A COUPLE who conspired to manipulate a witness to the manslaughter of Ben Mahoney in Dartford have been sentenced to five-and-a-half years in prison.

Neil Sookoo, 37, rang a witness to the killing at the House on the Hill kebab shop to try and get him to withdraw his statement.

Takeaway employee Cafer Zorlu was present when Eddie Ives beat Mr Mahoney to death following a row on April 12 last year.

Ives has had two years and eight months added to his eight-year sentence for manslaughter after admitting perverting the course of justice in collusion with Sookoo and Sookoo’s partner Tereza George, 42.

Sookoo shares a home in Hampton Crescent, Gravesend, with George, who passed him the names of three kebab shop workers including Mr Zorlu after a telephone call between Ives and his sister Meranda Eccleston, 35, while he was on remand in Lewes Prison.

Ms Eccleston, who relayed the names to George, was also charged with perverting the course of justice but she was found not guilty at Maidstone Crown Court on December 18.

Sookoo and George were convicted the same day.

Before Ives’ trial Sookoo rang Mr Zorlu and told him: "I’ve just been to see the guy and he said all the people in the kebab shop have lied in their statements and that you should withdraw your statements or the Ives family would pay you a visit.

"These are not very nice people so you should withdraw your statement."

Sookoo was sentenced at Maidstone on Thursday (Jan 23) to four years in prison for perverting the course of justice and a further four months for possessing cannabis with intent to supply.

George was sentenced to 18 months.

Ives was convicted in September of the manslaughter of Mr Mahoney and on November 22 he admitted trying to get Mr Zorlu to change his account.

Mr Mahoney, 30, of St Martin's Road, Dartford, died of a brain haemorrhage after being repeatedly punched in the head, face and neck.

DCI Paul Fotheringham, of the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate, said: "Yesterday marked the end of a long-running saga that continually dragged up painful memories for Mr Mahoney’s family and friends.

"Perverting the course of justice is an extremely serious offence and the sentences handed down to this trio should make others think twice before committing a similar crime in an effort to escape justice.

"I welcome the news George and Sookoo will be joining Ives behind bars and can only hope this will at least bring some closure to Ben’s family."

Read News Shopper's coverage of the Eddie Ives trial here