Gangs: the mother’s story

In this instalment of the ELL gang series, Annie Gouk speaks to Bee Winston; a mother whose family has been terrorised by a gang, and whose son is now in prison under joint enterprise. 

Bee Winston, Camden

Bee Winston. Pic: Annie Gouk

Bee Winston. Pic: Annie Gouk

Bee says her son, Dean, has never been part of a gang, but the boys that tried to rob him when he was 17 were. Unlikely to start a fight, Bee says “he’s laid back to the point where he’d probably fall over”, but Dean is also a “big lad”, and not one to let others bully him. He fought back, and several of the boys were badly hurt.

The gang responded with a series of tit-for-tat revenge attacks, and the threats escalated to the point that, two years later, Dean came clean to his mother about the whole thing and said, “we need to move”.

Bee, who worked in Hackney at the time, went to Camden council and the police, but they were unable to help beyond putting shutters on the downstairs windows of her house. Six months later, armed gang members fired shots into Bee’s bedroom, narrowly missing Dean’s disabled sister, who was 22 at the time. There was a mark on her cheek where a bullet grazed her.

Later that night, Dean and his two best friends – Kyle Sober-Froud and Calvin Jerelle Collins – were on their way to the shop. Outside a takeaway restaurant, they came across Mohamed Abdullahi, who they suspected had given Dean’s address to the gang. During the confrontation that followed, Abdullahi was fatally stabbed in the heart.

According to media reports at the time, all three were responsible for Abdullahi’s murder, and it was a clear case of a calculated revenge attack for the shooting. However, according to Bee, the reality was not nearly so cut and dry.

“Dean did hit him, he’s not denying it – he beat him up,” she says, “but I’ve watched the CCTV footage, and he didn’t stab him.” According to Bee, after beating up Abdullahi and giving him warning to pass on to the gang, Dean started to walk away and called his friends after him.

She says it was Kyle that ran back with a knife, “and what I’ve gathered from my son is that he [Kyle] went to stab him in the bum as a warning.” However, during the struggle Abdullahi was not only stabbed in the buttocks twice; he received a deadly stab wound to the heart.

According to the defence at their trial, the killing was unplanned and unintended. Bee says her son and his friends didn’t even know that Abdullahi was dead until the next day, when Dean’s girlfriend told him it had been all over Facebook. “At that point he wasn’t aware who had done it, but he knew he didn’t have a knife on him.”

“My son doesn’t believe in knives, because his cousin was stabbed to death when Dean was only 11. So he’s really anti-knives – like I told the police, there’s no way he would have a knife on him.”

However, while Kyle pleaded guilty for murder and Calvin and Dean maintained their innocence, it was unclear from the evidence whether or not there was just one knife involved. Despite not being able to prove that Dean had a knife or that he stabbed Abdullahi, this uncertainty was enough to convict Dean under joint enterprise – which up to now has allowed people to be convicted of murder even if they did not inflict the fatal blow. He was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum of 24-and-a-half years.

Bee describes how she felt when the verdict was read out:

Since the Supreme Court’s ruling that joint enterprise has been misinterpreted for the last 30 years, Bee has been hopeful that she can bring Dean’s case to appeal. ‘I’m not expecting him to walk out of prison,’ she says, ‘but hopefully his sentence gets dropped to a lesser offence.’

Unfortunately, Dean’s conviction wasn’t the end of Bee’s troubles with the gang that shot her house, and since that night her family has continued to be targeted. “I had to leave my job; I had to leave my house. My other children were getting threats and were getting jumped by this gang. This was while the court case was still going on. We were getting threats in the court even, getting gun shot signals made at us.”

Dean’s sister, who is partially deaf and has special needs, was left ‘traumatised’ by the attack, and is now too terrified to leave the house without Bee. Her other two children are still living in the area, but are trying to leave as they’re still getting threats now, three years on.

Reporting team: Tara Dein, Annie Gouk, Henry Longden, and Marianna Manson

Read the other articles in this series here:

Gangs: what you need to know

Gangs: the victims

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