As they say, in America, “School’s Out!” On the evening of Saturday 28th June 2008, school was pretty much out for a group of teenage London boys. Their GCSE exams were finally over and, despite nor being legally old enough to drink, they were having a night out to celebrate. They went to Shillibeers (left), a popular bar and brasserie in Holloway. Among the group was Ben Kinsella, a 16 year-old pupil at Holloway School.
During the course of the evening an argument broke out between one of Ben’s friends and a group of other young men. It seems it was yet another chapter in the sorry tale along the lines of “Who d’you think you’re looking at?” Apparently peripheral in the row, but eager to get involved, was Jade Braithwaite. 19 years old, and 6’6” tall, he already had an extended criminal record for various offences involving drugs, robbery and violence.
Ben Kinsella was at no time involved in the disturbance, which was eventually broken up by the pub doormen. In the small hours of the morning, Ben’s group decided to call it a day, and set off to walk home, unaware that Braithwaite had ‘phoned two friends – Juress Kika and Michael Alleyne, both 18 years-old, and with similar histories of violence – to say that he had some unfinished business and needed their help. Below, left to right, Kika, Braithwaite and Alleyne.
When Braithwaite, Kika and Alleyne reappeared, Ben’s friends – who had been involved in the original fracas – decided to run for it. Ben, wrongly believing that he had nothing to fear, simply carried on walking. In a short but savage attack, lasting just a matter of seconds, the trio kicked Ben to the ground and inflicted a flurry of stab wounds to his body, puncturing his lungs and pulmonary artery. He was able to stagger from the scene, and collapse into the arms of his friends. Despite the best efforts of the medical services, he died later that morning, from catastrophic and irreplaceable blood loss. The moments before and after the attack were captured on closed circuit security cameras.
The map below shows the location where Ben was stabbed.
The three killers were quickly captured by the police, but during the resultant investigation, Braithwaite and Alleyne first denied knowing each other, and then tried to blame each other. Throughout the process, and during the trial, Kika, exercised his right to silence. Each was sentenced to 19 years in jail, and this was later upheld when they appealed against what they said was the severity of the sentence.
It is worth adding, in full, the complete victim statement made to the Old Bailey court by Ben’s mother, Deborah.
“I make this statement and the feelings and emotions are felt by all my family but no amount of words could ever express the daily pain we feel for the loss of Ben. On 29 June 2008 our beautiful son Ben was brutally and savagely stabbed to death. We as his family have been left devastated and in total despair. Our whole world has been totally turned upside down. Ben went for a good night out and never came home again.
Ben had only just finished school – a straight-A student, he had a job and had got his place in college (he never learnt of the wonderful exam results he had achieved and worked so very hard for). Ben loved life, he loved living and he had so much to live for. He knew where he was going and where he wanted to be.
Ben loved nothing more than to make people laugh, he was a fun-loving, happy-go-lucky boy with a heart of gold and would do anything for anyone. A testimony of this was his funeral that was attended by so many friends who filled the church and pavements outside.
Ben loved art and wanted to be a graphic designer, he loved his family, cooking, football, music and girls. The people who murdered him knew nothing about our Ben, not a hair on his head, a bone in his body, not anything about our wonderful son. They had never met him before or spoken to him – they just cruelly took his life away with knives for no apparent reason.
We had brought Ben up to always walk away from trouble. This sadly cost him his life. He walked away to get safely home and they took advantage of that – he was one boy on his own. It seems unfair their intent was to stab someone that night.
We were a big, happy, loving family (we are one down, one missing). We are hard-working and just wanted the best for all our children in life. There are now just three of us at home. We have had to move house because it broke our hearts to not see Ben in his bedroom curled up sleeping and safe in his bed. We so miss Ben’s love and laughter and most of all the boy thing in our family. Ben was our precious son that we cherished and were so immensely proud of, and by the way we had brought him up.
He had values and respected everyone he met. We as a family will never know the man he would have become, the wife he would have met and the children he would have had. This has all now been taken away from siblings, his grandmothers, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends and us.
No parent or sibling should ever have to go through or see what we have seen with our son. He died in front of us, we then had to visit him in a morgue, the undertakers and finally to bury him. We can now only visit Ben at a cemetery, our beautiful son who so loved life.
We cry every day for the loss of Ben, we do not sleep like we did before. Nearly a year on our nights are still filled with nightmares, of our son’s last moments and what he went through that fatal night. Our lives will never be the same – we have all been so deeply affected. We as a family will never get over the loss of our Ben. We are just trying to get through it. Our family now face a lifetime of feeling this way.
Nothing we can say or do will ever bring Ben back. All we can hope and pray for is that justice will prevail, maybe then we can find some form of closure to this awful event that has devastated our family’s lives.”