Thursday 26 April 2018

Schoolgirl stabbed 60 times by ex-boyfriend, inquest told

A schoolgirl was stabbed to death in a "sustained" attack in a block of flats by her jealous ex-boyfriend, an inquest has heard.

Arsema Dawit, 15, was stabbed almost 60 times by Thomas Nugusse at Waterloo in central London in June 2008.


In a garbled phone call to emergency services, Nugusse, who was 21 at the time, said he had attacked her after finding out she had been cheating on him.


The pair had met when they both sang in the choir at a local church.


During the call, which was read to a jury at Southwark Coroner's Court by coroner Dr Andrew Harris, Nugusse said: "She was lying to me and she said she loved me and she is cheating me."


He added: "I choose I prefer to kill my girlfriend and then kill myself.


"I love you and I can't be without you."


Arsema's body was found covered in blood by neighbours in a lift in the flats in Matheson Lang Gardens at around 3.45pm on June 2 2008.


A knife was also found in the lift.


The inquest heard the teenager, who was originally from Eritrea, had been stabbed almost 60 times, with more than 50 wounds to her neck and others to her back and chest.


During the 999 call, Nugusse, who was also from Eritrea and had no family with him in England, said he had been going out with Arsema for around two years.


The university student said he helped her with her school work and that her family treated him well, saying "her mum is like my mum ... treating us sure good".


But he said he had found out Arsema had been seeing another man behind his back instead of going to church, as she told him she had been doing, and that it had been going on for three months.


He said he tried to talk with her, but was warned off by three men who he said threatened to kill him if he kept seeing her.


He said: "They were telling me, 'If you go out with this girl again then we will kill you'."


Nugusse told the operator he decided that he preferred to kill Arsema and himself.


In 2009 an Old Bailey jury was not permitted to return conventional innocent or guilty verdicts and instead found that Nugusse had ''committed the acts'', despite him having previously confessed to killing her.


He could not be tried because he suffered brain damage in a suicide attempt in prison.


The inquest also heard evidence from Arsema's school friend, Heaven Emanuel, who said Arsema told her that Nugusse had harassed her and threatened to kill her.


Heaven said she first met Nugusse when the two girls were on a bus near Arsema's home in Waterloo in early 2008.


Nugusse tried to talk to the pair but Arsema refused to answer, telling Heaven to ignore him or he would not leave them alone, later saying he had been "harassing her and threatening her".


Reading Heaven's evidence to the jury, Dr Harris said: "Then one day Arsema came to school with a bruise below her left eye. I asked her what was wrong.


"She told me Thomas had assaulted her and also that he had threatened to kill her.


"The next day she came to school and was exhausted physically, and said she couldn't sleep the night before as she had a nightmare of Thomas trying to kill her."


Heaven added that Arsema told her she had stopped going to church because she was afraid of meeting him there.


On the day Arsema died, the pair went home from school on different buses.


Heaven said in her evidence: "When I asked Arsema why Thomas was giving her a hard time, she said that Thomas wanted to have a relationship with her that she didn't want.


"She had been telling that the main reason for Thomas harassing her was this."


The jury was shown CCTV footage of Arsema being followed by Nugusse across a road just minutes before she was killed, and the coroner highlighted another image that he said appeared to show Nugusse holding a white blood-stained object just a few minutes after her death.


The inquest heard evidence of a troubled relationship between the pair, who had met when they were both members of the choir at St Michael's Eritrean Orthodox Church in Camberwell.


Ammanuael Tesfazgi, a deacon of the church at the time, said that in May 2008 Nugusse came to him to tell him he was in love with Arsema but had been turned down, so he went with Nugusse to Arsema's home to speak with her and her mother.


In evidence read to the court, Mr Tesfazgi said: "Thomas told her that he was in love with her and that he wanted her. Arsema replied that she could not accept his request because her main aim was her education."


Mr Tesfazgi consoled him, saying there were other girls and that "he should maintain his hope that God should give him what was due to him", but Nugusse continued harassing her.


Nugusse later told Mr Tesfazgi he was depressed and that he would "find Arsema".


The inquest also heard from Arsema's closest friend, Yorsalem Mana, who said the pair had broken up in the April after Nugusse became controlling and wouldn't let her see her friends without his permission.


She said: "He was more controlling, and she just didn't want to be with him any more. He wouldn't allow her to come out with us or go to church or anything."


Ms Mana said Nugusse told her he would break her (Ms Mana's) legs if she didn't wait for him at a McDonald's restaurant where she was waiting for Arsema.


She said he hit Arsema when the pair later arrived, and that he also slapped her when they were at Arsema's house the following day.


Asked by the jury why Nugusse had hit Arsema at the restaurant, Ms Mana said: "She came late to meet us, he thought she went somewhere before meeting us, and she came to meet us without asking his permission."


The inquest continues.

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