A man who fled to Turkey after stabbing another man to death in a Shoreditch street fight has been sentenced to 22 years in prison.
Tyla Gopaul, 22, of Islington, was sentenced to life imprisonment by a judge at the Old Bailey for the murder of a 26 year-old married father of two, Zakaria Abukar Shariff Ali in 2018, while on a night out in Kingsland Road.
Gopaul flew to Turkey within 24 hours, with the aid of his friend Destiny Bannerman, 20, of Islington, and then travelled on to Northern Cyprus from where he was extradited on a European Arrest Warrant a year later. He was arrested and charged on his return to London.
Detective Inspector Rita Tierney from the Metropolitan Police Specialist Crime Command said: “I hope this sends a clear signal. The Metropolitan Police will continue to pursue anyone who thinks that leaving the country will stop them from having to answer for their crimes.”
Gopaul stabbed Ali after a night at the Rolling Stock club in Shoreditch. After leaving the venue around 6am, a man Ali had met in the club became involved in a verbal altercation with one of Gopaul’s friends.
The men settled their dispute on Waterson Street before Ali intervened, in an attempt to calm the situation. Witnesses reported to the police that Gopaul pulled a knife from his trousers and was “flaying [it] around” and “lunging” toward the group a number of times, before stabbing Ali once. Taken to the Royal London Hospital, Ali died the same day.
Tierney said: “This was a senseless attack involving a group of men, who for the most part had never met each other prior to that evening. The facts of this case have demonstrated how quickly and seriously an incident can escalate with devastating results when a knife is present.”
Tierney added that the suffering of Ali’s family was prolonged by Tyla Gopaul fleeing the country. “They had to wait knowing that the man responsible for Ali’s death had been walking free abroad. My thoughts are with them, as they continue to grieve and I hope today’s verdicts bring them a small measure of comfort.”
At his trial at the Old Bailey last month, Gopaul was found guilty of the murder. Gopaul told the court he wasn’t trying to stab anyone, but went over “to make sure there wasn’t a fight and to calm everyone down.” He said he pulled out the knife to scare Ali’s friend before he “fell on the knife.” Gopaul admitted manslaughter but denied murder.
At his sentencing last week, prosecutor Anthony Orchard said CCTV evidence, witness accounts and Gopaul’s police record, demonstrated that the incident was not an accident.
Judge Anthony Leonard said: “At the time you habitually carried a knife. At the age of 13 you were committing burglaries by the age of 15 you were sentenced for robberies. There is only one sentence I can pass on you which is one life imprisonment.”
Bannerman, was sentenced to 21-months imprisonment, and suspended for two years.