

NCA investigators – working with Merseyside Police, Cheshire Police and the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit - discovered through EncroChat messages that a hand grenade was previously left in the front garden of the house in Birtles Road, Warrington.

Using the EncroChat intelligence, NCA officers arranged for the bomb squad to conduct a controlled explosion on the grenade on 14 April.

Because of this, the OCG paused the acid attack because it was obvious law enforcement had become involved. Gordon still discussed the planned acid attack, telling his boss: “He getting blinded, bro.”

EncroChat messages also showed Gordon had a street gunfight on 24 January 2020 with an unknown man.

Cell site evidence showed Gordon’s mobile phone was in Wilburn Street, Liverpool, around midnight, and Gordon also sent his boss a message saying he “let off a clip in the street”. Officers attended the scene and found a kicked-open front door to a house with Gordon’s DNA on it and on the handle of the back door.

Messages also showed that Gordon was involved in another gun fight with an unknown attacker on 25 May 2020.

At 11.45pm the man approached Gordon on an e-bike and they exchanged fire – a bullet from Gordon’s Grand Power handgun went through the bedroom window of an elderly couple’s house in Carisbrooke Road, Liverpool.

In the aftermath Gordon told his boss on EncroChat that he had lost his Grand Power – and sent him an image of a newspaper story about the shooting.

His hand was visible in the picture and a finger print expert compared his palm with the palm in the photo and said both were Gordon’s.

Gordon was also involved in a plot to shoot up a property in Reaper Close, Warrington, on 20 March 2020.

He and accomplice Dylan Johnston, 27, organised a team to blast the windows of the house in a drive-by shooting. Phone records linked the two men calling each other in the minutes after the attack. Forensics proved the bullets came from the same gun involved in the Wilburn Street shooting. Judge Aubrey said he was satisfied Johnston pulled the trigger during this attack.

Gordon and Johnston were found guilty by a jury at Liverpool Crown Court last month.

Wissett, of Ellesmere Port, Cheshire, but no fixed abode, had already admitted conspiracy to commit GBH – he was part of the team planning to throw acid in the face of the target in Warrington.

Today, Johnston was jailed for 18 years. He would have received 27 if he had not pleaded guilty.

Likewise, Wissett was sentenced to 12 years and six months and would have been sentenced to 17 years and six months after trial.

Ben Rutter, NCA Operations Manager, said: “Gordon caused life-changing injuries to one victim who has suffered an unimaginable physical and mental ordeal.

“The victim’s bravery in helping with our investigation was crucial to seeing Gordon locked up today.

“Jonathan Gordon is a terrifyingly dangerous offender, he was totally unconcerned about blinding someone for money.

“This investigation spanned a number of years and brought out the best in our officers who were aided by superb work from Merseyside Police and Cheshire Police.”

A Merseyside Police spokesperson said: “The actions of these offenders were unimaginably cruel. They carefully arranged to inflict terrible injuries on other human beings, and the physical and emotional pain their actions have caused cannot be overestimated.

“Thankfully they were stopped in their tracks thanks to the work of the National Crime Agency, supported by officers from Merseyside Police, and after data the offenders thought they were sharing secretly on Encrochat devices was downloaded by law enforcement.

“Organised crime groups do not care about the devastation they cause in the heart of our communities, often using fear and violence to maintain the illicit trade they are often involved with.

“I hope Gordon, Wissett and Johnston spend their time in prison considering the impact they have had on the victims and their families.”