Honeytrap' girl Samantha Joseph convicted of Shakilus Townsend murder
A schoolgirl who acted as a honeytrap to lure a besotted schoolboy to his death at the hands of a street gang is facing life in prison after being convicted of his murder.
Samantha Joseph, who was 15 at the time, and a group of six teenagers, including her boyfriend, ambushed and stabbed to death Shakilus Townsend, 16, in a suburban cul-de-sac.
After a ten-week trial at the Old Bailey, the victim’s mother has called on parents and the wider community to step up their efforts to eradicate knife and gun crime.
Shakilus was murdered because he was caught in a love triangle involving Joseph and a gang member. Joseph, who can be named publicly for the first time, led Shakilus to Danny McLean, 18, and the other gang members, who beat him with a baseball bat before stabbing him six times.
McLean, a member of the SMN (Shine My Nine) gang in Croydon, South London, was unaware that Joseph had been seeing Shakilus in secret for nearly a month. When he discovered her duplicity, McLean “dumped” her, but she promised to do anything to get him back, even though he had beaten her regularly.
Shakilus had told his mother that he was smitten with a “beautiful girl”, saying that one day he would marry her. But by then McLean had demanded that Joseph honour her promise and deliver Shakilus to them.
Joseph arranged to meet Shakilus on the pretext of introducing him to a cousin. Instead, in July last year, she led him to a cul-de-sac in Thornton Heath, South London, sending a text message to alert the waiting gang.
Andre Thompson, then 16, beat him with a baseball bat while others kicked and stabbed him or acted as lookouts. When McLean took his turn to stab the boy, he twisted the knife — an act of revenge that left a gaping hole in Shakilus’s stomach.
Neighbours who ran to the scene found the boy crying: “Mummy, mummy, mummy . . . I don’t want to die.” Witnesses saw the floral pattern of Joseph’s dress among the fleeing gang and McLean’s orange bandana, the trademark headgear of the SMN gang.
Footage from a CCTV camera taken a short while later showed Joseph, of Brockley, southeast London, walking beside McLean, carrying his hooded top and a cream-coloured handbag stained with blood. She confessed later to friends that she had agreed to “get Shak set” and only liked him because he lavished gifts on her.
For Tyrell Ellis, 19, and his brother Don-Carlos, 18, the killing was just another step to fulfilling their dream of being gangsters. Tyrell, known as Drastik, had tried hard to build up a criminal record. He was subject to a two-year ASBO for gang-related crimes at the time of the attack. Don-Carlos, known as Rugz, was on bail and due to report to a police station on the day of the killing.
Along with the other members of the gang, Andre Johnson-Haynes, 18, a former public schoolboy from Croydon, who played rugby for London Irish, and Michael Akinfenwa, 17, were also found guilty of murder.
Police might have arrested DonCarlos and Akinfenwa after being given their “street names”, but not full identities, by another teenager who had been stabbed in a gang feud a few months before Shakilus’s murder. The Independent Police Complaints Commission has begun an investigation.
Although Shakilus’s mother insisted that he had turned over a new leaf, he also had a history of violence. His profile on a social networking website showed him wearing a stab-proof vest and jabbing a blade into it next to the message: “I’m a sweet boy, slash your face up if you f*** around with me.”
At 13 he was convicted of common assault and the following year was found carrying an axe in the street. He also had convictions for robbery and carrying an axe and a knife.
In court McLean admitted stabbing Shakilus, insisting that it had been in self-defence and that he was aware of his victim’s reputation. After the stabbing, McLean and Joseph had wiped Shakilus’s account on Bebo, the social networking site, in order to delete any link between them.
As rumours spread of Joseph’s betrayal, Shakilus’s friends used such sites to condemn her. One comment read: “Remember u set up Shak. You *****. And he luved yooooh. You iz f****d!”
Shakilus’s mother, Nicola Dyer, 34, of Deptford, southeast London, said that action needed to be stepped up to rid the streets of the gang-culture that claimed the life of the eldest of her five children.
“First and foremost, your children are your responsibility,” she said. “But we must not just consider ourselves as parents of our own children, but to all children. It takes not a mother and father to raise a child, but a whole village. This African proverb, which was once used by Hillary Clinton, is an indication of the responsibility we all have towards one another.”
Speaking of Joseph, she said: “Shakilus really cared about her and I can’t understand how she could have callously set him up and lured him to his death.”
Detective Inspector Barney Ratcliffe said that Joseph had made various phone calls before the fatal encounter, telling McLean where she and Shakilus were. “She was an integral part of what was going to happen — if she hadn’t been involved it wouldn’t have happened.”
The seven teenagers will be sentenced in September. Scotland Yard’s leading homicide detective said that the convictions were a clear sign that police were breaking down the “wall of silence” that frequently surrounded gang violence.
Detective Chief Superintendent Hamish Campbell said: “Just a few years ago this case would have been very difficult. The killers are getting long sentences and those carrying knives will be aware that families, friends and communities are fed up with the gang and knife culture and are getting together to stamp it out.”
Since April, 24 out of 26 people tried for murder in London have been convicted. In the first five months of this year nine young men under the age of 21 have died in stabbings, compared with 18 in the same period last year.