Teenager Jailed

13 March 2015, 19:07 | Updated: 13 March 2015, 19:10

A teenager who robbed and murdered a gay man in his own home in South West London because he believed the victim was interested in him has been jailed.

Usher Sawyers was just 15 when he stabbed Martin Thomas five times with a kitchen knife at his house in Roehampton in April 2014.

He has been jailed for at least 15 years.

The 6ft 2in tall boy, who dropped his blood-spattered deerstalker hat as he fled the scene, was convicted of the 39-year-old Jamaican's murder and robbery after a trial at the Old Bailey.

His accomplices - a 14-year-old boy who cannot be named and Odel Munroe, 20 - were cleared of murder but found guilty of manslaughter and robbing the victim of a phone, laptop and video camera.

Sentencing today, Judge Gerald Gordon said it gave the court "no pleasure" to sentence defendants of such young ages.

He told them: "You ended the life of a man who had come to this country seeking safety from persecution for his lifestyle and thought he had found it."

He ordered that Sawyers be detained at her Majesty's pleasure for a minimum of 15 years for the murder, plus 10 years for robbery.

He told the boy that he had identified his victim as the "perfect target" because he believed there was - on his part - a sexual element to their relationship.

The judge said: "The precise nature of your relationship with him as well as its length are unclear. You allege, and it has been repeated today, an intent - at least on his behalf - with a sexual element to it.

"If that is what you believed the answer is simple - don't go there - but you did. What is clear by that day, you had identified him as a person who would be unlikely to report you to police afterwards and therefore a perfect target for robbery."

Judge Gordon further ordered the 14-year-old boy to serve seven years for manslaughter and five years for robbery while Munroe was sentenced to 12 years for manslaughter plus nine years for robbery, both to run concurrently.

The trial had heard how Sawyers exchanged a series of calls and texts with the victim - a "quiet" and "private" gay man - in the days leading up to the killing.

On the evening of April 22 last year, Sawyers was seen approaching Mr Thomas's home while the two other boys crouched by cars parked nearby, the court heard.

Just after 8pm, a neighbour saw a tall youth wearing a fur-lined deerstalker hat knock on Mr Thomas's door before hiding behind a hedge in front of the house.

When the victim opened the door, the youth ran into the house and the neighbour heard the front door slam followed by "shouting and rumbling", prosecutor Jonathan Rees QC said.

Two seconds later, the teenage girl spotted two more boys wearing a scarf or bandana over their faces run across the road and force their way through the front door, the court heard.

In the minutes that followed, she reported hearing "screaming and proper shouting and a couple of thumps of things being broken".

The three youths were picked up on CCTV retracing their steps and returning to Sawyers' home in Putney, south London, before splitting up, jurors heard.

Meanwhile, the neighbour had raised the alarm and police found Mr Thomas in a blood-soaked T-shirt lying on the floor of the kitchen at the house where he was a tenant. He was pronounced dead at the scene at 9.10pm that night.

His landlord, who was out at the time of the attack, later reported an iPhone, video camera and Toshiba laptop belonging to Mr Thomas were missing.

An examination of the scene found Mr Thomas's blood in the hallway and kitchen as well as a deerstalker "tracker-style" hat in the hallway at the bottom of the stairs.

A scientific analysis showed there was "biological material" on the hat indicating it was worn by the 16-year-old defendant.

It also had a blood spot on one of the ear flaps which had come from the victim.

Sawyers, now 16, Munroe, from Wandsworth, south London, and the 14-year-old had all denied murder.