London, UK : Three men have been convicted of the murder of a successful young male Nigerian model, Harry Uzoka, who was killed when a row on social media boiled over into a violent street brawl in Shepherd’s Bush, London, UK.
The dispute, which was about a girl, escalated and led to Harry being stabbed to death with a knife on January 11, 2018.
The suspects have now been remanded in custody and are due to be sentenced at the Old Bailey on Friday, September 21.
George Koh, 24, was found guilty at the Old Bailey of murdering Harry Uzoka when he stabbed him in the heart after going to settle the dispute, accompanied by two friends.
Uzoka, 25, died on the pavement outside his home in Shepherd’s Bush, west London, after a two-minute confrontation with Koh on 11 January, which had been prearranged on the photo-sharing site.
Both men were armed, but while Uzoka had equipped himself with a dumbbell bar, Koh wielded a knife in each hand. Uzoka was penned in by Koh and two of his friends around a parked car and stabbed through the heart, the court heard.
Merse Dikanda, 24, was also found guilty of murder. Jonathan Okigbo, 24, was cleared of the same offence but convicted of manslaughter. All three men will be sentenced on 21 September.
Richard Horwell QC, prosecuting, argued that Koh had developed an obsession with Uzoka, a more successful model, to whom some said he bore a resemblance. He told the jury that Koh had tried to emulate Uzoka and make contact with his friends.
Uzoka, who had modelled for GQ, Mercedes and Zara, regarded Koh’s conduct as an irritation and no more than that, Horwell said. But he was said to have become annoyed after Koh, who had modelled for Louis Vuitton, claimed to have slept with his girlfriend.
In December, Annecetta Lafon, a French model, visited London and stayed at Koh’s home in Camden, north London, after meeting him through Instagram. Lafon said she was forced to repeatedly decline Koh’s advances, until he eventually brought up Uzoka, whom she had never met, in conversation.
Koh claimed he and Uzoka had been friends until he slept with Ruby Campbell, Uzoka’s girlfriend, also a model, Lafon said.
Lafon visited London again in January, this time spending two nights at Uzoka’s home in Shepherd’s Bush. She said Uzoka had laughed about Koh’s claims, saying that he had made them before, and showed her admiring and apologetic messages from Koh on Instagram.
However, days later relations had soured between the men. Uzoka’s flatmate, Seun Lawal, described a phone call between Uzoka and Koh on the evening of 10 January in which Koh taunted Uzoka with claims that his story of stealing Uzoka’s girlfriend had spread on social media.
The following day, Koh came with two others to Uzoka’s home and Uzoka was left dying in the street after the confrontation.
Koh, who admitted possessing knives on the day of the attack but denied murder, said it was Uzoka who had first become hostile. He said Uzoka accused him of sleeping with Campbell.
Koh said he challenged Uzoka to fight out of bravado and that he had merely hoped to speak with him face to face about the feud. He said he enlisted two friends to discourage Uzoka from attacking him, but that he did not expect his rival not to respond to the challenge with an address to meet.
Koh said he had been carrying two knives since a social media exchange with Lawal days earlier left him fearful for his safety. He told the court that he removed them from his bag in case they were ambushed as they approached Uzoka’s home.
Koh said it was Uzoka and his flatmate who first revealed their weapons, but that he had tried to defuse the situation after he and his friends pulled out their own. But Uzoka attacked him, Koh said, and he struck back with the knives in self-defence.
The fatal blow was struck when Uzoka punched him to the floor and landed on top of him as he clutched his weapons, Koh had claimed.