Family of murdered teen appeal for information

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The Independent Online

A 15-year-old boy murdered in one of Britain's busiest railway stations during rush hour was a "talented footballer", it emerged today.

Sofyen Belamouadden, from Acton, west London, suffered multiple stab wounds during a fracas at Victoria Underground station, in central London, on Thursday.

His family spoke of their anguish and branded the teenager's attackers "cowards with no respect for life or the people they leave behind".

His uncle told the Mail on Sunday the teenager played football for Acton Garden Village Youth Sunday League team in West London and for Chelsea Kicks, a scheme run by the Premier League club for young people in deprived areas.

A spokesman for the club described Sofyen as a "talented footballer" and a "valued participant" on the scheme.

The detective leading the murder investigation yesterday said he believes Sofyen may have died during a pre-arranged fight.

In a post on Facebook, Sofyen's aunt Nadia Ghailan said her nephew's death should not "be in vain" and urged anyone with information to contact her privately on the social networking site.

Ms Ghailan wrote: "RIP Sof we love and miss you, we have lost a son, a brother, a nephew a grandson, cousin and friend. if anyone has any information about this senseless brutal murder please come forward in full confidence to the family. private message me (his auntie) please do not let his death be in vain."

More than 2,600 people joined a Facebook group called RIP Sofyen.

One of them, George Jolley, wrote: "RIP Suf it has been a shock to everyone, u will be missed by ur friendz and family and hopefully those involved will get wat they deserve."

Salimaa Deej Salvatore wrote: "You will always remain in out hearts Sofyen. We love you."

Others paid tribute to the teenager's footballing ability. Rick Soor described him as a "sik player!" while Timothy 'Bangs' Allam recalled "playin football in da park wid him bak in da day".

Detectives were holding 19 boys aged between 15 and 17 who are mainly from south London.

A Scotland Yard spokesman said a number of weapons had been recovered and all are undergoing forensic examination.

At least two knives were recovered from the scene of the attack.

A man in his 30s who was also arrested was later released with no further action to be taken.

Det Ch Insp John McFarlane, from the Metropolitan Police Service, said: "I believe this was a pre-planned fight; a number of individuals travelled by various bus routes to Victoria carrying weapons, however I retain an open mind re motive at this stage."

He added: "We continue to appeal for witnesses to come forward and tell us what they saw on that Thursday night.

"The incident took place during a busy rush hour and I am appealing for anyone who was there to speak with us."

Witnesses said a gang of attackers wearing school uniform chased the victim from the busy station concourse into an Underground ticket hall.

Sofyen, a pupil at the Henry Compton School in Fulham, west London, was then knifed repeatedly in the chest.

Police and paramedics went to his aid as colleagues began arresting suspects as they tried to jump on buses to escape.

Several teenagers were held in nearby Vauxhall Bridge Road and behind The Stag pub in Bressenden Place.

One line of inquiry is that Sofyen was the victim of gang rivalries between schools in south and west London.

The attack began on steps leading into the station in Terminus Place and ended in a booking hall for the Circle and District Tube lines.

It took place at about 5.20pm as the evening rush hour of train, Tube and bus commuters got into full swing.

Sofyen was taken to a central London hospital but was pronounced dead at 6.15pm.

A post-mortem examination which took place at Westminster Mortuary yesterday gave the cause of death as stab wounds.

Witnesses said the attackers were wearing dark blue school blazers and the victim was dressed in a white T-shirt and red sweatshirt.

Police are investigating whether the attack is linked to a violent confrontation between schoolboys at the station the previous evening.

Sarfraz Ahmed, who manages a shop in an arcade at the station, said youngsters had been causing trouble for a few weeks.

He said: "One day last week a gang chased a boy into a shop and attacked him and trashed the place. They are about 15 or 16 and come here on their bikes. This place has been like a bloody jungle."

:: Anyone with information which may help the inquiry is asked to call the Metropolitan Police incident room at Sutton on 020 8721 4205 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.