Music industry boss Emmanuel Odunlami, 32, was with pals at a £1,400-per-table event at Haz restaurant near St Paul’s Cathedral in central London in May 2022 the night he was killed
A thug who murdered a dad-of-two who was out celebrating his birthday so he could steal his “fake” designer watch has been jailed for 31 years minimum.
Music industry boss Emmanuel Odunlami, 32, was with pals at a £1,400-per-table event at Haz restaurant near St Paul’s Cathedral in central London in May 2022 when a security guard, named Kavindu Hettiarachchi, spotted his fake Patek Philippe Nautilus watch.
Thinking the watch was real, and therefore worth around £125,000, Hettiarachchi sent photos to his accomplices Jordell Menzies, 28, Quincy Ffrench, 28, and Louis Vandrose, 28.
The group of thugs armed themselves with knives and drove to the venue in a Mercedes, pouncing on Emmanuel Odunlami as he left with his friend David Manuel. Mr Manuel told the court about his friend’s final two words after he was stabbed.
The brutal trio kicked Mr Odunlami while he lay defenceless on the floor before Ffrench bent down and took his watch, jurors heard, that Menzies stabbed him in the heart with a flick knife, before fleeing.
Mr Manuel told the court: “Jay [a nickname] stood up. I saw blood all over his chest and frantically touched him to see where it was coming from. He said: ‘I’m gone’ and collapsed.”
Two police officers at the scene attempted CPR before an ambulance arrived, Mr Odunlami was taken to Royal London Hospital, but he suffered a cardiac arrest and was pronounced dead shortly after midnight.
City of London Police found the flick knife used to kill Mr Odunlami near the scene of the attack, with forensics determining that it bore traces of Menzies’ DNA. Menzies pleaded guilty to robbery and manslaughter but denied murder, arguing that he had not intended to use the knife he had armed himself with.
But the jury saw through the criminal and convicted him of murder following a retrial. Mr Odunlami’s mother collapsed in tears as she heard the verdict.
Vandrose, from Islington, and Ffrench, of Tottenham, both from north London, admitted robbery and were found guilty of manslaughter, while Hettiarachchi, 31, from Harrow, admitted theft and was convicted of robbery and manslaughter.
In the sentencing hearing on Monday at the Old Bailey all three stared at the floor as they heard powerful and moving victim impact statements from Mr Odunlami’s mother and fiancée. “I have lost my purpose in life and I now perceive the world differently,” mum Christiana Odunlami said, holding back tears.
Mr Odunlami’s fiancée Rajbir Kaur shared the heartbreaking fact that on the night of her fiancé’s death, she did not say goodbye to him when he left – as she was annoyed he was going out. “I’ll never forget the scream that left me when they told me he passed away,” she said.
William Emlyn Jones KC, prosecuting, told jurors during the trial: “The grim and tragic irony of all this is that there is a good reason to think that the Patek Philippe watch wasn’t even genuine.
“The defendant – although of course, he wasn’t to know that at the time – had killed Emmanuel Odunlami for a fake watch.” Beginning his sentencing, Judge Patrick Field KC addressed Mr Odunlami’s family: “The grief suffered by those who lost Mr Odunlami is profound and palpable.
“I say to all of you, your loss is immense. There is no sentence I can pass that can assuage or even lessen the anguish you feel.” Turning to Menzies, he continued: “The murder was planned and pre-meditated. It was your use of the knife that led to the murder of Mr Odunlami.
“I take into account that your intention was not to kill, but to cause serious bodily harm. But you have previous convictions, including one in which you threatened a victim with a knife. You were 25 at the time, still a young man, but old enough to know what you were doing – and that it was wrong.”
He sentenced him to a minimum of 31 years in prison, minus the 555 days he has already spent on remand. Vandrose was sentenced to 15 years and Ffrench was also sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Lastly, addressing Hettiarachchi, Judge Field told him “you abused your position of authority” adding: “You were there as the proprietor of the firm employed for security at the event. But you had an altogether more sinister purpose.” He sentenced him to 13 years in prison.
When officers later searched the criminals’ homes, fake versions of high-value watches, including a bronze Rolex and a Royal Oak, were found at Hettiarachchi’s address.