The family of a man stabbed to death just three weeks after moving to Britain move back to Romania because London has become a ‘dangerous place’.
Beniamin Pieknyi, 21, died after being knifed at the Stratford Centre shopping mall, close to the Olympic Park in east London, on March 20 this year.
Mr Pieknyi, from Milton Keynes, came to London to meet up with his friend Alexandru Suciu, 25, and was in ‘the wrong place at the wrong time’.
The pair ran into a gang who were hassling members of public and he was knifed to death while trying to protect his friend.
Ukrainian Valdyslav Yakymchuk, 23, who had been in the UK for just two years, admitted murder.
The court heard that he pulled a huge knife from his waistband and plunged it into Mr Pieknyi’s chest despite onlookers begging him to back off.
Yakymchuk was arrested four days later while shoplifting in Harrods and was yesterday jailed for life with a minimum term of 24 years.
Other members of the group were also sentenced.
Kevin Duarte, 19, and Moses Kasule, 20, were found guilty of manslaughter and violent disorder by an Old Bailey jury after a four-week trial and each sentenced to 12 years’ detention.
Alexis Gabriel Da Costa Varela and Mario Zvavamwe, both 19, were convicted of violent disorder and handed sentences of 40 months and 30 months respectively.
Varela also received a concurrent 12-month term for an earlier violent disorder stemming from a protest over the death of Edir Frederico Da Costa in Forest Gate on 25 June last year which left six police officers injured when protesters started hurling missiles at them.
He was under investigation for that offence at the time he ‘bullied’ and ‘provoked’ the two Romanians before the fatal stabbing.
Mr Pieknyi’s family has since left London, returning to Romania where they believe there is less violence.
His sister, Iulia, said the tragedy had opened her eyes to the ‘terrible things’ that can happen on the streets of the capital, and how ‘if you say the wrong thing to the wrong person you could end up dead’.
Their brother, Mihael, added: ‘To us as a family, London is seen as a dangerous place because of what happened to my brother.’
Jailing Yakymchuk, judge Rebecca Poulet, QC, told him: ‘You were undoubtedly the ringleader of the group, provoking this situation by the needless bullying of two young men just because you outnumbered them and considered the shopping mall your personal domain.
‘In my judgement you would not have acted as you did if you were not supported by the others in your aggressive and violent conduct?
‘You led the violence, it took place in a public place and in the face of strong pleas and warnings from members of the public.
‘It was not premeditated, but it was brutal and deliberate.’
She said Yakymchuk had been ‘completely fired up’ when he attacked Mr Pieknyi a second time, stabbing him with ‘a terrifying ferocity and speed’, inflicting a devastating 20cm-deep wound which penetrated his heart.
Prosecutor Duncan Atkinson QC said the defendants were ‘acting as a group, deliberately using their numbers, their body language and their concerted action to intimidate, and to threaten’.
Detective Inspector Ian Titterrell said: ‘Beniamin and his friend were two entirely innocent friends. They had every right to go about socialising with each other in peace and had done nothing at all to deserve the ire of their aggressors.
‘They were attacked by a group hell-bent on causing as much torment and misery as they could that evening, to anyone in particular.
‘In Beniamin and his friend they found two people who they thought would be an easy target to sate their urge for violence.
‘The group were led Yakymchuk, who was the lead aggressor, and were aware that he was carrying a knife.
‘Yakymchuk it seems would not be satisfied until he was able to use it, which to the terror of the watching members of public, resulted in Beniamin’s untimely and tragic death.
‘These convictions will, I’m sure, do little to quell the pain Beniamin’s family have endured. I hope however that they will derive some small comfort from knowing that justice has been done.’