Three men will be sentenced to life in prison today after being found guilty of murdering 16-year-old Ben Kinsella, the brother of EastEnders actress Brooke, in a row over "respect".
Ben, who had been out celebrating the end of his GCSE exams in June last year, was stabbed 11 times in just five seconds by Jade Braithwaite, Juress Kika and Michael Alleyne.
The three killers were convicted primarily on the strength of evidence police had obtained by bugging their conversations in the back of a police van. One of them, 19-year-old Kika, was wanted by police in connection with another stabbing when he killed Ben.
Yesterday, after a six-week trial at the Old Bailey, jurors, who had been deliberating for two days, returned guilty verdicts. As they did Brooke Kinsella, who was sitting with her fingers crossed, burst into tears. Her parents George and Deborah shouted "yes" and wept as people in the public gallery applauded.
Ben was murdered on his way home from a bar in Islington, north London, on 29 June last year. He had spent the evening in Shillibeers bar celebrating the end of his GCSE exams when a row, not involving the group he was with, broke out.
It involved Braithwaite, 20, and two of his friends, who felt he had been "disrespected" by another group of youths. Braithwaite and his friend Osman Ozdemir then confronted a friend of Ben's called Alfie.
During this confrontation, Braithwaite gestured at his trousers, suggesting he had a knife, and was heard to say: "Tell your boy if he wants trouble, I've got my tool on me and it will open you up".
Shortly after this, about 30 youths attacked Ozdemir, leaving him with a cut to his head that required treatment. As he went to the hospital, Braithwaite too left the pub, but phoned Kika and Alleyne, 18, for back up. The trio went to the bar and chased the group still standing outside. As the other teenagers ran, Ben crossed the road. Braithwaite, Kika and Alleyne approached him. A witness, named only as Claudia, told the court that Ben asked the men: "What are you coming over to me for? I haven't done anything wrong."
Braithwaite, who is 6ft tall, kicked Ben in the stomach and the three launched their attack. One of the knife wounds was so ferocious it broke his rib and punctured his heart. As the murderers fled, Ben staggered across the road and died in the arms of his best friend, Louis, the son of Birds of a Feather actress Linda Robson.
The police were inundated with calls naming Braithwaite, Kika and Alleyne as the killers and on 30 June last year they were arrested.
Kika had been on the run for 10 days after he stabbed another man in a row over drugs, but, despite raiding two addresses, police did not find him until they went to the home of a relative of Alleyne's and found Kika there too. Braithwaite turned himself in to police.
The cousin of Alleyne's that he and Kika had stayed with told police that she had heard the pair confessing to the murder. Alleyne later sent her a letter saying she was a "snitch" and "a let down to the family".
DNA analysis showed traces of Ben's blood on clothing belonging to Kika and Alleyne, but, while all three men accepted they had attacked Ben, none of them admitted holding a knife.
With no murder weapon, the police, decided to bug the three. In the recorded conversation, played to jurors in court, the trio were heard plotting ways of avoiding conviction. In barely-decipherable street slang, they discussed getting their stories straight and targeting witnesses in a bid to stop evidence being given against them.
At one point Kika appears to recall the moment that he attacked Ben. Referring to it as "the madness", he said: "See when it happened, yeah. Like boom, it was like a kinda quick ting. Like boom. Went down the road, come back up. Boom, boom. Finished. Boom. Ghost. You get what I'm saying?"
Braithwaite, who uses the nickname J-Man, told Kika that if he took the blame for the stabbing he would receive "G's" – thousands of pounds.
Ironically it was their insistence on discussing the case and attempts to avoid conviction that eventually secured their demise. In court they abandoned the notion of keeping their stories straight.
Braithwaite named Alleyne as the knifeman, and Alleyne returned the favour, pointing the finger at Braithwaite. Kika refused to give evidence.
Following the verdicts, Ben's mother Deborah read an impact statement to the court. In it she said: "Ben went for a good night out and never came home again. The people who murdered him knew nothing about our Ben. They had never met him before or spoken to him, they just cruelly took his life away with knives for no apparent reason.
"We had brought Ben up to always walk away from trouble. This sadly cost him his life. He walked away to get safely home and they took advantage of that – he was one boy on his own. It seems unfair their intent was to stab someone that night."
Detective Chief Inspector John Macdonald praised the witnesses who came forward and said that Ben's killers were "ignorant", adding: "They have no social abilities whatsoever to interact with people. This was a non-event in a pub and they resorted to violence straight away."
He added: "Ben ran into three cowards. They were older than him, bigger than him, they were armed with knives. He had no chance at all."