A robber who stabbed an aspiring model in the heart as he attempted to steal the £1,000 laptop he was selling on Gumtree was jailed for 21 years and six months today.
Michael Adegbite, 28, fought back when the supposed ‘buyers’ tried to swipe his Apple MacBook when they met on a street in Enfield, north London on July 19 last year.
But Christopher Nzeh, 18, pulled out a hunting knife and stabbed the personal trainer, who also worked as a teaching assistant, through the heart, leaving him to bleed to death in the street.
Montel Ajayi, 19, Isaac Owen-Brady, 18 and Nzeh, all admitted to planning to rob the victim - and all three were known to have carried out a series of violent robberies on Gumtree users previously.
Nzeh was convicted of his manslaughter and all three men were cleared of murder.
Jailing the serial Gumtree robbers for a total of 34 years, Old Bailey Judge Paul Worsley QC said: ‘I do find you have all been prepared, in the past, to use violence on those you have set out to rob and you have taken weapons to the scene.
‘Those who go armed with knives to commit robbery, whether or not they are used in the course of a robbery, will inevitably attract high sentences.
‘That is underlined when the victim is targeted and the robbery takes part in his home.’
The judge sentenced Nzeh to a total of 21 and a half years for robbery, possession of a knife and manslaughter, telling him: ‘You produced a knife from your waist, opened it out, then thrust it deep into the chest of Michael, piercing his heart.‘The jury have concluded that you alone were responsible for the death of Michael.He was only 28 years old. He was a model and a personal trainer. He had his whole life ahead of him.He did not deserve to die alone in the street as he did.’
Ajayi, who the jury found did not know a knife was going to be taken to the scene, was jailed for five years for robbery and Owen-Brady was handed a 12-year sentence for robbery, possession of a knife and a similar robbery on a 16-year-old.
Before targeting Mr Adegbite, Nzeh and Ajayi ambushed a man selling his iPad in May 2014, punching him repeatedly before grabbing the electronic device.
Owen-Brady was also involved in a previous Gumtree robbery, in March 2014, when a victim was stabbed in the back for his XBox games console.
Prosecutor Simon Mayo QC said all three men knew things might turn violent when they planned their next robbery on Mr Adegbite, who was a teaching assistant at Heathcote School in Chingford, Greater London, at the time.
The victim, along with friend Mohammed Umer, had arranged to meet a buyer in a car park near to Turkey Street train station, in Enfield.
Mr Umer tearfully recalled how they knew something was not right when three men instead of one turned up for the trade.
After a quick inspection of the laptop, Nzeh pulled out a large folding knife and told Ajayi and Owen-Brady: ‘Let’s go’.I thought they were going to take off with the MacBook computer if we didn’t try to stop them’, Mr Umer told the court.
They snatched back the laptop and locked themselves in the car, despite Owen-Brady’s efforts to prise the window open.
‘The planned robbery was unsuccessful as Mr Adegbite and his friends stood their ground and resisted the defendant’s efforts to rob them,’ said Mr Mayo.
‘Realising that Mr Adegbite was not going to be a push-over, the defendants left the scene empty-handed.Understandably upset and irritated by what the defendants had done, Mr Adegbite and his friends decided to try to follow the defendants in the hope that they might be better able to identify them.’
Mr Adegbite summoned Phillip Omotoshi, another friend who lived nearby to help track them down.
Having now armed himself with a metal pole, Mr Adegbite spotted the robbers running along nearby Lackmore Road, Enfield, and got out of the car to confront them.
'While taking that iron bar with him might not have been the wisest course of action, it was perhaps understandable in the light of the fact that he had been threatened with that rather nasty looking knife just minutes before,Within moments the defendant Christopher Nzeh had taken out the knife he was carrying, opened it to expose the blade and he then plunged it into Mr Adegbite’s chest.As a result he suffered a wound to his heart, he rapidly collapsed and died shortly after.’
Mr Umer, who was just second behind his friend, said he saw Nzeh swing the knife once.
‘It was just one movement and he moved away backwards,’ he said.The other two moved as well backwards.Michael walked around the back of the car and then I couldn’t see him.
Mr Umer said he then walked around and found his friend lying on the pavement.
‘He was on the ground - he was lying on his back with his arms out.
‘I could see blood coming out of his t-shirt near his chest.’
Mr Omotosho said Mr Adegbite was a normally peaceful and fun-loving man, but had ‘felt violated’ by the attempted robbery.
‘I’m not sure what got into his head, that he just saw red when we went past them’, he said.
‘It’s stupidly out of character, it’s stupid, extremely out of character - it doesn’t make sense.
The robbers, who were seen running from the scene of the stabbing, were snared after their fingerprints were found on the laptop and Mr Adegbite’s car window.
Ajayi, of Waltham Cross, Herts, Owen-Brady, of Enfield, and Nzeh, of Hitchin, Herts, all denied and were acquitted of murder
Ajayi and Owen-Brady also denied possessing an article with a blade or a point, namely a folding knife.
The three each admitted conspiracy to rob, but denied responsibility for the stabbing.