murder. mugging. robbery

Learco Chindamo, the murderer of Philip Lawrence has been acquitted of robbery, along with his co-defendants Gregory Jananto and Saeed Akhtar.

The prosecution case was that the three of them surrounded 20-year-old David Sexton when he withdrew money from a cash machine. Prosecutor, Alison Morgan, told the court: “Mr Chindamo came towards Mr Sexton saying words to the effect of, ‘Do you know who I am?’ and ‘Do you remember about the headteacher in Maida Vale?’ The Crown say that this was quite plainly and deliberately a reference to his conviction designed to intimidate and threaten Mr Sexton.”

Sexton testified that Chindamo asked him “Do you know who I am? Do you know what I’ve done?” According to another prosecutor, Oliver Glasgow, when Sexton answered in the negative, Chindamo “asked for compensation for disrespecting him and his friends.” Sexton also testified that co-defendant, Gregory Jananto was armed with a large empty glass bottle which he waved around by the neck and that it was in response to this threat that he handed over money because he feared that if he turned his back he would be assaulted from behind.

The defence claimed that Sexton had “disrespected” Chindamo by calling him a “killer” Chindamo’s testimony was that “a male who had withdrawn money” had shouted “Killer” at him. Chindamo claimed that he “lectured the male on why I was not proud of what I had done.” Jananto backed up this version of events, whilst admitting that he himself had been aggressive.  He also described David Sexton as “cocky.”

Now here the dispute takes a somewhat surreal turn because the defence lawyers further claimed that Mr Sexton then handed over £10 as a “peace offering” of his own free will.  This is preposterous.  The jury found the accused Not Guilty (as opposed to “innocent”) in accordance with the legal rule that a jury must acquit if they think that there is reasonable doubt.  But this does not mean that Sexton freely handed over the money by choice in the absence of substantial fear for his safety.

There are in fact several points that this case raises.

First of all, Chindamo claimed in the trial (and indeed claimed when he successfully applied for release on licence for the Philip Lawrence murder) that he regretted murdering an innocent and courageous man. Given that Chindamo is a killer – indeed a murderer – why should he take offence at being called one? Should he be “lecturing” the person (who made that truthful comment) on what he is or isn’t proud of?  Or should he be showing, by his demeanour, that he is not proud of what he did? Indeed, should he not accept such a truthful comment with the humility that is befitting the repentant murderer that Chindamo claims to be? Would not a genuinely reformed murderer have quietly walked away? The answer is, of course, yes: a genuinely reformed and repentant murderer would have quietly walked away.

Secondly, are we really to believe that David Sexton was bold enough to insult Chindamo in the first place and then became so frightened (without anyone trying to intimidate him) that he voluntarily handed over money that had not been demanded? I can picture a man being bold enough to truthfully call Chindamo a killer – or even a murderer – to his face. I can picture a man being so frightened of Chindamo as to hand over money to him without being threatened. But I cannot imagine these two characteristics in the same man at substantially the same time. And I don’t think anyone can – except perhaps a devious defence lawyer who can talk bullshit with a straight face.

Thirdly, why was Chindamo even associating with Jananto, given that they had both been members of the same criminal gang. Even if it was not a condition of his licence to refrain from such association (and it is amazing that it was not), surely he should have known better?

And finally, if money had been offered in the circumstances that Chindamo claims, would not a citizen who respects the law have refused to accept it? Of course he would. And every honest lawyer knows it.