DRUG gang members who helped cover for their pal after he stabbed a man to death in an alleyway have been jailed.

Daniel Saunders, 32, was knifed in the abdomen by Kieran Hayward in Ipswich last year.

Southend Standard:

Tragic - Daniel Saunders

The 17-year-old from Bury St Edmunds was convicted of murder after a trial and jailed for life with a minimum term of 19 years.

Hayward was on the run from police for days after the attack which was sparked because he believed Mr Saunders had been involved in a robbery of one of his associates.

Southend Standard:

Killer - Kieran Hayward

He was helped by fellow members of the Rico and Frank drug line members Arun Jadeja, Benjamin Gosbell, Kieran Elliott - all from Colchester - and a 16-year-boy from Bury St Edmunds.

They helped him clean up in a Premier Inn in Colchester before taking him to a caravan in St Osyth owned by Jadeja’s family where he hid out for four days until police caught up with them.

The group - along with Olusola Durojaiye who acted as a driver for them on different occasions and vouched for them when they bought a knife in Southend - were all convicted of assisting an offender.

Jadeja, 18, of The Nook, Wivenhoe was handed 30 months in a youth detention centre, while Benjamin Gosbell, 21, of Gratian Close, Colchester; was handed the same term in jail.

Kieran Elliott, 17, of Stanford Close, Colchester was given an 18 month training and detention order while Durojaiye, 34, of Appleton Mews, Colchester, was given a 12-month prison sentence suspended for two years and 250 hours unpaid work.

The other boy will be sentenced later this month.

Det Chief Insp Caroline Millar said: “The sentences handed down today reflect the severity of the crime and I hope will allow Daniel Saunders’ family to now begin the slow process of moving forward with their lives.

“This was a fast-moving investigation from the very beginning and due to the hard work of all the officers and staff involved, we were very quickly able to identify Kieran Hayward as the prime suspect for the murder, along with a number of his associates, culminating in the arrests of Hayward and three of the others just four days after the attack."

“Everyone involved with investigating this case worked extremely hard to enable us to gather all the evidence, make further arrests, bring charges and be ready to go to trial all in the space of sixth months, which was no easy task.

“Daniel’s murder was an act of extreme violence and has once again demonstrated how dangerous the world of drug-dealing is and which has seemingly become more violent since the advent of county lines.

“Suffolk Police continues to do all it can to tackle the evil world of drugs supply and the associated knife crime that often goes with it, as too many families are being left to pick up the pieces of the devastation it causes. Alongside taking the enforcement action, we are committed to working with partner agencies on preventing people from becoming involved with drugs - whether as a user or runner.

“If you believe someone you know may be getting drawn into this world there is help available from a number of support agencies, the details of which can be found on the Suffolk Police website, as well as that of Suffolk County Council and local authorities.”