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Teens found guilty of stabbing man to death in broad daylight over 'relatively small' debt

Omar Raza was robbed and stabbed.

unnamed Omar Raza Source: Met Police

TWO TEENAGERS WHO murdered and robbed a Selfridges worker in a dispute over a debt have been convicted in London.

Akol Garang, 18, was found guilty today at the Old Bailey of murdering and conspiring to rob Omar Raza. Garang had previously pleaded guilty to robbery, but changed his plea to not guilty on the first day of trial.

George Rodriguez-Galean, 18, was also found guilty of both murder and conspiracy to rob.

Detective Inspector Mark Richards of the Metropolitan Police’s Homicide and Major Crime Command said: “Omar was lured to his death by two men intent on seeking retribution over a relatively small financial dispute.

They set up a false identity to persuade him to the scene near Turnpike Lane where they robbed him and stabbed him. These tragic events escalated dramatically and led to the needless death of a man with a promising career who was at the time engaged to be married.

“The jury considered the heavy weight of evidence against both defendents and I am satisfied with their verdicts today. Our thoughts remain with Omar’s family at this difficult time.”

1 George Rodriguez-Galean Source: Met Police

The court heard that 23-year-old Raza was stabbed to death in broad daylight on Downhills Park Road on Wednesday, 15 February.

At the time of his death Raza was working in the wine department of Selfridges and had a sideline earning commission by arranging car insurance for people through a broker he knew.

In December 2016, Raza’s fiancée was looking to buy a new laptop.

She saw one Garang was advertising for sale on the website Gumtree and on 11 December she and Raza went to meet him. They bought the laptop and, during the course of conversation, it came up that Garang had no car insurance. Raza said he could help and they exchanged details.

The next day Raza arranged insurance for Garang, who paid the first instalment of £300 (about €330), leaving £1,600 (about €1,750) outstanding.

Over the next month Raza repeatedly tried to contact Garang for the rest of the money, but no further cash was paid.

Laptop 

On 10 January 2017, Raza travelled with two friends to where Garang lived in Wood Green. He knew Garang had advertised a Macbook Air for sale on Gumtree the week before.

There was some kind of altercation during which Raza took the Macbook from Garang without paying for it.

The next day Garang messaged a friend to tell her what had happened and said he was going to find those responsible and ‘do something mad’.

2 Akol Garang Source: Met Police

On the morning of 15 February, Garang put a new SIM card in his mobile phone to disguise his number and messaged Raza posing as ‘Stacey’ and wanting to arrange car insurance.

Police said Garang then messaged Rodriguez-Galean – he said he was “talking to the insurance guy” and they went on to discuss what they were going to do as well as what weapons they were taking to the meeting, which included a knife .

At around 2.15pm Raza arrived. Rodriguez-Galean appeared and walked towards Raza. CCTV showed Garang also there but hanging back and peering around a wall, anxious not to be seen.

Rodriguez-Galean talked to Raza and then walked away from his car, seemingly talking on his mobile. At that point Garang began jogging towards Raza, armed with a knife.

He went around to the passenger side of the car while Rodriguez-Galean moved to the driver’s side and opened the door.

A struggle took place and Raza was stabbed a number of times. Despite bleeding heavily he managed to get out of the car and run into Downhills Park Road, pursued by Garang, who tried to stab him again, this time in the back.

Shouting for help 

Raza turned, took off his watch and threw it at Garang while shouting out for help. Garang caught it and walked off, joining Rodriguez-Galean who had returned to Raza’s car and taken an iPhone from inside.

Raza banged on a door and the resident came to his aid. He collapsed bleeding in her hallway.

Police and the London Ambulance Service attended but Raza could not be saved. He had suffered a fatal stab wound to the chest – the prosecution said it was inflicted by Garang, which he accepted but stated it was an accident.

A post-mortem examination later showed he had received four other stab or slash wounds including one to the top of the head passing down under the skin and exiting at the back of the ear.

Both defendants messaged friends the next morning. Garang told one person, ‘It’s mad, it had to happen…I owed him like £400 (about €440), I was selling my laptop so I can pay him but it’s over now anyway.’

Rodriguez-Galean discussed selling Raza’s watch, which he said had “a lot of blood inside the links” but that he could clean it with bleach. He also talked about selling the mobile phone he took when he returned to Raza’s car.

That evening Garang advertised Raza’s watch for sale on Gumtree.

On 22 February, Garang was arrested at his home address. Runners, gloves and a jacket were seized from his bedroom – all had Raza’s blood on them. Rodriguez-Galean was arrested the same day at his family home. Jeans found under his bed had the victim’s DNA on them.

Both men were charged on 23 February. Sentencing will take place on Wednesday, 13 September.

Comments are closed due to ongoing legal proceedings. 

Read: An Irish couple’s baby arrived ‘just in the nick of time’ – hours before Hurricane Irma hit

Read: Explainer: Who are the Rohingya, and why are hundreds of thousands fleeing Myanmar?

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Órla Ryan

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