Teen on trial for murder of University of Northampton drug dealer says he acted in self defence prior to fatal stabbing
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A teenager on trial for the murder of a University of Northampton drug dealer has revealed what happened in the moments before and after the fatal stabbing.
Nineteen-year-old defendant Melvin Lebaga-Idubor gave evidence in Northampton Crown Court on Wednesday and Thursday, (November 7 and 8), concerning the fatal stabbing of UoN student and drug dealer Kwabena Osei-Poku, also known as Alfred.
The stabbing took place in New South Bridge Road, Far Cotton, near the University's Waterside Campus on April 23 at 8:50 pm.
Eke, aged 19, of Brimsdown Avenue, Enfield, and Melvin Lebaga-Idubor, aged 19, of Abbey Road, Barking and Dagenham, have both entered pleas of not guilty in response to murder charges and carrying a knife.
The court heard how Lebaga-Idubor attended a private school in Norfolk where he played rugby before moving to Barking in 2021, where the prosecution says he got caught up in drugs and gangs. He says he was a college student working part-time at Ikea.
Ms Vanessa Marshall KC, prosecuting, said: "How did you go from playing rugby in Norfolk to drugs and gangs? Nice school in Norfolk to the throes of Barking."
Lebaga-Idubor responded, saying: "I have never been involved in drug dealing."
The prosecution contends that the fatal incident was instigated by a “drug dealing turf war” which saw a “large amount of cannabis” stolen by Lebaga-Idubor, who was accompanied by Eke, from Kwabena before he was fatally stabbed.
The prosecution claims Lebaga-Idubor told Kwabena that he had 'built up his drug line' since starting UoN in September 2022.
Lebaga-Idubor admitted that he and Eke, who has been described as the ‘most popular drug dealer on campus’, had a plan to steal a large amount of cannabis off Kwabena because he was a 'wet yout' and an 'easy target'.
Lebaga-Idubor said: "The plan was put to me. The way it was put to me was that it would be a low-risk situation. It was very naive of me, I can admit that."
Ms Marshall said: "Surely you can appreciate, someone selling that amount of cannabis isn't going to give up without a fight."
Lebaga-Idubor said: "It was very naive of me that there would be no problem. The description of what the person [Kwabena] was like; I didn't think too much of it [stealing the drugs]."
Ms Marshall said: "[The theft was to] maintain a monopoly of dealing at university and disrupt Kwabena's business and stop him dealing on your turf. You were hoping to steal his cannabis so you could sell it on. It was more than just stealing these drugs, wasn't it, for you and Mr. Eke."
Lebaga-Idubor said: "For me, it was just to steal the drugs. I don't know what it meant for Mr. Eke."
Ms Marshall said: "You loved all the kudos you might get by hanging out with Mr. Eke and hanging out with drug dealers."
Lebaga-Idubor said: "Yes, I did enjoy it. It was very stupid of me, resulting in something very horrific."
Ms Marshall said: "The profits and kudos of drug dealing on campus were too much for you to resist."
Lebaga-Idubor said: "No, I was not selling drugs."
Ms Marshall said: "[You] went to show him who was boss. You and Mr. Eke went to teach Kwabena a lesson. You and Mr. Eke went there to use serious violence towards Kwabena for 'strutting his drugs' on your 'strip', weren't you, Mr. Idubor, that's why the two of you were armed with knives."
Lebaga-Idubor said: "I was not armed with a knife."
Ms Marshall said: "You knew exactly what was going on that night."
Lebaga-Idubor said: "I knew we were going to steal drugs that night, anything other than that I didn't know. There was no specific plan about who was going to do what. It was just, this guy's wet, there will be no repercussions."
The court previously saw CCTV footage of the theft taking place inside a flat on the university’s Waterside Campus, which the prosecution contends saw Lebaga-Idubor 'do most of the talking', which he denies.
The CCTV footage showed Lebaga-Idubor snatching the drugs and leaving the flat with Eke, with Kwabena following in pursuit behind.
Ms Marshall said: "When you had the drugs in your left hand and the knife in your right, you were saying [to Kwabena] 'chat to me', 'chat to me', weren't you? You wanted him to fight you, didn't you? Mr. Eke, the man you wanted to impress, tagging along with you."
The court heard how Kwabena stabbed Lebaga-Idubor first – in the side of the body – on New South Bridge Road in a bid to get his drugs back.
Lebaga-Idubor said: "The first thing to do was get off the floor. I was on the floor, and I was getting up. I was no longer in possession of those drugs at this stage. I didn't have a knife to stab him back. I didn't have a chance to run away. Everything happened so quickly. I was on the floor. I was within an inch of my life."
Ms Marshall said: “You had just been stabbed. You had not got a knife. Why don’t you run away back to campus?”
Lebaga-Idubor said: “I didn’t have the chance. I panicked and I tried to get hold of the knife. I was just trying to get the knife away from me. I didn’t have a chance to run.”
Ms Marshall said: "You stabbed him trying to get him to drop the drugs. But he hung on to them, didn't he? Stab the man who stabbed you. The cheek of it, that man."
Lebaga-Idubor said: "I did not stab him. I wasn't angry. I was very scared, actually. It was very traumatic. I've been stabbed before, and this brought back up those feelings. Because of the intensity of the situation, there was not a chance to run away."
Ms Marshall said: "You weren't scared, you were angry. He had humiliated you, didn't he, Mr. Idubor. You wanted to be the cool boy on the block, this 'wet yout' humiliated you. He stabbed you and got his drugs back. Your competitor, you wanted to teach a lesson to, along with Mr. Eke, the most popular dealer on campus; at that moment, you saw red and stabbed him [Kwabena]."
Lebaga-Idubor said: "That's not correct."
Ms Marshall said: "You stabbed him through the neck, and you ran because you knew what you had done."
Lebaga-Idubor said: "That's not correct. There was a struggle for the knife. I don't know how it happened. I didn't know he'd been stabbed. I don't know how those injuries happened. All I know is there was a struggle. I don't know what happened; it must have been in the struggle."
The court then watched footage of Lebaga-Idubor running away from the scene following the fatal stabbing, where he later fled to London then to Paris ‘to clear his head’ before returning to the UK.
Ms Marshall said: "You ran because you knew you seriously injured, if not killed Kwabena, didn't you?"
Lebaga-Idubor said: "No, I ran for my life. I didn't know he was injured. The doctor told me if the knife had been one more inch, it would have punctured my lung, and I would be dead."
In a prepared defence statement, Lebaga-Idubor said he was ‘attacked’ and acted in self defence, and that he ‘lashed out’ after being stabbed.
Explaining what he meant by ‘lashed out’, Lebaga-Idubor said: “I meant I reached forward with my hands.”
The court heard how Lebaga-Idubor had previously searched for knives online in February 2021, later being caught with one in Birmingham months after starting University of Northampton in September 2022.
The trial continues.