Page last updated at 12:46 GMT, Thursday, 22 May 2008 13:46 UK

Youth guilty of crossfire murder

Magda Pniewska
Magda Pniewska was talking on the telephone when she was shot

A teenager has been found guilty of killing a care assistant who was caught in crossfire during a shoot-out.

Magda Pniewska, 26, was shot in the head in New Cross, south London, in October last year.

She was talking on her mobile to her family in Poland when she was shot. Her sister told the Old Bailey she heard Ms Pniewska's last breath down the phone.

Armel Gnango, 17, was found guilty of murder, attempted murder and possessing a gun to endanger life.

The court was told it was not Gnango's weapon which fired the fatal bullet but he was still responsible for the killing because he was involved in the gunfight.

The second teenager was also arrested but not charged, the court heard.

The ray of sunshine that was Magda has gone
Barbara Pniewska

He was named by Gnango, but denied being involved and was not charged because of lack of evidence.

Prosecutor Brian Altman QC said: "In scenes reminiscent of the Wild West, Magda was to become the innocent victim of a gunfight by two total strangers.

"She was caught in the crossfire between two youths armed with handguns. Each had a score to settle.

"The gunfight tragically ended the life of a young woman who had fearlessly given her life to caring for others."

Police chief describes how witnesses were protected in court

The victim's mother, Barbara Pniewska, said in a victim impact statement read in court: "The death of our Magda has cast a shadow on our reason for living.

"My child's life has been untimely cut short. The ray of sunshine that was Magda has gone from our family."

Giving evidence, Ms Pniewska's sister Elzbieta Luby said she heard three or four shots before hearing her sister die.

"There was a short break between the third and fourth shot, like a moment's hesitation," she told the court.

"I asked Magda 'What's happening, what is going on, who's shooting?' She said 'Wait a minute, Ella.' The fourth shot came.

"I heard the last breath of Magda."

Gnango, of Streatham Hill, south-west London, told the court: "I put my hands over my head as I was crouching and let off a shot.

Armel Gnango
Armel Gnango claimed he had never fired a gun before

"It was not more than two shots. I was aiming at the sky.

"I had never shot a gun before. I was panicking. I was trying to scare him off."

The conviction for murder of someone who was known not to have fired the fatal shot was described by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) as "unprecendented".

Outside court, CPS lawyer Jane Scholefield said: "Even though the defendant did not fire the fatal round, and even though Magda Pniewska was not the intended target of either gunman, the defendant bears a joint criminal liability for her death.

"Each fired their guns with intent to kill at a time when there were bystanders present between them."

Det Ch Insp Tony Boughton said officers are continuing to gather evidence against the other youth involved in the shoot-out

"The investigation into Magda's murder is not over," he said.

Gnango, who pleaded guilty to having a prohibited weapon, was remanded in custody until 23 June when he will be sentenced.

'Last breath' heard over mobile
13 May 08 |  London

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