Page last updated at 14:30 GMT, Wednesday, 1 April 2009 15:30 UK

Queue-jumping death pair jailed


Tony Virasami was filmed on CCTV as he attacked Mr Tripp

A man and a woman have been jailed over the death of an innocent shopper in a queue-jumping row in south London.

Antonette Richardson was jailed for 18 months and ex-boyfriend Tony Virasami received four years for manslaughter.

Southwark Crown Court heard she called him to a Sainsbury's store in Merton where he hit Kevin Tripp, a bystander who had nothing to do with the dispute.

Judge Geoffrey Rivlin QC said the sentences reflected the "shock and concern felt by the public at large".

Outside court Mr Tripp's partner Josie James said: "It's not long enough. They took Kevin's life."

Father-of-one Mr Tripp, 57, from Colliers Wood, south-west London, died when the "almighty blow" caused him to fall and fracture his skull, causing bleeding on the brain.

Virasami pleaded guilty to manslaughter but Richardson had denied the charge. Both are from Sedgehill Road, Catford, south-east London.

It was unquestionably a very hard slap, delivered with a full swing and considerable force by an obviously physically fit and strong man
Judge Geoffrey Rivlin QC

The time the pair have spent in remand will be deducted from their sentences.

As they have been in custody since June last year, it was unclear whether Richardson has any of her sentence left to serve.

The Sentencing Guidelines Council recommends that first-time offenders who receive sentences of between one and four years are released under supervision after serving half of their sentence, unless they are considered "dangerous".

Southwark Crown Court was unable to confirm when Richardson was due for release.

Sentencing Virasami, Judge Geoffrey Rivlin QC said he had taken such a "powerful swing" at Mr Tripp's head that he "struck the floor with a noise that could be heard some distance away".

"As a slap, it was unquestionably a very hard slap, delivered with a full swing and considerable force by an obviously physically fit and strong man."

'Revulsion and concern'

To Richardson the judge said: "You started this whole episode with your call to Mr Virasami.

"I am satisfied that you were quite prepared for the fact that some violence was to be done, and you actively encouraged it."

Judge Rivlin added: "It is, I believe, right, despite your [Virasami's] plea of guilty and your remorse, to reflect the revulsion and concern felt by Mr Tripp's nearest and dearest, who are condemned to suffer for this long after this case is over, and also to reflect the shock and concern felt by the public at large."

Kevin Tripp
Kevin Tripp suffered brain injury when he was knocked down

The jury heard Richardson had been accused of pushing in front of shopper Adam Prendergast, as she went to buy a packet of cigarettes.

She phoned Virasami, who was waiting in a car nearby, and when he came into the store she pointed out Mr Prendergast.

However, Virasami mistook Mr Tripp for the man and hit him. The CCTV footage of the unprovoked attack was shown in court.

Richardson had "egged on" Virasmi to take revenge and after Mr Tripp was hit, witnesses heard her telling Virasami, "We need to find the right guy."

At the time of the attack Virasami was on bail, tagged and under curfew for shoplifting, while Richardson had previous convictions for deception and handling stolen goods, the court heard.

Outside court Ms James said: "The judge was pretty fair, but his hands were tied."

She added: "I resigned myself to the fact they were going to get less but, in my heart of hearts, I wanted them to get life."

Gillian Tripp, one of Mr Tripp's sisters, said: "We are really disappointed with the result, really disappointed."

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