UK & World News

  • 7 April 2014, 17:19

Teen Jailed For Westfield Mass Brawl Stabbing

A teenager footballer has been jailed for at least 18 years after murdering a man during scenes of "bedlam" at a London shopping centre.

Liam Woodards, who had been out celebrating his 24th birthday, was stabbed after the throwing of a yoghurt pot sparked a mass brawl between two gangs at Westfield Stratford just weeks before the 2012 Olympic Games.

Budding Arsenal coach Nii-Azu Kojo-Smith lunged forward and stabbed him in the chest in front of horrified shoppers, the Old Bailey heard.

As the victim lay dying, the fight moved on to Stratford Tube Station where one of Mr Woodards' friends stabbed one of the opposing group.

Following a three-month retrial, Kojo-Smith, 19, of Hackney, east London, was found guilty of Mr Woodards' murder by a majority of 11 to 1.

Detaining Kojo-Smith for a minimum of 18 years, judge Richard Marks QC said: "The shopping centre at that time was full of men, women and children going about their business.

"It was a horrific scene of complete bedlam as many members of the public ran for safety into shops which swiftly closed their doors.

"It was readily apparent that those caught up in those appalling events must have been and were absolutely terrified."

The court heard much of the fight was captured on CCTV which was shown during the trial.

Kojo-Smith had a previous conviction for battery and threatening behaviour in 2010 after he was involved in a group attack on a passenger at Finsbury Park Tube station.

In mitigation, the court heard he was a talented young footballer who was involved in coaching at Arsenal.

His lawyer Philippa McAtasney QC said: "He was a talented footballer. He had obtained an FA1 coaching certificate and his future was set - all of that thrown away in a second of his behaviour."

She said he knew what he did was "very wrong" and saying sorry to the victim's family was not enough.

Co-defendant Tony Caton, 22, of Stratford, was convicted of two counts of violent disorder and Anselm Legemah, 19, of east London, was convicted of one count of violent disorder.

Caton was handed three years in jail while Legemah, whose girlfriend was heavily pregnant at the time, was sentenced to two years in a young offenders' institution.