Athlete's killer sentenced to minimum 30 year prison term


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The Independent Online

A young gang member was given a life sentence with a minimum term of 30 years today for the shooting murder of a promising athlete.

Sylvester Akapalara, 17, was found dying in the stairwell of the Pelican estate, in Peckham, south east London, in December 2010.

He had been chased by a gang brandishing knives and a gun before being shot in the neck and chest, the Old Bailey heard.

Sodiq Adeojo, 20, of Peckham, was found guilty in December last year of murder, two counts of attempted murder and having weapons.

Sentencing him to detention for life with a minimum term of 30 years, Judge Timothy Pontius said Sylvester was "in the wrong place at the wrong time".

He said Sylvester was a "promising young athlete of remarkable ability".

Adeojo was also given concurrent 22-year sentences for attempted murder and 14 years for having the gun.

Three other teenagers were cleared and a fifth faces a retrial.

The court heard that Adeojo was a member of a gang who were looking for rival gang members when they came across Sylvester and his friends.

The judge attacked the "mindless and appalling violence" of gang culture.

He said: "Such is the prevailing culture in areas of London that young men, and mere boys, for whatever reason, seem to be attracted and stimulated by the idea of belonging to a group that does not recognise accepted boundaries of decent human behaviour."

Duncan Penny, prosecuting, said two of Sylvester's friends were stabbed as they tried to force their way through the main door of the block of flats.

Neither Sylvester, who was a member of Herne Hill athletics club, or his two friends lived on the estate.

Mr Penny told the jury: "After a verbal exchange the three were being hunted down by a group of other youths.

"That second group came ready for the task at hand. One had a handgun, the others had knives."

Andrew Hall, QC, for Adeojo, said: "He was attending college. We are not dealing with a hardened young thug."

Natalie Williams, whose mother fostered Sylvester, said in an impact statement that his death had left a "massive void".

She said: "We know he has gone to a better place and is sitting with the angels.

"He was a gifted young man who never got a chance to fulfil his dreams.

"He began living with the family in June 2010. His mother was still living in Nigeria.

"Sylvester was a member of Herne Hill Harriers and was "very focused" on his athletics.

"At the time of his death he was trying to sort out his passport so that he could compete at an international level.

"My mother has fostered many kids over 20 years and this was the first time she had lost one of her kids in this way. She was devastated by the horrific attack on Sylvester that ended the life of such a lovely young man."