An aspiring marine was stabbed to death by an Afghan asylum seeker after he attempted to break up an altercation between the accused and the victim’s friend over an e-scooter, jurors in the U.K. were told on Tuesday.
On the first day of the murder trial at Salisbury Crown Court, the prosecution told the court how 21-year-old Thomas Roberts had been enjoying a night out with his friend, James Medway, on March 12 last year, when a row broke out between Mr. Medway and the accused, Lawangeen Abdulrahimzai, now 21 years of age.
The attack occurred at approximately 4:40 a.m. in the southern English seaside town of Bournemouth, Dorset, when the victim and his friend, both of whom had consumed five pints and five shots over the course of the evening, found what appeared to be an unused rental e-scooter located outside a Subway sandwich shop in the town center. They decided to use the scooter to return home.
Upon approaching the scooter, Abdulrahimzai appeared and became “aggressive,” and a row ensued between the accused and Mr. Medway.
While attempting to act as a peacemaker during the incident, Mr. Roberts was stabbed twice with a blade “at least” 10cm long carried by the accused, suffering cuts to his heart, kidney, lung, and two ribs.
“Thomas was the peacemaker, he came between the two men,” prosecutor Nic Lobbenberg KC told jurors. “For his troubles, he received two stab wounds. The first was to his chest, it cut two bones in his rib and sliced through his chest cavity … and cut the left ventricle of his heart.”
“Tom open-palm slapped him, which I feel was a warning to stay away, as he felt threatened,” the victim’s friend, Mr. Medway, told the court, before recounting how the accused “reached straight for a knife on his right side and just lunged for Tom.”
CCTV footage showed Mr. Roberts initially staggering after the attack before collapsing to the ground. A nearby security guard told the court he had run over to the incident and tended to the victim with a first aid kit.
Mr. Roberts, who was an aspiring Royal Marine, was pronounced dead at the hospital at 8:10 a.m. the following morning.
Abdulrahimzai is understood to have immediately fled the scene but was pursued by Mr. Medway. The accused dropped his cell phone during the chase, which police used to trace the defendant’s address in the nearby town of Poole, where he was arrested the following day.
Court reporting restrictions had initially been enforced following the incident since Abdulrahimzai, an asylum seeker who was born in Afghanistan and arrived in the U.K. in December 2019, claimed during his arrest that he was 16 years old.
However it is understood that following age verification checks by U.K. authorities, the accused was determined to be an adult born in October 2001. Reporting restrictions were subsequently lifted, and he was free to be tried as an adult since he was thus 20 years old at the time of the offense.
The court also heard on Tuesday how Abdulrahimzai had been wandering around Bournemouth town center on the night of the attack on the e-scooter and had attempted to headbutt another individual outside a nightclub prior to the attack.
The 21-year-old defendant has pleaded guilty to manslaughter but denies the charge of murder.
The trial is ongoing.