Five men jailed over unprovoked murder of Romanian man stabbed to death in London shopping centre

Beniamin Pieknyi's siblings have moved back to Romania because 'terrible things can happen in the blink of an eye' in England

Cressida Dick on London knife crime spike: 'We clearly, as a city, have a big problem'

Five men have been jailed over the murder of a Romanian man who was chased down and stabbed to death in a London shopping centre, just weeks after he moved to the UK.

Beniamin Pieknyi, 21, fell victim to the unprovoked attack after travelling to meet a friend in Stratford and stopping to buy a bottle of water.

They were set upon by a group known for regularly harassing shoppers in the Stratford Centre and declaring it “their area”.

On 20 March, they set their sights on Mr Pieknyi and his friend, tormenting them before launching a sustained and brutal attack.

A security guard moved in to break up the fight, but as the pair moved to leave the centre, Mr Pieknyi was cornered in a Subway fast food restaurant and subjected to an “abhorrent” attack as his friend was held back.

The victim was beaten and punched before Vladyslav Yakymchuk stabbed him in the chest with a long knife.

The 23-year-old was jailed for a minimum of 24 years on Wednesday after pleading guilty to murder, violent disorder and possession of a bladed article at the Old Bailey.

He and four accomplices, who have also been jailed, fled the scene as Mr Pieknyi’s friends and members of the public desperately tried to give first aid.

Beniamin Pieknyi, 21, was stabbed to death in an unprovoked attack in the Stratford Centre

Paramedics arrived shortly afterwards but he was pronounced dead at the scene from a stab wound to the heart.

Mr Pieknyi was one of eight killings in little over a week in London, and concerns about rising violent crime have risen once more after a spate of five fatal stabbings.

He had been living in Milton Keynes with his brother and sister while working in a takeaway, and hoped to settle in the UK.

But his siblings have moved back to Romania since his murder, and his aunt said the family had spent all their savings on repatriating his body and funeral costs.

His brother, Mihael Pieknyi, told the BBC the family was still in shock, adding: “My mother doesn’t sleep and my sister, Iulia, does not want to come back and live in this country.

“To us as a family, London is seen as a dangerous place because of what happened to my brother.”

Iulia Pieknyi said her “entire life had crumbled”.

“I’ve come to realise that terrible things can happen in the blink of an eye, and if you say the wrong thing to the wrong person you could end up dead,” she added.

Vladyslav Yakymchuk, 23, led the gang and stabbed Mr Pieknyi in the heart

Their mother, Irina, said she has been unable to come to terms with his death.

“It’s so unfair that one of them was taken away and part of my heart was taken with him. The pain I feel since that day will stay with me forever,” she added.

“Who’s given them the right to take away my son’s life? Are they aware of the pain, the tears and destruction they left behind? Are they aware that our family is not the same as before and will never be whole again?

“I’m at a loss. I have no words to describe how I feel. What made them do this to my son? I cannot find the strength to face them and it’s breaking my heart.”

Kevin Duarte, 19, of no fixed address, and Moses Kasule, 20, of Cavesson House Ribbons Walk in Stratford, were both jailed for 12 years for manslaughter and violent disorder.

Alexis Gabriel Da Costa Varela, 19, of Lillechurch Road in Dagenham, was jailed for three years and four months for violent disorder and Mario Zvavamwe, 19, of Crow Lane in Romford, was jailed for two years and six months for the same offence.

Police said the incident began when Varela, who was riding a bicycle with Duarte sat on the handlebars, came across Mr Pieknyi’s friend, 25-year-old Alexander Suciu.

As they passed him, Duarte hit him on the head and the group returned minutes later shouting “this is our area”.

As a row began, Mr Pieknyi emerged from a shop and joined his friend, while Varela and Duarte were joined by the three other members of their group.

Yakymchuk took Mr Suciu’s glasses, while Kasule threw punches at him. Yakymchuk then took a bottle of water Mr Pieknyi had bought and threw it away.

Witnesses described seeing the alarm of the two men as they attempted to reason with the aggressors, who seemed to revel in torment them before the situation escalated into a fight, police said.

A security guard intervened and attempted to escort Mr Pieknyi and Mr Suciu towards the exit.

At the same time, Yakymchuk was seen pulling a knife from his waistband as his friends shouted “no leave it, don’t”.

But he pulled up his hood and chased his victims, pushing Mr Pieknyi through the door of Subway and launching the fatal attack.

The Metropolitan Police said the attackers were quickly identified because they were known locally for “causing trouble”, and were arrested over the coming days.

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Detective Inspector Ian Titterrell said: “Beniamin and his companion were two entirely innocent friends who had arranged to meet and catch up with each other. They had every right to go about socialising with each other in peace and had done nothing at all to deserve the ire of their aggressors.

“They were attacked by a group hell bent on causing as much torment and misery as they could that evening, to anyone in particular.

“In Beniamin and his friend they found two people who they thought would be an easy target to sate their urge for violence, being outnumbered and not eager to fight.

“The sentences they have been given today are a reflection of the devastation and upset that has been caused so needlessly to Beniamin’s family.”

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