Ghanaian boy's dream ends in a pool of blood

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The Independent Online

When Stephen Boachie arrived in England from Ghana aged 10, he missed Africa's warm climate. But the young boy whose parents came to the UK to give him a "better life" did not take long to find his feet in London, growing up to excel in his studies and sport and the future looked bright.

The 17-year-old, who lived in Dagenham, east London, was studying for his A-levels at Newham Sixth Form College. He was awaiting offers to study a degree in engineering and hoped to win a place at Birmingham University.

But as New Year's Eve celebrations were drawing to a close across the country, Stephen was stabbed fatally, just a few hundred yards from his home. A tribute on a banner in his memory, outside the Shell garage where he was attacked at 5.30am on New Year's Day, reads: "It was supposed to be a new year, new beginning, but you were not given that chance."

Stephen's father Kwasi, 49, said that after his son left Ahafo in the Bechem region of Ghana, he settled quickly in London, joining the football and rugby teams at Kingsford Secondary School in East Ham, and loved to play computer games.

Mr Boachie described his son as, "friendly and sociable with everyone and always willing to help people". He was a devout Christian, and in training to become a full Jehovah's Witness.

Samuel Owusuanokye, a Jehovah's Witness minister, said Stephen, who had four brothers and sisters, was mature and calm. "He always came to meetings on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays," he said. "After the meeting, he would socialise with the people in his age group. Nobody had a bad word to say about him."

On New Year's Eve, Stephen had been to see a friend who lives locally and may have visited another friend in Canning Town. The stabbing took place next to the Thatched House pub in Dagenham, which is popular with the west African community, and police are trying to find out if he was in the pub during the hours before his death. Detective Chief Inspector Simon Moring is appealing for witnesses who were leaving the pub at the time of the attack, and CCTV footage is being examined.

Mr Boachie woke at 5am to realise his son was not at home. "I tried calling Stephen but it went to answerphone. I tried to contact some of my friends, in case they had seen him. The next call I received was from the police, who said he was in the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel.

"You can imagine how a parent feels when they hear such words," he said. "He was in an intensive care unit, and I waited for four or five hours. Finally, I saw my son on the bed, helpless. I couldn't bear it." Stephen did not respond to two emergency operations, and died on New Year's Day.

Stephen's mother Isabella Akumiah, 45, who lives in Wood Green, north London, said the murder of her son, whom she calls Kofi - the traditional Ghanian name for a boy born on a Friday - had left her desperately sad, but angry at the perpetrator. "The law needs to be toughened over guns and knives when a 17-year-old boy is taken away. It seems that every week people die from knife crime. In Ghana, you cannot do this and get away with it."

In accordance with the Jehovah's Witness custom friends and relatives gather at the family home each day to mourn Stephen's death and share memories of his life. Mr Boachie said: "I am receiving support from fellow Christians, but I miss my son so much. To take a human life that is so precious is a terrible thing."

Uche Nworah, who taught Stephen business studies, said he had a good rapport with teachers and pupils. "I mentored him over his career choices. He was active in the Christian Union.

"On the last day of term, we held an party where we prayed and wished each other a happy Christmas. That was the last time I saw him. The students are distraught."

Anyone with information about Stephen's murder is asked to contact police on 020-8345 4142.