A MAN has been convicted of the murder of Michael Ugwa at the Lakeside shopping centre following an investigation by detectives.
Twenty-nine year-old Michael had gone to the shopping centre with two friends on the afternoon of 28 April last year.
Walking through the food hall at around 4.30pm, they made there way past one kiosk where 23 year-old Muhammad Khan, 20 year-old Brandon Lutchmunsing, and 21 year-old Shannon Weston were sitting.
Michael briefly spoke to Weston at which point Khan and Lutchmunsing got up and confronted him, Khan armed with a flick knife.
The two groups exchanged words before Khan and Lutchmunsing chased off Ugwa’s friends before effectively cornering him.
Attempting to defend himself, Michael picked up a chair from the seating area but dropped it as Lutchmunsing threw another chair at him.
Khan, approaching Michael from his left hand side, then lunged at him with the knife, stabbing him under the arm, through his ribs and puncturing his heart.
Khan and Lutchmunsing then ran off, meeting up with Weston who had already left the area, and made their way out of the centre through Primark.
Meanwhile, Michael made his way to the top of the escalators at the entrance to the food court where he collapsed.
Despite the best efforts of the emergency services, sadly, he later died.
The whole incident was caught on a number of Lakeside’s 362 CCTV cameras.
On 2 May Lutchmunsing, of Grafton Road, Dagenham, was arrested on suspicion of murder and Weston, of Paddocks Close, Canewdon was arrested on suspicion of assisting an offender.
Two days later Khan, of no fixed address, Ilford, was also arrested on suspicion of murder.
They were all later charged and pleaded not guilty.
They all appeared at Basildon Crown court today following a trial (Monday, 22 May). Khan was found guilty of murder and affray.
Lutchmunsing was found not guilty of murder. A jury found him guilty of manslaughter and affray.
Weston was found guilty of three counts of assisting an offender.
They are due to be sentenced at the same court with the date yet to be confirmed.
Senior investigating officer Temporary Detective Chief Inspector Julie Gowen said: “First and foremost my thoughts are with Michael Ugwa’s family who have shown great dignity through the investigation and court case.
“No conviction will ever bring Michael back but I hope this represents justice for them and helps them move forward
“Although this incident played out over the course of a few minutes, the fatal assault was over in a matter of seconds.
“This case shows the tragic consequences that carrying a knife can have and how quickly an incident can escalate when weapons are involved.
“Khan had tried to claim he was carrying the knife for self protection but there was no suggestion that he was in any danger in this incident.
“To the contrary, it was he and Brandon Lutchmunsing who were the aggressors, instigating the confrontation, chasing off Michael Ugwa’s friends, and cornering him before he lunged at him and stabbing him.
“The fact of the matter is you do not go out with a knife if you do not have some intent on using it.
“And if Khan had not had that knife, we would not be here today. He and Lutchmunsing would not be facing a life sentence, Michael’s children would not be growing up without their father, and his family would not be grieving the loss of a much-loved fiancé, son, brother, uncle, and cousin.”