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Knifeman jailed for life over footballer's murder

A knifeman who stabbed to death a promising teenage footballer as he tried to help his friends was jailed for life today with a minimum term of 19 years.

Godwin Lawson, a 17-year-old who dreamed of playing for Manchester United, was knifed through the heart in Stamford Hill, north London, last March.

He had come to the aid of his childhood friends, brothers Daniel and Julian Borja, when they were set upon by Moise Avorgah.

Avorgah, 20, of Tottenham, north London, was convicted of Godwin's murder by a 10-2 majority verdict at the Old Bailey.

He was cleared of the attempted murders of the Borja brothers but found guilty of wounding with intent of both. Jurors were unable to agree verdicts on three others accused of Godwin's murder.

The victim was a member of Oxford United's football academy and was in London for a visit when he was killed.

His father Calvin, 42, described the murder of his talented son as "senseless", adding: "He would have gone far. You could see his natural flair."

He said he and his wife Yvonne, a 39-year-old teacher, had relied on their Christian faith to help them get through the tragedy.

Mr Lawson, a tailor's cutter, said Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson had written to express his condolences over Godwin's death.

Sentencing Avorgah today, Judge Gerald Gordon said: "You inflicted some and probably all of the injuries that resulted to the three victims.

"You had and wielded a knife which you had brought to the scene.

"It is as a result of your acts that he [Godwin], aged 17, has lost his life, a tragedy inevitably causing devastation to the lives of his family."

Avorgah faced a starting point of at least 25 years behind bars because of tough new laws that came into force weeks before the murder, that applied to killers taking a knife to the scene.

But the judge reduced this to 19 because of the defendant's age and because the jury could not be sure that his intention was to kill.

Earlier, there was swearing and commotion in the dock as the guilty verdict against Avorgah was returned, as well as loud sobbing from the public gallery.

Jurors could not agree about the murder charges against Daniel Riley, 22, of Holloway, north London, Matthew Lanihun, 21, of Finsbury Park, north London, and Koffi Osimeh, 20, also of Finsbury Park, who now all face a retrial.

All three were cleared of the attempted murders of the Borja brothers but the jury could not decide about the alternative counts of wounding with intent.

The trial began last month when the court heard that Godwin and his friends had been approached by a group of men, one of them wearing a balaclava and holding a knife.

Simon Denison QC, prosecuting, said Julian Borja was stabbed twice and Daniel Borja four times as they were attacked "suddenly and without warning".

Godwin was knifed once in the chest as he went to help his friends.

Jurors heard there were cries of "wet him, wet him", meaning "stab him", and that he was heard to yell out.

The brothers later recovered from their injuries but Godwin, who staggered between parked cars before collapsing, died at the scene.

His parents watched as footage of his final moments, captured from a distance on CCTV, was shown in court, with Mrs Lawson wiping away tears.

The Lawsons brought up their family in Stamford Hill but later moved away to Enfield. Godwin was back from Oxford for a weekend visiting friends.

Mr Lawson said: "It is tragic. Even now, my wife is in pieces.

"Our faith has helped us to get through. Without our faith, I don't think she would have survived."

Mr Lawson struggled with his emotions as he tried to describe his son.

"He was a very kind person," he said. "When I am talking about him, it brings it all back. He was very genuine.

"He looked after his friends, and his brothers and sisters."

Mr Lawson described the shock of what happened when police came to tell him what had happened.

"I said to them 'Until I see him, I don't believe it'."

Mr Lawson said: "It was a senseless murder. If he wasn't there trying to help his friends, this would never have happened."

He said Godwin, who played as a striker, had been at the Oxford United football academy for nine months.

"He wanted to play at a high level. From the way he started, he was actually getting there," he said.

"He even had a letter from Alex Ferguson. He wrote to us about him when he died. He expressed his condolences.

"He must have sent scouts to see him at the academy. We were surprised that he would have heard about him."

Godwin had been interested in a number of sports, including rugby and athletics.

He only began concentrating on football in a serious way at the age of about 15 but was soon showing promise, his father said.

"That shows how talented he was. It is tragic.

"If you lose a child, nobody has any idea how to deal with it."

Mr Lawson added: "Whatever sentence they give, it is not going to bring him back."

Dafydd Enoch QC, for Avorgah, said he came from a "very respectable family", his mother being a pastor and his father a civil servant.

Mr Enoch said: "What is happening in the streets of London amongst very young teenagers is born out of the most extraordinary ignorance and immaturity.

"People are not thinking about the consequences of what they do, what they get involved in. It is extraordinarily tragic, the number of cases dealing with this kind of matter.

"Why it happens, and why people grow up in that culture, is very difficult sometimes to understand."

The court heard that Avorgah had previous convictions for possession of a knife and a handgun.