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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 February 2007, 11:14 GMT
Killer's childhood of 'horror'
By Chris Summers
BBC News, The Old Bailey

A teenager has been jailed for the murder of two women, 15 days apart on the streets of south London. The Old Bailey heard the killings were the culmination of events in Roberto Malasi's horrific upbringing.

Roberto Malasi
The early life of this defendant reveals incidents of Dickensian horror and the culmination of that period is the death of two people, for which he must accept responsibility
Sir John Nutting QC

Roberto Malasi murdered two innocent and defenceless women in unprovoked attacks within the space of 15 days.

One victim was shot in the head as she held her baby niece, the other was stabbed numerous times as she got out of a car.

But his defence said the horrific violence in the "terrible summer" of 2005 had to be looked at in the light of his childhood, which was a "catalogue of misery and deprivation".

Sir John Nutting QC, whose clients include the Queen, told the Old Bailey: "The early life of this defendant reveals incidents of Dickensian horror and the culmination of that period is the death of two people, for which he must accept responsibility."

He said Malasi had been born in Angola but was brought to London and subjected to years of "wanton malevolence, spitefulness and brutality" as a child and had come to the attention of Southwark social services.

UN troops on patrol in DR Congo
Ironically Malasi dreams of working for the United Nations one day

At the age of 11, he was taken to the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo and abandoned by his father, he said.

He was left with distant relatives and spent the next four years witnessing scenes of daily violence, including people being "hanged, shot and burned to death".

Sir John said his father was "shamed" into bringing him back to London but quickly rejected him again and Roberto, aged 15, ended up living rough on the streets of Peckham.

On 27 August 2005 he took part in a robbery and ended up shooting Zainab Kalokoh dead. Fifteen days later he stabbed teenager Ruth Okechukwu to death after a trivial dispute.

Remorse

Sir John said his client was full of remorse and he read a letter from Reverend Paul Fitzpatrick, a former soldier and visiting chaplain at the secure unit where Malasi was held on remand.

In it Mr Fitzpatrick said: "Roberto feels a massive sense of guilt and appropriate responsibility for the crime he has committed and the life he has led."

The chaplain went on to say it was a tragic irony that Malasi was actually quite intelligent and, had he had the proper education, he could have achieved a great deal in his life.

Ruth Okechukwu
Ruth Okechukwu had been studying sports science
Mr Fitzpatrick said one of Roberto's ambitions was to work for the United Nations, although this was unlikely ever to be realised because of his crimes.

The chaplain said: "Roberto at no point expressed self-pity but was horrified by what he had become capable of."

Sir John said Malasi's natural mother was believed to be either dead or living in Africa. He said he was brought up by his father and stepmother and had suffered an "upbringing of pitiless persecution".

The family moved house numerous times and he went to six primary schools in five years.

When he was taken to Africa his education dried up altogether.

Caught malaria

Sir John said the idea that a father could abandon his 11-year-old son in a war-torn country "takes reason captive and paralyses comment".

He said: "The defendant remembers his period in Africa as one of deep unhappiness. He lived near Kinshasa with part of his stepmother's family and was then taken over the border into Angola.

"For most of the time he was there the Congo and Angola were in a state of civil war. Living conditions were atrocious, sanitation was non-existent and he contracted malaria.

"He worked as a labourer and was paid in food. The family resented the fact that he came from England and he was unwanted and found making friends with the local boys difficult as he could not speak their language. He was frequently subjected to violence."

The Wooddene estate in Peckham
Malasi came from Africa to a violent part of London

Sir John said: "Government troops often arrived to flush out what were perceived as rebels. Death and cruelty were commonplace and people were hung, shot and burned to death."

He then read out an extract from Malasi's recollections of his time in Africa: "We would open the front door and found someone dead just outside."

In late 2004 he was brought back to London but he was disowned by his father and on 4 April 2005 he was "found sleeping rough, hungry and penniless", said Sir John.

Southwark social services found him a flat and he signed on for a place on a business studies course at Lewisham College.

But before it began Malasi committed the two horrific murders.

Sir John said Malasi's "over-reaction" to what he perceived as threats from associates of student teacher Ruth Okechukwu had to be viewed against the background of Peckham - a district which he said was "very different" from other parts of the capital.

Malasi was arrested soon after Miss Okechukwu's death and later pleaded guilty to murder.

Sentencing him to a minimum term of 30 years, Mr Justice Gross said his actions were "evil".




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Malasi and one of his victims were African refugees



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