Mr O’Connor, from Mapperley Park, Nottingham, was stabbed to death in The Meadows estate on 10 November 2021 in a pre-planned ambush by hired hit men.
The trial heard the killing was over a row between rival drug gangs but that Mr O’Connor had not been the main target. He was stabbed after being sent to broker a deal between the feuding gangs.
The investigation that followed saw a large team of detectives work around the clock to uncover the full circumstances behind the brutal murder, with police officers and police staff also involved.
786 hours of CCTV footage viewed (from 212 cameras)
101 police interviews
638 statements taken
2,305 exhibits recorded
Following this week’s sentencings, Detective Chief Inspector Rob Routledge, who led the investigation, revealed the lengths his team went to get justice for Mr O’Connor and his family.
Describing the murder probe as “undoubtedly the most complex investigation” he’d worked on during his 26 years in the police service, Det Ch Insp Routledge said: “The investigation was almost non-stop for a year following the tragic events of the day Michael was killed and leading up to the trial.
“The first four weeks, in particular, were relentless. It was vital we didn’t just find the person who inflicted the stab wound and killed Michael but that we also understood who else was involved and brought them to justice too.
“We needed to understand how wide that web reached and that led us to Manchester. Following those inquiries, long and detailed discussions were held with the Crown Prosecution Service and we ended up presenting a case to them that resulted in 13 people being charged.
“We were relentless in pursuing not just the immediate group which we knew about, but also the peripheral members and those who facilitated transportation.
“It was all-consuming. There was an inundation of detectives from various departments across the force, including from public protection and CID. Then we had our colleagues at the East Midlands Special Operations Unit which has experienced detectives from all of the region’s five forces.
“On top of that we had the PolSAs (police search advisors), the intelligence unit, the crime scene coordinators and examiners – the list is endless. All of those skill sets came together to get justice for Michael and his family.”
Det Ch Insp Routledge said the early stages of the investigation had been particularly key.
“In those first few weeks, you couldn’t move in the briefing room at Radford Road Police Station,” he recalled. "People would be in for hours before the morning briefing to prepare so that everyone knew what their focus and actions were for the day.
“It was a hugely complex investigation – not least because the night itself saw a number of incidents reported in a very short space of time. There was a fight in the street, another incident where someone was attacked with a baseball bat and a handgun, a third incident of a car being set on fire with people running away from it, and a fourth incident of a woman claiming she had been carjacked at gunpoint.
“All four incidents came in very quickly. The confusion of those four stories took some time to unravel and created numerous scenes on day one. It was huge in that sense.”
Many investigations rely on eyewitness evidence but, with few people coming forward with information, Det Ch Insp Routledge said his team had to find other ways to prove the guilt of those involved in Mr O’Connor’s murder.
He said: “Because of the nature of the crime and the tensions relating to organised crime groups, it was no surprise that there wasn’t an abundance of physical witnesses or witnesses who were wanting to come and speak to us. Therefore, an awful lot of the work we had to do was painstaking. We had to work hard to get those forensic hits and identifications.
“There’s CCTV evidence but it doesn’t show the actual attack, so again we had to do a lot of painstaking work to present the jury with a clear picture of what happened that night using the evidence that was available to us. This included a lot of data communications work and marrying it up with the movement of vehicles, based on what we knew from automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) technology – all that requires a lot of hours and dedicated individuals.
“We knew it was a big job but I don’t think any of us realised at the start how big it was going to get. But everybody stuck at it.”
Det Ch Insp Routledge revealed what kept everyone motivated during those long hours and gruelling shifts.
“It is a cliché, but when you say it you mean it… Somebody’s been killed, somebody’s lost their life in the most tragic circumstances. Behind that person are family and friends and they deserve to understand why their loved one is no longer with them. That’s why we left no stone unturned throughout this investigation.”