A group of men have been jailed in connection with the fatal stabbing of a man in the Stratford Centre in Newham in March.
The victim, 21-year-old Beniamin Pieknyi, a Romanian national living in Milton Keynes, was fatally injured after he and a friend were subjected to an unprovoked attack by the men, who had been out that evening hell bent on causing trouble.
The following were all convicted at the Old Bailey in October and sentenced at the same court today, Wednesday, 7 November.
[A] Vladyslav Yakymchuk, 23 (28.04.1995) of no fixed abode, who had pleaded guilty to murder, violent disorder and possession of a bladed article at the Old Bailey on 13 June. His sentencing was timed to coincide with that of the other defendants; he was sentenced to a minimum of 24 years before parole for murder, three years for violent disorder, and 18 months for possession of a bladed article, all to be served concurrently.
[B] Kevin Duarte, 19 (04.04.1999), of no fixed address – found guilty of manslaughter and guilty of violent disorder; he was sentenced to 12 years for manslaughter and 36 months for violent disorder, to be served concurrently.
[C] Alexis Gabriel Da Costa Varela, 19 (13.10.1998), of Lillechurch Road, Dagenham, RM8 – found not guilty of manslaughter and guilty of violent disorder; he was sentenced to 40 months. He was given a further 12 months for a separate conviction of violent disorder, to be served concurrently.
[D] Mario Zvavamwe, 19 (11.12.1999), of Crow Lane, Romford, Havering, RM7 - found not guilty of manslaughter and guilty of violent disorder; he was sentenced to 30 months imprisonment.
[E] Moses Kasule, 20 (27.05.1998) of Cavesson House Ribbons Walk, Stratford, Newham, E20 – found guilty of manslaughter and guilty of violent disorder; he was sentenced to 12 years for manslaughter and 36 months for violent disorder, to be served concurrently.
The court heard that Beniamin, who worked at a fast food restaurant in Milton Keynes, had arranged to come to London to meet a friend after work in Stratford.
The pair met at the bus station at around 21:00hrs on Tuesday, 20 March and made their way through the Stratford Centre, where Beniamin stopped to buy some water.
Duarte, Varela, Zvavamwe, Kasule and Yakymchuk were also present and out for trouble; the court would hear that the group had a history of frequenting the Centre to cause trouble and harass innocent people.
The incident began when Varela, who was pedaling a bicycle with Duarte sat on the handlebars, came across Beniamin’s friend, a 25-year-old man. As they passed him, Duarte hit him on the head, entirely unprovoked.
The friend remonstrated and the pair went away before coming back again a few minutes later, shouting out ‘this is our area’.
A row began; Beniamin came out of the shop and joined his friend, while Varela and Duarte were joined by the three other members of their group. Immediately their demeanour became aggressive and confrontational and the larger group set upon the two men.
Yakymchuk took Beniamin’s friends glasses, while Kasule threw punches at him. Yakymchuk then took a bottle of water Beniamin 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 tormenting Beniamin and his friend before the situation escalated into a fight.
A security guard at the centre went to intervene. He identified himself as a guard and said there was CCTV and that he did not want there to be any trouble. He spoke to Beniamin and his friend, who were being further goaded by the aggressors in the meantime.
The guard attempted to escort the pair away from the argument towards the exit. Yakymchuk was observed pulling an item from his waistband - a knife - to which other members of the party were heard to shout ‘no leave it, don’t’, indicating that they were aware of the weapon and did not want him to use it.
Yakymchuk however continued, pulling his hood up and pursuing the pair in his desire for further violence, before each of the other members followed in turn and sought to escalate the situation with him.
The group rushed towards the pair as they were about to leave, pushing Beniamin through the door of a Subway fast food restaurant and cornering him while his friend was held back to prevent him from going to Beniamin’s aid.
Beniamin was then subjected to an abhorrent attack in which he was beaten and punched before Yakymchuk stabbed him in the chest with a long knife.
The group then fled from the east exit of the Centre towards the Broadway, Kasule waiting at the exit for Yakymchuk, who had been slowed by the need to put his knife away.
They tried unsuccessfully to hail a cab before fleeing on foot down Chant Street and out of sight.
Beniamin’s friend and members of the public attempted to administer aid to him before police were called at around 21:30hrs and attended with colleagues from the London Ambulance Service (LAS).
Despite the extensive efforts of all of those present, Beniamin was pronounced dead at the scene at around 22:30hrs.
A post-mortem would later give the cause of death as a stab wound to the heart.
Officers from the Met’s Homicide and Major Crime Command immediately launched an investigation.
CCTV was seized and the suspects were quickly identified having been known to local officers for causing trouble.
Yakymchuk was arrested on 24 March in Harrods having been recognised from a shoplifting offence the previous day and he was charged on 25 March with murder. Blood found on his waistband would further link him to the crime.
On 26 March, police stopped a Chevrolet in Ley Street, Seven Kings. Varela and Duarte were inside. Upon hearing they were being arrested on suspicion of murder, Varela replied ‘murder?’
Both offered no comment interviews.
On the same day officers attended an address in Chauntler Close, Canning Town and located Zvavamwe. He read out a pre-prepared statement upon being interviewed and then responded ‘no comment’ to all questions asked.
Kasule was arrested on 28 March after police officers inside spotted him walking past the station; he made no reply upon being informed the arrest was on suspicion of attempted murder and simply smiled. He too did not comment in interview.
Investigating officer, 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 group were led Yakymchuk, who was the lead aggressor, and were aware that he was carrying a knife. Yakymchuk it seems would not be satisfied until he was able to use it, which to the terror of the watching members of public, resulted in Beniamin’s untimely and tragic death.
“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. Though I am sure it will do little to quell the pain for a family who are still grieving for the loss of a young life taken far too soon, I hope they will derive some small comfort in knowing that all those involved in this terrible incident have been brought to justice.”
In a statement from his family, Beniamin’s mother, Irina, said: “I am a mother of eight children, and they have all been amazing children. Since the day of 20 March 2018, is not feeling like a human anymore. I cannot get over the fact that only seven of my children are still around.
“It’s not easy bringing them up and giving them an education. 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. I am asking if the ones who did this are even aware that their actions have destroyed a family?
“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.”