The 6th August of last year was a typically pleasant English summer day. Children were on school holidays, families were spending time together and the weather was fine. The Uxbridge Rd in Ealing was busy with traffic, the roads with which we are concerned here, namely Northcote Avenue and Hamilton Road, had people coming and going upon them. But yet, on that fine afternoon, and in the space of seconds, one young life was snuffed out and three other lives changed beyond imaging.
Shortly after three o’clock that afternoon, Janhelle Grant-Murray, who was then 19 years old, walking alone down Northcote Avenue to wait for his friend Younis Tayyib outside Tayyib’s house. He had spent time with him and two other friends, his co-defendants Henry then aged 20 and Ferguson then aged 19, earlier that day and the arrangement was that they would all meet at T’s house later. They were close friends – GM, Henry and Tayyib had known each other for at least 5 years. Ferguson had become a friend somewhat later – perhaps eight months or so before this day.
Henry and Ferguson had stayed rather longer in the shopping centre which they had all visited, and were about to make their way back to the rendezvous point in Northcote Avenue via the main Uxbridge Road.
As GM walked down the road, he encountered four young men, only two of whom are truly relevant to what later occurred. Those two young men were Bourhane Khezihi and Taqui Khezihi, aged 23 and 21 respectively.
Once upon a time the phase “if looks could kill” was said with a smile – a look could not kill. Today it is increasingly the case that a look can so often lead directly to a killing. It is impossible to understand from the evidence what the significance was of the look which passed between GM and TK, but almost immediately an air of aggression began to build around them. BK and TK began to flex their verbal muscles and GM retreated down Northcote Avenue, followed by them.
At that moment Tayyib, who was acquainted with both BK and TK, arrived at the scene. He immediately intervened to tell BK and TK that GM was his friend and that there should be no argument between them.
Simultaneously, GM ran to a nearby shop and took from it a bottle of wine with which he emerged to return to the argument with BK and TK. BK took off his belt in response but Tayyib managed to defuse the situation so that, despite some further posturing and the exchange of threats, no actual blows were exchanged. There were, however undoubted acts of aggression by each of BK, TK and GM, who can be seen on CCTV to be constantly squaring up to and apparently taunting each other. Tayyib on the other hand was always described by witnesses as the man trying to keep the peace. He was acquitted of these charges by the Jury.
The jury was told that GM telephoned someone and asked for a knife to be brought to the scene, but, whilst GM was undoubtedly using his phone during the latter stages of the argument, the call evidence from telephone records shows a 17 second call to another friend (Not Cameron Ferguson) which GM told the jury had occurred by the accidental pressure on the face of his phone. Whilst he told the person to whom he spoke (who was in another area at the time) that he was scared he would be beaten up, he denied that he asked for any weapon to be brought to the scene.
As the car in which BK and TK had earlier been was being driven across the main road to Hamilton Rd opposite, the driver, Tijani, paused to speak to the group in Northcote Avenue. The jury heard that he told them that their public argument was likely to be seen by others, and advised them to stop arguing.
Tijani parked the car in Hamilton Road, leaving the fourth young man within it. Tijani returned across the road and stood with BK and TK, apparently also trying to defuse the situation, and after a short time BK, Tijani and TK made their way across to Hamilton Road.
That should and could have been an end of the matter, but the CCTV shows GM and T following them across the road. There is no doubt that there was a continuing exchange of insults between the two groups.
When they had crossed the road, BK and TK made short progress down Hamilton Road. Grant Murray, Tayyib and Tijani then reached the corner of Hamilton Road, and at that moment it appears that GM, still holding the bottle that he had taken from the shop earlier, became visible to AH and Ferguson who had reached a point on the Uxbridge Road from where Hamilton Road could be seen.
If was the evidence of Henry that, seeing GM there with a bottle, he feared trouble and the CCTV shows that he and Ferguson ran across the main road to Hamilton Road. They were each carrying then, as they had throughout that afternoon, a bag. In the case of AH, it was a satchel worn over the shoulder, and in the case of Ferguson, a JD sports bag also over the shoulder. In Fergusons bag at least, there was a knife. It was that knife that took the life of TK and, but for good fortune, might have killed BK also.
The verdicts of the jury in this case were reached after deliberations totalling in excess of 25 hours, and various notes sent by them to me during their retirement shows a logical, consistent and structured approach to their deliberations. The verdict was that each Henry and GM knew Ferguson had a knife, and that each knew that Ferguson would or might use it intentionally to kill or to cause grievous bodily harm. Those are the first two of three conclusions which our law requires to be proved in cases of this sort to allow a verdict of guilt by secondary liability, that guilt notwithstanding that that person did not personally inflict that fatal or serious wound, to be just.
The jury heard that GM stood on the corner gesturing to and encouraging Henry and Ferguson as they sprinted to the scene. On their arrival, the jury heard that he said to BK and TK “you are fucked now”.
The excellent compilation of CCTV images which had to that point demonstrated the various parts of the incident to which I have referred does not fully extend to the events in Hamilton Road. There is no footage of the fight during which the stabbings took place.
The CCTV camera on the corner of Northcote Avenue shows the arrival of AH and Ferguson at the corner of Hamilton Road and their disappearance into it. 47 seconds later, on the same camera, Ferguson is again seen to run from Hamilton Road and across Uxbridge Road. He was carrying with him BK’s belt, later found to have been stained with the blood of TK, the JD bag and undoubtedly the knife, and it is therefore obvious that TK had been stabbed within a period of 47 seconds. Other later footage shows each of GM and Henry running from the scene down the main road seconds later, and BK and TK walking in the opposite direction.
How and at what precise stage the fighting in Hamilton Road the two stabbings occurred is not clear, the various members of the public who witnessed the fight in which the stabbings took place of necessity gave different descriptions, due perhaps to the speed of the incident and the numbers involved, and perhaps also due to their own fear. None actually saw a knife in use.
What is clear is each of these defendants was involved in the fight that took place. What is also clear is that during it TK received a single knife wound which sliced his aorta and brought his life to an end. He was unarmed, and may well not have seen the man who stabbed him in the back. A similar stab wound to the back of BK, at a point on BK only a tiny distance from the same spot on the back of his brother, might as casually have killed him also, but by pure good fortune it did not. The Crown say that it may well have been the intention of the knife was seriously to wound rather than actually to kill, but a street fight is not an arena of precision, and any stabbing to the body of a victim has a great risk of fatal injury.
GM, Henry, Tayyib and Ferguson met later. It is there, GM, Tayyib and Henry told the Jury, that Ferguson admitted to them that he had poked, that is stabbed, each of BK and TK. Thereafter, each defendant was traced and arrested, having disposed of all or some of the clothing worn at the time of the incident.
The verdict of the jury is that during the fighting that took place in Hamilton Road, the actions and behaviour of each of GM and Henry either by his presence at that incident or by his words or actions at the time of that incident were intended solely either to encourage or assist the stabbings to take place. That is the third conclusion of which the jury had to be sure, and thus their verdicts of guilty against each of Alex Henry and Janhelle Grant-Murray were established.
It is impossible to overstate the terror that the witnessing of events such as these causes to ordinary members of the public. To see a fight with weapons involving a number of young men on a residential street in the middle of a summer afternoon is of itself terrifying, but the realisation that during it that one fatal and one nearly fatal stabbings occurred in full sight combines a fearsome list of aggravating circumstances. No citizen should have to witness gratuitous violence in our streets – this sort of behaviour strikes at the heart of a community and the feeling of well-being and personal security of all those within that community.
As has been said on so many occasions, those who bring knives into public places and there use them to kill can expect nothing other condign punishment, but how can we make the word go out to young men that the carrying of a knife and its production and use can bring to an end not only the life of another but also effectively that ambitions, hopes and aspirations of the user of the knife?
Courts may pass long sentences of imprisonment, but the impact of those sentences fade too quickly, it seems to afford real deterrence to others – those stupid enough to think that the carrying of a knife provides some sort of street credibility perhaps imagine that the events of the sort that we see here will not happen to them. That perhaps was the view of these three defendants, but here they are today.
Education about the consequences of a knife culture is the urgent task of families and communities. Whilst sever sentences shock for a while, it should be the inbuilt fear of condemnation from families and loved ones that should make impossible the leaving of home with a potentially deadly weapon. How many more young deaths will it take before young men and women recognise the true risk of loss of all that they have and hope for that comes from the carrying of knives. When will they shun the company of those that carry them with as much determination as they would avoid any other terrible risk to their lives and futures?
Those who associate with those whom they know have chosen to carry a knife must surely anticipate that such a choice may be followed by the further choice to use that knife intentionally to kill or to cause grievous bodily harm. Why else would it be carried? To then become involved in the disorder in which that knife is so used with the sole intention of encouraging or assisting such use of the knife completes the offence.
It is of all of that the Prosecution set out to prove in this case. The jury were told in the clearest possible terms to consider the case for and against each defendant upon each count separately, and failure by the prosecution in the case of any defendant to prove any part of which that the prosecution set out to prove would result in the acquittal of that defendant. Tayyib was acquitted, but each of GM and Henry were found guilty of each offence by the most compelling majority. That having been proved in the case of GM and Henry, the difference between the stabber and his willing and knowing accomplice may be a narrow one.
I have read the impact statements. I have noted that there has always been one, and sometimes two, of TK’s parents in Court throughout this trial. I have been humbled by their quiet dignity throughout even the most harrowing moments.
One would have to be made of stone to read the impact statements without being moved by the effect upon them of their loss of their child. I wish that I could find words to ease their pain, to make things better for them, but all that I can do is to say that this Court, and the decent caring people that it represents, are united in sorrow and sympathy for them.
I now move to sentence...