Yussuf Mustapha, the 14-year-old gunman whose identity was revealed by a judge at Birmingham Crown Court, has been jailed for life for murdering Keon Lincoln
An ‘evil’ gunman aged 14 who shot schoolboy Keon Lincoln with a revolver in a vicious daylight gang attack in Birmingham has been jailed for life.
Yussuf Mustapha, whose identity was revealed by a judge at Birmingham Crown Court today, is facing a mandatory life sentence alongside three other teenagers convicted of murdering 15-year-old Keon near his home in Handsworth, Birmingham.
Keon was shot at and stabbed after trying to escape the shocking 30-second assault in January this year. He died two hours later at Birmingham Children’s Hospital from a gunshot wound to the stomach. A major artery had also been severed as he suffered eight sharp-force injuries.
In a haunting victim impact statement today, Keon’s mother said: ‘I am in a nightmare that I cannot wake up from. A piece of soul has been taken from me.’
Describing how she recalled comments made on the day of the murder and could see an image of her ‘beautiful boy’s body being lowered into the ground,’ she said ‘heartless, evil monsters’ had left her with thoughts and emotions she would have to live with for the rest of her life.
Sentencing, Lord Justice William Davis said the murder had been ‘carefully planned and executed’ using a revolver and a car stolen for use in the killing.
He added: ‘Keon’s mother was in the family home, she went out to find her son dying on the pavement having heard the gunshots outside. Not only had she been robbed of her son, but also had the experience and trauma of watching him die.
‘When a 15-year-old boy is killed in that way the first question anybody asks is ”why?”. That question has never been answered.’
Mustapha was convicted of murder by jurors earlier this month following a five-week trial. He told jurors he was not at the murder scene but admitted he had lied to police. The 14-year-old showed little emotion as the verdict was read out.
Lifting a court order banning the media from naming Mustapha, the judge said that it was in the public interest to name him and that the measure had represented a ‘substantial restriction’ on the press’s ability to report on the case.
The judge also said that a 16-year-old youth found guilty of murder should be named but stayed the lifting of the order, pending the outcome of appeal against his conviction.
Their accomplices Michael Ugochukwu and Tahjgeem Breakenridge, both 18, were also convicted of murder and jailed for life. Kieron Donaldson, 18, was found guilty of unlawfully killing Keon after buying weapons used in the killing, and was sentenced to 12 years.
Keon was shot at and stabbed after trying to escape the shocking 30-second assault in January this year. He died two hours later at Birmingham Children’s Hospital from a gunshot wound to the stomach. A major artery had also been severed as he suffered eight sharp-force injuries
Tahjgeem Breakenridge, 18, and Michael Ugochukwu, 18, were also found guilty of murder after 15 hours and 50 minutes of jury deliberations spread over four days.
This is the chilling moment Michael Ugochukwu is seen on CCTV carrying a blade seconds before the brutal murder of a 15-year-old schoolboy
‘I am in a nightmare that I can’t wake up from’: Haunting words of Keon’s mother read out in court today
I am in a nightmare that I cannot wake up from. A piece of soul has been taken from me. I hear the words his heart has stopped. Then I hear the words: ‘I’m sorry, we tried everything we could’.
I feel the chill through my veins as I held my boy’s ice cold body. I saw my beautiful boy’s body being lowered into the ground.
Gunshots ring in my ears knowing one of them ultimately ended my son’s life.
I miss my boy so much that it physically hurts. I’m still unable to come to terms with the fact you’re gone for good.
I can only hope there will come a day when the senseless murder of children will come to an end.
Detective Inspector Jim Colclough is leading the investigation. He said: ‘The murder of Keon Lincoln not only devastated his family, but brought shock and sadness to the whole community.
‘Not least because an attack so brutal could be carried out in broad daylight on a schoolboy, by others just as young, if not younger.
‘The wave of disbelief was followed by anger and grief, but ultimately unity as everyone pulled together to support Keon’s family, vowing that this should not happen to another family.
‘The utter sadness here is that not only has Keon’s family been left without him, but these young killers now face life in prison, away from their own families, and for what?
‘We have not been able to establish why Keon was murdered. Only his killers know that, but they will now have a long time to reflect on their actions.’
Keon’s mother Charmaine spoke of her grief: ‘I’m in a nightmare that I cannot wake up from. My heart is broken beyond repair. A piece of my soul has been taken from me.
‘I see my baby boy’s face as he lay slumped on the ground struggling to breathe.
‘I hear the words ‘his heart has stopped’. I miss my boy so much that it physically hurts.
‘I would not wish this suffering on anyone and I can only hope that a day will come when the senseless murdering of children, will come to an end.’
Close family friend Reverend Neville Popo knew Keon all his life and has supported his family in their most desperate time of need. He said: ‘On the 21 January the lives of so many would never be the same. This is the harrowing day that Keon Lincoln was so brutally taken from us in what can only be described as senseless violence.
‘When young people attach themselves to potentially violent groups and then begin to act out moments of violence, they are never truly aware of the consequences of their actions.
‘We know that the system offers consequences to deter such behaviour, but other than the potential fear of arrest and incarceration, I argue that young people do not think about how their actions impact the lives of so many others.
‘Young people that kill fail to understand that once they have taken a life, they cannot reverse their actions; they must live with this reality for the rest of their lives and all that comes with it.’
Senior police have been concerned for some time about the number of teenagers being caught up in the cycle of violent in inner city Birmingham.
The conflict that he grew up in the middle of stretched as far back as the 1980s, when two rival Afro-Caribbean gangs fought. Although the names of the gangs have changed, locals claimed the rivalry between the two has never disappeared.
And though gang conflict is not new, experts have warned that the pandemic has made matters significantly worse. In Handsworth, where Keon was tragically murdered, crime had increased by 87 per cent in the 12 months before his death, police figures show. It is not thought that Keon was a member of a gang.
Simon Foster, the West Midlands police and crime commissioner, said rising school exclusions and cuts to youth services and policing have left ‘vulnerable young people at increased risk of becoming victims of crime’.
The Rev Neville Popo, who runs the Wesleyan Holiness Church in Handsworth, told The Times: ‘There’s been nothing for these youngsters to do. Years ago, there was a youth club in every town. Now, there’s nothing going on.’
Ugochukwu is seen here in still CCTV shots holding the knife that was used in the fatal stabbing and shooting of Keon
Opening the case for the Crown at the start of the trial, prosecutor Michael Burrows QC said a Ford S-Max, with stolen plates, (pictured) was used by those who attacked Keon
The getaway vehicle, which had been stolen and was on false plates, later crashed. Left behind was forensic evidence including a hunting knife (pictured)
One campaigner insisted that the proliferation of gangs in the city was getting worse. Michelle Helsby said: ‘You don’t even have to be in a gang. If you’re from these areas – like Handsworth – you can get killed. My son has lost two friends this year, both under 15. Keon was the first.’
A five-week trial has been told Keon suffered eight sharp force injuries and a fatal injury to his abdomen from one of two gunshots fired in Linwood Road, Handsworth, at about 3.35pm on January 21.
The trial was told Breakenridge, of Balsall Heath, Ugochukwu, of Edgbaston, and the 16-year-old from Walsall were all caught on CCTV armed with long-bladed knives.
The court was told all the purchases were made online using Donaldson’s email address, but none of the knives were found when the police searched his home a month after the murder.
Detectives have said there is no evidence to suggest territorial gang rivalries were linked to the killing, and they could not say whether Keon was specifically targeted or if he was attacked ‘by chance’.
Pastor Neville Popo, a friend of Keon’s family, had called for an end to a so-called ‘postcode war’ at a vigil shortly after the murder.
Speaking after Keon’s killers were brought to justice, the pastor said the family were still trying to understand why he was attacked.
Describing Keon as a bubbly character who loved pranks and dancing, the clergyman said: ‘From then until now we’re still trying to come to terms with why – we still don’t know.
Keon was blasted twice by a 14-year-old gunman and stabbed ‘with large knives’ during a 30-second onslaught in Birmingham. Pictured: Police at the scene
‘The crime that was committed on Keon is heinous, it’s diabolical, it’s unnecessary, it never needed to happen. We are trying come to terms with that and just want closure.
‘It helps his mother to at least feel a bit more peace to know that those who did the crime are now behind bars.’
Paul Farrow, a specialist prosecutor at the CPS, said: ‘Our thoughts are with Keon’s family and friends during this difficult time.
‘While these convictions will never be able to replace what they have lost, I hope it gives them some comfort that those responsible have been held accountable for their actions.’
Opening the case for the Crown at the start of the trial, prosecutor Michael Burrows QC said a Ford S-Max, which had been stolen and had a false registration plate, was used by those who attacked Keon.
The vehicle later crashed in Wheeler Street, Birmingham, where forensic evidence including a hunting knife was recovered.
CCTV cameras captured the hooded mob unleashing the attack, which continued even after Keon tried to get up and run away, the trial heard.
Prosecutor Michael Burrows QC told Birmingham Crown Court: ‘He [Keon] was shot at whilst he was on the ground. Still, the group continued to attack him, stabbing and hacking at him with large knives. Eventually, the group ran away and got back into a white Ford S-Max and that car was driven away from the scene.’
Footage showed that one suspect shot Keon twice including once in the stomach which later killed him, the jury was told.
Other CCTV shows Ugochukwu and Breakenridge casually walking down down the street towards Linwood Road, in Handsworth, prior to the killing.
Opening the case for the Crown at the start of the trial, prosecutor Mr Burrows said a Ford S-Max was used by those who attacked Keon. The getaway vehicle, which had been stolen and was on false plates, later crashed. Left behind was forensic evidence including a hunting knife, which was found in the footwell of the car.
Following Keon’s death, his mother, Sharmaine Lincoln, described her son as a joker and a ‘loving child with a jolly spirit’ whose ‘unbelievable laugh’ would echo daily around her home.