Teenager to serve at least 30 years for two murders

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The Independent Online

An 18-year-old youth was today given two life sentences with a minimum term of 30 years for murdering two women in two weeks.

Angolan refugee Roberto Malasi shot Zainab Kalokoh, 33, during a robbery at a christening party in south London and stabbed Ruth Okechukwu, 18, in the same area 15 days later.

Old Bailey judge Mr Justice Gross said it would be an affront to justice if the sentence did not reflect the seriousness of the two crimes.

Malasi, who lived rough in Peckham, south London, was ordered to be detained at Her Majesty's Pleasure.

The judge said Malasi's actions were "the more chilling" because he killed so soon after shooting Mrs Kalokoh, who was cradling a baby in her arms at the christening party in August 2005.

Nigerian-born gang members Diamond Babamuboni, 17, his brother, Timy, 15, and Jude Odigie, 16, were given indeterminate sentences for public protection.

They were convicted of Mrs Kalokoh's manslaughter and robbery and were ordered to serve a minimum eight years in detention.

They wore masks along with Malasi as they raided the party on the Wood Dene Estate in Peckham, south London, to rob guests.

As Mrs Kalokoh lay dying with a bullet in her head, the raiders stripped cowering guests of valuables.

The baby in her arms, her niece, was unharmed.

Mr Justice Gross told the defendants: "What you four did that night was evil.

"In a cruel irony, many of the guests had come to this country to escape the violence of Sierra Leone."

The youths had all denied charges in relation to Mrs Kalokoh's death but were found guilty in December.

Last month, Malasi pleaded guilty to stabbing Miss Okechukwu in September 2005 following a telephone row the day before.

He dragged the student teacher from a car in south London and stabbed her six times, including once in the heart.

Miss Okechukwu, whose father, Ben, is the pastor of a Pentecostal church in south London, was known as Ruth-Less because she spoke her mind.

It was while he was in custody that he was charged with Mrs Kalokoh's murder some months later.

Members of Mrs Kalokoh's family began to protest at the eight-year sentence as the Babamuboni brothers and Odigie were taken down to the cells.

They were visibly shaken as they confronted police and lawyers in the courtroom.

The girlfriends of some of the accused started crying and shouting insults in the public gallery above.

At the end of his sentencing, Mr Justice Gross said he only had the power to recommend the deportation of Diamond Babamuboni after he serves his sentence.

He said Diamond should be deported and hoped the Home Office would re-consider the cases of the other three.

An earlier hearing was told that Malasi had indefinite leave to remain in the UK and the other two defendants were too young.

Mr Justice Gross said: "This country has a long and proud record for offering refuge to those in need of help.

"From time to time, there are those like you who abuse this proud tradition.

"I strongly urge the Home Office to exercise its powers to reconsider its powers in respect of each of you.

"I would have concluded that your continuous presence is not in the interests of this country."