Dad ‘chased and stabbed to death’ in front of terrified shoppers

Stunned shoppers looked on as a father-of-three was chased through a busy Essex shopping centre by men in balaclavas before being stabbed to death, a court heard.

Michael Ugwa, 29, was killed at Lakeside Shopping Centre in Thurrock, Essex, after complimenting his assailant’s girlfriend, Basildon Crown Court heard on Wednesday.

Muhammad Khan, 23, and 20-year-old Brandon Lutchmunsing are alleged to have cornered him before Khan allegedly stabbed him in the chest.

Mr Ugwa, from Rainham, east London, died of “catastrophic” blood loss at the scene as the two men fled.

The attack on April 28 last year was captured on CCTV as witnesses fled from the knife-wielding Khan.

The pair, from east London, deny Mr Ugwa’s murder.

A jury heard how an argument broke out after Mr Ugwa made comments towards Lutchmunsing’s girlfriend, Shannon Weston.

Khan is said to have brandished a knife before he and Lutchmunsing stalked Mr Ugwa through the shopping centre food hall.

Karim Khalil KC, prosecuting, described the “brutal attack of two on one” in which the men trapped Mr Ugwa in a “pincer movement”.

Footage played at court showed Mr Ugwa holding up a chair in a bid to defend himself before throwing it at Lutchmunsing.

Khan stabbed then stabbed Mr Ugwa in a “single and deadly” blow before fleeing with Lutchmunsing in Weston’s red Audi, Mr Khalil said.

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Weston is accused of driving Khan and Lutchmunsing away from the shopping centre, and of helping her then-boyfriend to evade police between April 28 and May 4.

The 21-year-old, of Canewdon, Essex, denies three counts of assisting an offender and is also on trial.

Mr Khalil said: “The killing is particularly shocking because it happened just before 4.30 in the afternoon in the public food court.

“It happened in front of a number of people going about their normal business.

“Witnesses were clearly frightened for their safety.

“A mother with two youngsters in a pushchair can be seen dragging them away as fast as she can.

“The three defendants were sitting by a food outlet when Michael Ugwa and his friend walked in.

“There was a short verbal exchange during which Michael passed some admiring comments towards Shannon Weston.

“The two male defendants decided to take it as some form of challenge.

“Muhammad Khan pulled out a knife. Khan did this in a secretive manner but we say from the manner of Lutchmunsing’s behaviour that he knew.

“Mr Ugwa ran for his safety. He continued to be chased around the food court.

“Mr Ugwa went through some tables. He grabbed a chair. He threw the chair at Lutchmunsing.

“He was the subject of a pincer movement as they went around different parts of the food court effectively trapping him between them.

“Eventually Mr Khan cornered him and stabbed out. He aimed the knife at his chest and struck him as he intended to. It was a single and deadly blow.

“Mr Ugwa was quickly surrounded by helpers but he bled out.

“As he was left to die there the two defendants fled the scene. Shannon West drove them away.

“She had witnessed the violence in the food court. She was clearly helping the two men to escape.”

Lutchmunsing said he was unaware that his friend had pulled out the knife until he stabbed Mr Ugwa, while Khan claimed he was acting in self-defence.

Mr Khalil described their account as a “fabrication concocted to avoid the consequences” of their actions.

The trial continues.

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