Mother of 20-year-old jailed for murder: ‘This is four young lives wasted… we’ve lost a son too’
10 April, 2014
A WOMAN and her autistic daughter are living in a secret safe house after receiving threats following her son’s conviction for murder.
Barbara Winston, whose son Dean was sentenced last week to a minimum of 24 years in prison, said the whole story had not come out in a five-week trial at the Old Bailey and that some people in Kentish Town were shocked by its final outcome.
She said she had been moved from her long-standing home in Torriano Cottages after shots were fired into the house and anonymous threats were directed at her and relatives.
“Kentish Town is where I grew up and spent all of my life – but I can’t go back there now,” the 48-year-old said. “Not now. We are looking over our shoulders the whole time.
“We are staying in a safe house but we want to be away from all of this. We need support too. I’ve had to spend £500 on cabs just to get about.”
Another of her sons was attacked in the street, she said, as he picked his children to school the day after the court sentencing and has now asked to be moved too.
Ms Winston was speaking after last week’s call for peace on the streets from the victim’s father, who has said there should be no attempt at any form of retaliation.
She contacted the New Journal saying that her family’s side of the story had gone unreported and that she should be allowed to comment on the case.
“We all want peace on the streets. Everybody does,” Ms Winston said. “It’s hard to read when you’re being threatened. This is really four young lives wasted. Nobody wanted this to happen. He [the victim’s father] has lost his son – and nobody deserves that. I feel for anybody who has lost their son in this way, but we’ve lost our son too, sent to prison for the rest of his life, and Dean didn’t actually kill anyone. He’s been given 24 years, which is what you’d give a serial killer who goes out and kills someone every night.”
Mohamed Abdullahi and the scene of the fatal stabbing
“It’s a completely extreme sentence. We had been expecting 15 at the most after they said guilty.”
Student Mohammed Abdullahi, 20, died from knife wounds after being stabbed outside a takeaway in York Way, Camden Town, last June. Winston, 20, was convicted of his murder alongside his friends Calvin Collins and Kyle Sober Froud, both 19.
On the second day of the trial, Sober Froud confessed and pleaded guilty to the killing – but Winston and Collins were found guilty as well on the basis that they took part in a joint enterprise.
“Kyle knows he should have spoken up before,” Ms Winston said. Earlier in the evening of the killing, Winston’s family home had been the target of a drive-by shooting which remains unsolved by police. His autistic sister was home alone and left traumatised.
It was after the shooting that the move to the safe house was arranged amid fears it was no longer safe to return.
Ms Winston said: “We were victims too that night. Dean was very close to his sister. He looked after her a lot. He was very protective, so he was angry.
“The bullets came through the window. You could see the big holes in the window. The curtain rail came down. My daughter had a red mark across her face where one of the shots must have swished past her. Anything could have happened.
“Whoever did this, didn’t know who was in at the time. My daughter was in absolute pieces. I had just got to the stage where I could leave her for a few hours. This has put her back. She is 22 but has autism and learning difficulties and needs special care. She won’t be left alone at all now, and so we’ve all had to move. We’re in a safe house and can’t go out.”
The basis of the case was that Winston and his friends went out to seek quick revenge and set upon Mr Abdullahi. The defence say that they only wanted to “send a message” to people the victim knew and with whom lasting disagreements remained unhealed.
The prosecution said they knew exactly what they were doing, but ultimately picked the wrong target, with the jury being told that Mr Abdullahi had not fired the shots into Winston’s family home.
Gun residue was found on Mr Abdullahi after his death but forensic experts said it was in such small amounts it could have been transferred with something as simple as a handshake.
“Even if somebody shoots up my house, they don’t deserve to die,” Ms Winston said. “They should go to prison but not die. Listening to the case, we of course were wondering, though, why on the same night there were gun fragments on his hands.
“The police need to tell us who fired at the house. Our house was a crime scene and we’ve never been told who did it.”
The court heard that Mr Abdullahi’s mobile phone records placed him in Camden Town at the time of the shooting and the jury was repeatedly told he was not responsible.
“The CCTV shows Dean was the first to leave the scene,” Ms Winston said. “He only found out he had died when his girlfriend saw something come up on Facebook the next afternoon. He said: ‘That can’t be true, we only beat him up.’ He was in shock. He had shouted to Kyle ‘Come on’ – as to say ‘Come on, let’s go’ not ‘Come on, stab him’.”
Winston, a former Haverstock School pupil, was well known in a close-knit Kentish Town community of families whose children had grown up together.
His mother said she knew that people outside the neighbourhood may not have sympathy for someone who had admitted assaulting Mr Abdullahi and then been convicted of his murder.
The court was told – after the guilty verdicts – that Winston had been arrested and charged during the London riots and has a burglary on his record too. He had not been to prison before, but had completed community service.
But Ms Winston added that people had not read the whole story and that her son’s previous convictions had largely been for cannabis and “not violent crime”.
“He was arrested once for carrying a knife. He shouldn’t have done that but that was after he had been told people were out to get him,” she said. “At that point I went to the council to ask for a move to somewhere where people didn’t know where we lived and they said: ‘Speak to the police.’ Instead of moving us, the police put up shutters and gave us a new door. That obviously was no good, as the shots still came through my house.
“I keep thinking that if they had just moved us away then none of this would have happened. It all could have been avoided.
“But nobody has given us support through all of this. The family of the guy who died got support – and that’s right, I’m not saying they shouldn’t – but nobody seemed to care that our home had been shot at or that we’ve been threatened since. It’s all been one way.”
Ms Winston admits her son should spend some time in prison for beating Mr Abdullahi that night but she believes Sober Froud’s admission that he wielded the knife means her son’s sentence was too severe.
Judge Richard Hone QC had said at sentencing: “This was a brutal attack executed in seconds. In those few seconds I have no doubt that there was an intention to kill.”
Mr Abdullahi’s family said their “gentle giant” had been taken from them and they had found a lack of remorse from those responsible. But Ms Winston said: “Deanie told me: ‘I know I have to do some time in prison, but I didn’t kill anyone.’
“Dean should have really been done for ABH [actual bodily harm]. He didn’t know Kyle had a knife but there is this joint enterprise thing and in the end Kyle got a slightly smaller sentence even though he did it, because he pleaded guilty.”
Asked where the disputes in Kentish Town had begun, she said she did not know but “there were always silly little things going on”. Ms Winston added: “I told Dean to stop it and get away from it, as it was never-ending but shooting bullets into my house was a whole new thing. That is extreme. After that, you have to take threats seriously.
“Two years ago if you had said that somebody was going to actually do that, I might have laughed and said it was talk. Not now. The day after Dean was convicted, my other son was attacked as he picked up his two little children to school. The police arrested somebody but he can’t live his life like that.”
She added: “The police still haven’t arrested someone for shooting our house. I had to find out from our lawyers that they had found a partial licence plate on the car.”
Mr Abdullahi’s father Ayadarus Ahmed was given a “peace award” at a school achievers’ certificate ceremony for Somali families living in Camden last week for his appeal for calm in the community after his son's death.
Ms Winston said the reporting of his speech at the event at the London Irish Centre had left her frustrated, even if she ultimately agreed that a cycle of violence needed to end.
“It’s so hard to read when we’ve all been through this,” she said. “He calls for peace – and of course we all want that. But he needs to act on it. We’re not calling for people to go out for revenge at all. Absolutely no way.
“We don’t want any more young lives wasted. I look at what Dean has got and wonder whether, at 48, I’ll still be alive when he gets out. It has to stop, but it makes me so angry reading this because people in the Somalian community must know the things that have gone on and can do something about it. They must know the history and they have a responsibility too. When Dean’s cousin Tommy died after being stabbed [in Camden Town in 2005] everybody said we had to stop knife crime but it didn’t work. People need to listen more to what’s happening to us all. Why are my family hearing these threats and why does my other son, who has nothing to do with this, have to look out when he picks his kids up from school?”
There are different accounts of what happened at court during the trial. One report claimed the defendants laughed in the dock, which is disputed by Ms Winston, who says her family were intimidated by friends of the victim in the public gallery.
She said: “A starting point for peace would be not to have people doing that or doing gun signals at the people at their trial. The people who wanted my son sent to prison have got what they wanted – there’s no need for any more threats. They could have stopped that from happening.”
Mr Ahmed had said last week that it was time for the violence to end and young people to be educated and shown love. “We need to help each other to stop this kind of violence and tragedy,” he said.
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