Life jail term for 'breathtaking' murder

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The Independent Online

A 30-year-old man was jailed for life today for nearly decapitating a young father during an episode of "breathtaking" violence outside the Ministry of Sound.

Ranjit Nankani was told he must serve at least 18 years for the murder after deliberately using a Mitsubishi Shogun 4x4 to mow down Gary Johnson, 25.

CCTV pictures of the incident last August showed how Mr Johnson was struck on the pavement opposite the south London club and thrown into the air.

Mr Johnson was then carried along on the bonnet of the vehicle and was partially decapitated as his head struck a wall. He died instantly.

His friend Dwayne McPherson took out a gun and fired several rounds at Nankani - but only one bullet struck him and he survived.

Nankani, of Croydon, south London, was found guilty of murder by 11-1 to majority at the Old Bailey last week.

The court heard that on the night of the attack he was at twice the drink-driving limit after downing champagne as well as brandy and coke.

He waited outside the club after he and and his friends were thrown out over a trivial row in which he was accused of treading on Mr Johnson's toe.

Judge Stephen Kramer told Nankani: "What you did must have involved a degree of premeditation. It was a targeted revenge attack on a crowded public street when people were leaving the club to go home.

"You waited and you used your vehicle as a lethal weapon in the streets."

McPherson, 28, of Sydenham, south east London, was convicted of attempted murder and will be sentenced on September 10.

Sentencing Nankani today, the judge said: "You acted in anger at what had happened inside the club and because of what you had had to drink."

The killer and his friends had drunk between two and four bottles of champagne while Nankani said he also had five or six glasses of brandy and coke.

"You had an altercation with Gary Johnson in the club that same night some 20 minutes before his death," said the judge.

"You were accused of treading on his toe."

It had been claimed someone may have had a gun and threatened Nankani's life with it, the court heard. He and his friends were thrown out of the club.

The judge said: "One witness described you as being raging mad, doubtless at what you felt to be the unfair way you and your friends had been treated.

"What you did was not, as you contended, an accident. The jury have found that your driving was a deliberate, targeted revenge on Gary Johnson."

As he was led away to begin his sentence, Nankani shouted: "They were gang members and that gun is still out there. I'm sorry for the death of Mr Johnson."

Aftab Jafferjee QC, prosecuting, said: "This case is about breathtaking lawlessness on the streets of London, where comparatively minor incidents inside a busy venue were responded to with murderous violence."

Jurors heard violence erupted in the early hours of the August Bank Holiday after many people had been attending the club.

The defendants were with their own groups and a row broke out which ended in some people, including Nankani and his friends, being thrown out.

McPherson and his friend Mr Johnson left at 4.30am and did not see Nankani sitting in his Shogun outside, said Mr Jafferjee.

He said "in a staggering act of revenge and/or retaliation" Nankani's car mounted the pavement, accelerated and struck Mr Johnson.

"He had achieved the object of his terrible act of revenge," added Mr Jafferjee.

The car went on to collide with parked cars, trapping Nankani inside.

Mr Jafferjee said: "Now it was McPherson's turn for revenge. He pulled out his gun and fired several rounds at Nankani. He was going to kill Nankani in revenge for Nankani killing his friend."

The driver was hit in his right shoulder by one of the four bullets fired at him.

He climbed out of the passenger door and ran to a roundabout where he flagged down a police car.

After the verdicts the victim's mother, Joyce Johnson, said: "I cannot find words to explain the loss of my baby."

In a statement, she said her life and that of her family had been "destroyed" by the "callous and brutal murder".

She described her son, who had worked as a painter and decorator, labourer, and music promoter, as a "tender, gregarious, humble, fun loving person who got on well with everyone".

"He was 25-years-old at the time of his death and had his whole life in front of him," she added.

"Gary to me will always be my baby and I miss him so very much so that there are no words to describe losing him in this way."

She said her son had a fiancee, Charlene, and a 10-month-old daughter, Skye, at the time he was killed.

"Skye refuses to talk as a result of Gary's death.

"She had a very close bond with her father and whenever he walked through the door she would always go straight to him."

The victim's mother condemned Nankani, saying: "He has shown no remorse for his brutal and callous actions killing my baby Gary."

Detective Chief Inspector Mark Dunne said of Nankani and McPherson: "It is hard to believe that these men, who came out to enjoy an evening with their friends, managed to turn the evening into such a violent and tragic sequence of events.

"There were large amounts of people outside the club at the time that witnessed the horrific death of Gary Johnson and they must have been terrified to hear and see the gun shots.

"Due to a petty argument, these men made choices that have changed their lives forever and a man has tragically lost his life."