Shopkeeper murdered by teenage boys for refusing to sell them cigarette papers

'A man has lost his life for no reason other than trying to uphold the law,' police say amid hunt for killers

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Correspondent
Tuesday 09 January 2018 11:43 GMT
A photograph of Vijay Patel, 49, outside the shop where he was killed on The Broadway in Mill Hill, north London
A photograph of Vijay Patel, 49, outside the shop where he was killed on The Broadway in Mill Hill, north London (PA)

A shopkeeper has been murdered in an “unprovoked” attack after refusing to sell a group of teenage boys cigarette papers in London.

Vijay Patel, 49, was left on life support with head injuries following the assault on Saturday night and died in hospital two days later.

He worked at the Rota Express convenience shop in Mill Hill, north London, where shocked local residents paid tribute to a “lovely man who has been taken far too soon”.

Police said he had been working on Saturday night when three teenage boys came in at around 11.30pm, trying to buy items including cigarette papers, which can only be sold to over-18s.

“Due to concerns about their age they were refused service after they were unable to provide suitable identification,” a spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police said.

“The three were unhappy about the decision and became aggressive, threatening to vandalise the shop.

Tributes outside a shop on The Broadway in Mill Hill, north London, where a murder investigation has been launched after shop worker Vijay Patel was fatally attacked i (PA)

“As such Vijay and a colleague went outside after them to ensure no damage was done to the shop. Vijay was struck once by one of the teenagers causing him to fall to the floor.”

His colleague was also punched by the teenagers during the incident and suffered minor injuries.

Mr Patel is believed to have suffered a serious head wound after being punched in the chest and falling to the ground.

Members of the public attempted to give him first aid before police and paramedics arrived, taking him to a hospital where he died at 7pm on Monday.

Mr Patel lived in Colindale and was married with two children.

“We can't believe what's happened,” his brother, Prakash Patel, told the Daily Mail. “He always wanted to help and do the right thing. He would save money and send it back to India to fund his children's education and our parents.”

Jagmeet Sethi, who has worked in the convenience shop alongside Mr Patel for almost a year, said he struggled to believe his friend could “lose his life only for one Rizla, nothing else”.

“It's very hard to accept this,” the 27-year-old said. “He's not here anymore. It is very difficult.”

The Rota Express shop in Mill Hill, north London, where a shop worker was attacked by three boys (PA)

Mr Sethi said he was still expecting his colleague to walk through the shop door, describing how he built a reputation among customers as a “very helpful, quiet, down-to-earth” man who would help them with their bags.

“He was a very nice guy, a good-natured guy," he added. “It is unacceptable to us that he is no more.”

Amjad Salaam, 72, who works at a nearby dry cleaners, described Mr Patel as an “honest and hard-working” man who would come to his shop to say hello from time to time.

“You can't even think of any right words to say about it,” he said. “It's just dreadful.”

Mr Salaam described Mill Hill as a “very nice, pleasant area”, and the local community would be stunned by the killing.

He said that “boorish behaviour” from local schoolchildren had previously amount to shouting and swearing in the street.

Local residents writing on the Mill Hill Broadway Blog, said they joined an impromptu candlelit vigil in Mr Patel’s memory on Monday night.

“Great sadness was expressed and many tears,” they said. “Our hearts go out to the family and friends.

“Most of us knew him and knew of the wonderful service he gave us in this local shop...this lovely man has been taken far too soon.”

Local religious groups and community organisations are planning events to help fundraise for Mr Patel’s family and tributes were gathering outside Rota Express.

A crowdfunding page has been set up on JustGiving by representatives of the local Jewish community to raise money for Mr Patel’s family.

Police said his loved ones were being supported by specially trained family liaison officers, as detectives continue house-to-house enquiries and capturing CCTV.

Detective Inspector Ian Lott, from the homicide and major crime command, said: “At this stage we believe this to be an unprovoked spontaneous incident sparked entirely by refusal to let the suspects buy what they wanted.

“A man has lost his life for no reason other than trying to uphold the law. If you know who they are, or where they are, please get in touch and tell us their names…I would still urge anyone who is yet to speak with us, or who has captured some of the incident on camera, to come forward to help us.”

Police have arrested a 16-year-old boy on suspicion of murder and he remains in custody.

Officers continue to appeal for information on the incident and the three suspects, who were seen running away towards Mill Hill Broadway station.

All three are described as black teenage boys, with one wearing a red jumper, black jeans and white trainers, one wearing a dark grey or black tracksuit and black trainers and the third in a dark coloured hooded sweatshirt and black jeans.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the incident room on 020 8358 0200, or contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Additional reporting by PA

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