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Tuesday, November 16, 1999 Published at 14:32 GMT


Trio 'set Menson on fire'

Michael Menson - died two weeks after being set alight

A black musician died after being torched by three men, one of whom stole his personal stereo while he was in flames, the Old Bailey has heard.

The BBC's Geeta Guru-Murthy: "Both men are denying murder"
Michael Menson, 30, was found on fire on the North Circular Road, Edmonton, north London, in January 1997.

He died on 13 February 1997, from complications and two heart attacks caused by 30% burns to his back.

Mario Pereira, 26, a student, and unemployed Harry Charalambous Constantinou, 26, both of Edmonton, north London, deny murder.

[ image: Pop success in the 1980s]
Pop success in the 1980s
Mr Nigel Sweeney, prosecuting, said Ozguy Cevat, 22, the third man allegedly involved in the attack, had fled to Northern Cyprus on 5 February, and had not returned.

The court heard that police at first believed Mr Menson had set fire to himself, and failed to seal off the area as a crime scene.

Mr Sweeney said that it was not until Mr Menson told his brothers at his hospital bedside that he had been attacked, that an investigation began.

'Stressed his girlfriend'

Mr Menson, the son of a Ghanaian diplomat, had been a successful musician in the 1980s, but had suffered psychiatric problems.

Just before the attack, he had moved to supported accommodation in Arnos Grove, north London, from a hospital.

Mr Sweeney told the jury that in the early hours of 28 January, Mr Pereira and Mr Constantinou and their friend Mr Cevat set fire to the back of Mr Menson's anorak, near some telephone boxes on an Edmonton street. Mr Constantinou stole his personal stereo.

They then fled in a red Metro car which belonged to Pereira's mother, and which was later sold.

Mr Menson made his way, still on flames, to the nearby North Circular Road where two passing motorists, and later the emergency services, went to his aid.

Mr Menson, "suffering terrible burns", was taken to hospital where, later in the day, he told his two brothers that he had been attacked. Police were informed and the investigation began.

Fire experts and forensic scientists concluded that Mr Menson had not set fire to himself.

Mr Sweeney said Mr Pereira confessed the killing to three friends, saying the the motive was simply that Mr Menson was, or looked like, a man who had "stressed his girlfriend."

Lied to police

Mr Pereira and Mr Constantinou also deny with Husseyin Abdullah, 50, unemployed of Edmonton, a further charge of perverting the course of justice by obstructing the police investigation.

Mr Sweeney said they had spent about two years trying to cover up their involvement.

They warned those to whom they confessed not to give information to the police, and they lied to the police when they were interviewed, the court heard.

Police were unable to uncover evidence of who had been responsible until the inquiry was handed over to the Racial and Violent Crime Task Force and the team began a "vigorous investigation."

Constantinou confesses

When interviewed by police, Mr Sweeney said, Mr Constantinou admitted that he had been in the car with the two others before the incident.

He said Mr Cevat and Mr Pereira had got out of the Metro and tried to set fire to Mr Menson's anorak with a lighter.

Mr Constantinou then said all three went to Mr Pereira's address not far away, where Mr Pereira got some white spirit, and then all three returned.

"Constantinou claimed that despite his protests, Pereira and Cevat then got out the car with the white spirit and went around the corner to the telephone kiosks where Mr Menson was.

"They then returned, laughing, shortly afterwards," said Mr Sweeney.

"They drove off together and returned. It was then Constantinou says he stole Mr Menson's personal stereo."

The court heard how Mr Constantinou, Mr Pereira and Mr Abdullah were trapped when they discussed how to cover up the the killing at Mr Constantinou's flat.

They spoke about the possibility that other places where they met were bugged, unaware that every word was being taped on recording devices in the flat.

On his arrest, Mr Pereira allegedly claimed he was not involved - "and in addition will ask you to consider whether Menson's death might have been suicide all along.

"We say Menson's death was not suicide and Pereira is guilty of both charges he faces," said Mr Sweeney.

The trial continues.

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