A knifeman who stabbed an innocent 16-year-old partygoer to death in what a judge said was any parent's "worst nightmare" was jailed for life today.
Wesley Sterling was simply "in the wrong place at the wrong time" when he was killed by Carleto Salmons outside another youth's 16th birthday party.
Salmons, 28, was convicted of murder and told he must serve at least 20 years behind bars for the "cowardly" crime, to applause from the public gallery.
The Old Bailey heard he may have mistakenly believed - simply because of the clothes that the victim was wearing - that Wesley was part of a gang who "rushed" people as they left the Croydon sports arena last April.
In fact the teenager, who was training to be a carpenter, was an invited guest who had done nothing wrong and was trying to get back into the venue when the trouble flared up outside.
Judge Giles Forrester said: "The killing of this youth has been to the despair of his family.
"It is indeed the worst possible nightmare for any parent for their son to go to a teenager's birthday party never to return."
The court heard that after members of the DSN ("Don't Say Nothing") gang tried to storm the party, Salmons, the partner of party host's mother, had taken an eight-inch kitchen knife from the clubhouse kitchen and gone into the foyer.
Sentencing Salmons, of Thornton Heath, south east London, the judge said that he "chose to take the fight" to the gang members.
"You saw a young man who turned out to be Wesley slowly approaching you. Without any warning you stabbed him, a single blow to the heart.
"He was unarmed. He did not attack you or threaten you. He was defenceless, unaware that you were even there until after you had stabbed him.
"It may have well have been that because of the clothing he was wearing you thought he was a member of the DSN gang."
After committing the crime, the killer cleaned the knife and slipped away under a police cordon, later disposing of his jacket and shaving off his beard to try to avoid being identified.
There were rumours after the stabbing that a member of the DSN gang was responsible for the killing, but witness evidence showed it was Salmons who inflicted the blow, having armed himself for a "violent stand-off".
When police arrived and the trouble had abated they discovered Wesley lying dead on a concrete ramp outside the club.
"He had been stabbed by a single blow which penetrated the heart," said Brian Altman QC, prosecuting.
"His father Mark who lives close by and had been summoned to the scene, was present for his final moments.
"The deceased boy was just in the wrong place at the wrong time."
His mother Beverley Richards said in a statement read to the court: "Wesley was an ambitious, well-mannered and talented young man who had the whole of his life ahead of him.
"Wesley had done nothing to anyone in this world to deserve the treatment inflicted upon him.
"Our hearts bleed to know that at 16 years of age he is lying in a cemetery because of a coward with a knife that took his life."Reuse content