Young, Innocent and Inside - The Case of Sam Hallam

1. (of 7) The Murder of Essayas Kassahun

Witnesses whose names have not previously been publicised in the media are identified only by their initials in this briefing.

On the evening of Monday, 11th October 2004, a large group of youths gathered on the St Luke's housing estate in the Finsbury area of the London Borough of Islington. Some were armed with baseball bats and at least one with a knife. Most had come from the neighbouring area of Hoxton in Hackney. Contrary to its media depiction as a fashionable artists' quarter, Hoxton has a largely working-class population with the majority of residents living on post-war council housing estates. Likewise, St Luke's estate,  a 1960s local authority high-rise estate is a far cry from the stereotypical portrayal of Islington as a gentrified area occupied by the so-called 'chattering classes'.

11 October 2004 - CCTV still - Youths on St Luke's estate

The leaders of the crowd intended to attack a 19 year old local man called Louis Colley. Their reasons for seeking him were almost trivial. Colley was a member of Toffee Park youth club in Finsbury which was frequented by young people from both Finsbury and Hoxton. On Friday, 8th October, he had been involved in a confrontation outside the club with a group of teenagers from Hoxton. According to Colley's account, a boy around 15 years old said to him "who are you watching?" to which Colley allegedly replied "I don't even want to bother with you kids". According to other accounts, Colley and some Finsbury friends had threatened the Hoxton teenagers and "chased them out of the area".

Indignation about the incident ran high among some of Hoxton's young people. On 11th October, a sizeable group walked and cycled to Finsbury from  Hoxton. Some joined the growing crowd out of curiosity or excitement with no awareness of what was about to happen, The ringleaders, however,  went equipped to inflict violence on Colley. Some of them called at the youth club looking for him. They were told he had been there earlier but had since left

Some of the crowd then converged on nearby St Luke's estate. Louis Colley, meanwhile, had gone to an aunt's house in nearby City Road. At around 8.30 pm, while returning home, he encountered a group of friends outside a Somerfield supermarket on Old Street near to St Luke's estate. Among them was Colley's friend, Essayas Kassahun, a 21 year old trainee chef who had fled to the UK from his native Ethiopia when he was a child.

Also in the group of friends was "BK" a 20 year old man who later gave evidence at Sam Hallam's trial.  It is relevant to the case that racial tension is less pervasive in this area of London than in many other parts of Britain. There was no racial factor in the dispute which led to Essayas Kassahun's murder. The group of friends talking outside the supermarket included young people from North African, Caribbean, white British and Irish backgrounds. Likewise, the crowd looking for Louis Colley (who is of Caribbean origin) comprised black, and white youths.

While Colley was chatting to his friends, he received a call warning him that youths were on the estate, just around the corner from the supermarket and looking for him. He looked down Bath Street at the corner of the Old Street supermarket and saw a group of young people standing in the street.

Louis Colley continued talking to his friends but then exchanged words with one of the crowd. Colley recognised him as Hoxton resident Bullabeck Ringbiong who was a former schoolmate. Ringbiong challenged him about the incident on the previous Friday. Another youth swung a punch at Colley. Both men fell to the ground and Colley was set upon by several youths. Some were wielding baseball bats. His friend Essayas Kassahun went to his assistance.

In the ensuing melee, Colley managed to escape from the group and took shelter in the supermarket. Essayas was much less fortunate. Witnesses saw him being kicked and falling to the ground surrounded by assailants. He sustained a serious wound to the left side of his head. Eventually, he was helped by one of his friends and they crossed over Old Street into a Shell petrol station to get help.

11 October 2004 - CCTV still showing Essayas Kassahun (middle) entering Shell petrol station shop

Essayas went into a toilet inside the station shop. As his friend later related, blood was flowing from Essayas' head and he 'blanked out'. He was joined by several friends including Louis Colley who had left the Somerfield supermarket. An ambulance was called. By the time it arrived, Essayas was unconscious.  He was taken to the Royal London Hospital, Whitechapel. He never regained consciousness and was pronounced dead on Wednesday 13th October 2004.