A teenage footballer from Hackney has been sentenced to at least 18 years for murdering a man at the Westfield Shopping Centre in Stratford just weeks before the 2012 Olympic Games.
Shoppers were confronted with a “horrific scene of complete bedlam” when the throwing of a yoghurt pot sparked a “pitched battle” between two gangs on June 29 2012.
After a number of verbal exchanges Liam Woodards, who had been out celebrating his 24th birthday, was stabbed in the chest by Nii-Azu Kojo-Smith.
As he lay on the ground in front of horrified shoppers, the fight moved down to Stratford station, where one of Woodard’s friends stabbed one of the opposing gang in the shoulder and another was beaten with a belt.
Kojo-Smith, 19 of Castle Close, was found guilty of murdering Woodards.
The court heard that he had previously been involved in a group attack on a passenger at Finsbury Park tube station in 2010.
In mitigation, his lawyer, Philippa McAtasney QC, said: “He was a talented footballer. He had obtained an FA1 coaching certificate and his future was set – all of that thrown away in a second of his behaviour.”
It is not known if there was a history of gang rivalry or whether the confrontation was “gratuitous and opportunistic violence”.
On sentencing Kojo-Smith, Judge Richard Marks QC said: “The shopping centre at that time was full of men, women and children going about their business. It was a horrific scene of complete bedlam as many members of the public ran for safety into shops which swiftly closed their doors.”
Also convicted of violent disorder were Tony Caton, 22 of Stratford, who was sentenced to two years in jail, and Anselm Legemah, 19 of east London, who was sentenced to two years in a young offenders institution.
Five others were cleared of the same charge.