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Two jailed for Wood Green murder

News   •   Sep 13, 2017 12:22 BST

[Image: Murder victim, Omar Raza]

Two men who murdered and robbed a Selfridges worker in a dispute over a debt have been jailed.

Akol Garang, 18, (27.10.98) of Lausanne Road, Hornsey was found guilty on Friday, 8 September, at the Old Bailey of murdering and conspiring to rob Omar Raza near Turnpike Lane.

Garang had previously pleaded guilty to robbery, but changed his plea to not guilty on the first day of trial.

He was sentenced on Wednesday, 13 September, to life imprisonment, to serve a minimum of 19 years.

George Rodriguez-Galean, 18, (14.7.99) of Gospatrick Road, Wood Green was also found guilty of both murder and conspiracy to rob.

He was sentenced on Wednesday, 13 September, to life imprisonment, to serve a minimum of 15 years.

Detective Inspector Mark Richards, of the Homicide and Major Crime Command, said: "Omar was lured to his death by two men intent on seeking retribution over a relatively small financial dispute.

"They set up a false identity to persuade him to the scene near Turnpike Lane where they robbed him and stabbed him. These tragic events escalated dramatically and led to the needless death of a man with a promising career who was at the time engaged to be married.

"The jury considered the heavy weight of evidence against both defendents and I am satisfied with their verdicts today. Our thoughts remain with Omar's family at this difficult time."

The court heard that 23-year-old Omar was stabbed to death in broad daylight in Downhills Park Road N17 on Wednesday, 15 February.

At the time of his death Omar was working in the wine department of Selfridges and had a sideline earning commission by arranging car insurance for people through a broker he knew.

In early December 2016 Omar's fiancée was looking to buy a new laptop.

She saw one Garang was advertising for sale on Gumtree and on 11 December she and Omar went to meet him. They bought the laptop and during the course of conversation, it came up that Garang had no car insurance. Omar said he could help and they exchanged details.

The next day Omar arranged insurance for Garang, who paid the first instalment of £300, leaving £1,600 outstanding.

Over the next month Omar repeatedly tried to contact Garang for the rest of the money, but no further cash was paid.

On 10 January 2017 Omar travelled with two friends to where Garang lived in Wood Green. He knew he had advertised a Macbook Air for sale on Gumtree the week before.

There was some kind of altercation during which Omar took the Macbook from Garang without paying for it.

The next day Garang messaged a friend to tell her what had happened and said he was going to find those responsible and "do something mad."

On the morning of 15 February, Garang put a new SIM card in his mobile phone to disguise his number and messaged Omar posing as 'Stacey' and wanting to arrange car insurance.

Garang then messaged Rodriguez-Galean - he said he was "talking to the insurance guy" and they went on to discuss what they were going to do as well as what weapons they were taking to the meeting, which included a knife .

At around 14:15hrs Omar arrived and parked in Ivatt Way.

Rodriguez-Galean appeared and walked towards Omar. CCTV showed Garang also there but hanging back and peering around a wall, anxious not to be seen.

Rodriguez-Galean talked to Omar and then walked away from his car, seemingly talking on his mobile.

At that point Garang began jogging towards Omar, armed with a knife.

He went round to the passenger side of the car while Rodriguez-Galean moved to the driver's side and yanked open the door.

A struggle took place and Omar was stabbed a number of times. Despite bleeding heavily he managed to get out of the car and run into Downhills Park Road, pursued by Garang, who tried to stab him again, this time in the back.

Omar turned, took off his Armani watch and threw it at Garang while shouting out for help. Garang caught it and walked off, joining Rodriguez-Galean who had returned to Omar's car and taken an Iphone from inside.

Omar banged on a door and the resident came to his aid. He collapsed bleeding in her hallway.

Police and the London Ambulance Service attended but Omar could not be saved. He had suffered a fatal stab wound to the chest - the prosecution said it was inflicted by Garang which he accepted but stated it was an accident. A post-mortem examination later showed he had received four other stab or slash wounds including one to the top of the head passing down under the skin and exiting at the back of the ear.

Both defendants messaged friends the next morning. Garang told one person "it's mad, it had to happen…I owed him like £400, I was selling my laptop so I can pay him but it's over now anyway".

Rodriguez-Galean discussed selling Omar's watch, which he said had "a lot of blood inside the links" but that he could clean it with bleach. He also talked about selling the mobile phone he took when he returned to Omar's car.

That evening Garang advertised Omar's watch for sale on Gumtree.

On 22 February Garang was arrested at his home address. Trainers, gloves and a jacket were seized from his bedroom - all had Omar's blood on them.

Rodriguez-Galean was arrested the same day at his family home. Jeans found under his bed had the victims DNA on them.

Both men were charged on 23 February 2017.

Sentencing will take place on Wednesday, 13 September.