It has taken four years for the family of Bervil Ekofo and his aunt Annie (pictured) to get justice.
By Chris Summers 9 September 2020
In September 2016 the front pages of several British newspapers featured the murder of a 53-year-old woman and her nephew.
It was a case of mistaken identity and a sign of how lawless London had become, said the mainstream media.
Four years later the case had been largely forgotten, except by the family of Besala Ekofo and her nephew Bervil, 21, (pictured) who had been gunned down in a flat in East Finchley, north London, just before dawn on 15 September 2016.
But detectives and those prosecuting the case certainly had not forgotten it.
The killer, Obina Ezeoke, was put on trial five times.
His first trial collapsed in April 2017 when Judge Stephen Kramer QC suffered agonising back pain and was forced to retire from the legal profession as a result.
A second and a third trial at the Old Bailey both ended with juries unable to reach a verdict. The fourth trial was brought to an end in March 2020 by the coronavirus crisis, which meant the jury was unable to sit in court to hear the evidence.
In July 2020 the fifth trial began and on 9 September, after eight days of deliberation, the jury finally returned a majority 11-1 verdict – Guilty.
So who was Obina Ezeoke, who is now 27, and why did he carry out such a wanton act of violence?
All five trials heard the intended target was Mrs Ekofo’s son, Ryan Efey, who often spent nights at the flat and was involved in a long-running feud with Ezeoke.
Ezeoke – who was defended by James Scobie QC, one of the best defence lawyers in the country – reportedly wanted to kill Efey after footage of Ezeoke being attacked was shared on Snapchat.
Mrs Ekofo, who was known to her family as Annie, had come to the UK from the Democratic Republic of Congo – then known as Zaire – in 1991 along with her husband Osman Jean Efey.
The couple had nine children together and four of the youngest were still living with their parents at the time of the murders.
Because of Ryan’s feud the Ekofo family were moved from their home in Mill Hill after shots were fired at it, and Barnet Council had warned Mrs Ekofo not to let Ryan stay at the flat.
But he was her son and her maternal feelings and soft-heartedness were to lead directly to her death.
Prosecutor Mark Heywood QC said Ezeoke (pictured) drove to the flat in Elmshurst Crescent in the early hours of the morning.
He told the jury: “He went there quite deliberately, with a gun and of course sufficient ammunition to use it, to attack and kill one of the young men of the family. That was part of what you will hear was a vendetta of violence, tit-for-tat violence.”
The front door had been left unlocked after another member of the family crept out around 5am to go to work.
Ezeoke pushed the door open and spotted a young man sleeping on the couch in the front room.
Mr Heywood said: “For the killer, this was as good a target as he could expect, a young man of the house of just the right age. He crept forward, gun in hand. He raised the muzzle and placed it almost against the back of the sleeping dreadlocked head, and then, with a deliberation and purpose that was as much cowardly as it was murderous, he pulled the trigger.”
But the slumberer was not Ryan Efey. It was Mrs Ekofo’s nephew, Bervil, a psychology student at the University of Westminster whose random decision to stay the night would cost him his life.
As Ezeoke fled a young girl – who cannot be identified for legal reasons – woke up and discovered Mrs Ekofo covered in blood.
She cried out: “There’s something wrong with Grandma.”
When detectives launched the murder inquiry they soon realised Ryan Efey was probably the intended target and that the killing could be linked back to his enemies on the Grahame Park estate (pictured, above).
They scanned hours of CCTV footage and spotted a black Vauxhall Meriva which was seen arriving near the crime scene just before the murders and departing moments later. When the car was discovered, it was found to have gunshot residue particles on the seat.
The evidence showed Ezeoke had bought and insured the car under a false name but he claimed it was often used by others and he insisted he was not driving it on the morning of 15 September 2016.
Ezeoke admitted he made his living as a drug dealer but he insisted he was not a killer.
After four years and five trials he has finally been proved to be a liar.
Ezeoke faces a mandatory life sentence when he is sentenced on 1 October.
The Grahame Park estate is currently being regenerated – with the existing flats demolished and replaced with a mixed tenure of social and private homes – with the work due to be completed by 2032.