Two men and a teenager have been jailed today at Wood Green Crown Court for a total of more than 30 years for carrying out 19 knife and acid attack robberies in north and east London.
The horrific attacks targeted taxi drivers and people selling items via Gumtree. The group used strong acids, alkalis, and knives, to rob and maim their victims, some of whom will never recover from their injuries.
Antoine Mensah, 21, was sentenced to 13 years, extended to 17 years, in prison after pleading guilty to a conspiracy to rob comprising 19 counts of robbery as well as a planned robbery, possession of an offensive weapon and possession of a bladed article. Mensah also pleaded guilty to six counts of assault in an unrelated case. Mensah will serve a minimum of 8 years and 8 months in prison.
Miracle Osondu, 19, was sentenced to 11 years, extended to 15, in prison after pleading guilty to a conspiracy to rob comprising 19 counts of robbery as well as a planned robbery, possession of an offensive weapon and possession of a bladed article. A separate charge of theft from 2017 will remain on file. Osondu will serve a minimum of seven years and four months in prison.
Reporting restrictions were lifted on the teenager involved at the instruction of the judge. He is Mohammed Ali, 17, was sentenced to eight years, extended to 12 years, in prison after pleading guilty to a conspiracy to rob comprising 19 counts of robbery as well as a planned robbery, possession of an offensive weapon and possession of a bladed article. Ali will serve a minimum of five years and four months in prison.
The court heard that between 26 April and 14 May 2018, the trio embarked on a series of robberies that involved robbing mini-cab drivers at knifepoint and using strong chemicals to rob people they had arranged to buy and sell mobile phones from the Gumtree website.
The first offence they committed occurred on 26 April, where the three took a taxi to a street in Enfield where they robbed their taxi driver, threatening to stab him.
This quickly escalated to physically restraining taxi drivers and on two occasions producing a knife with which they threatened the drivers. Following this, they moved on to targeting unsuspecting victims from Gumtree.
In one incident on 11 May, the trio arranged to meet their victim, a 40-year-old male, in High Road, Barnet N12, pretending that they were going to buy a phone from him. There Mensah and Osondu sprayed ammonia in the victim’s face, tackling him to the ground and stole his phone. The victim was left with serious eye injuries with irritation, burning and permanent impact on his vision. The psychological impact on the victim has been considerable and ongoing.
In another, on 12 May, the trio arranged to meet a different victim, a 49-year-old male, in Meadow Close, Barking IG11, on this occasion pretending that they were going to sell a phone to him. There they sprayed acid in the face of the victim before stealing cash and the contents of his wallet from him, then returned and sprayed him again before making off. The victim has sustained life-changing injuries, losing the majority of the vision in one eye, causing him to have to leave his previous employment.
On 14 May Enfield Proactive Unit officers, using a wide range of policing tactics, tracked the suspects to a taxi travelling from Enfield to Ilford en-route to commit another robbery. The trio were stopped in Mortlake Road, IG1 with the assistance of armed officers. Mensah, Osondu and the 17-year-old were stopped in the taxi and were found in possession of a bottle of PH1 acid, a 22cm long knife, nearly £2,000 in cash, balaclavas and multiple phones.
They were taken into custody where they gave no comment interviews. All three were charged on 17 May.
In a Victim Personal Statement, one of the victims who suffered life-changing injuries said: "The initial injuries were that my skin was burnt all over, even in my mouth and on my tongue. The whole thing was just so excessive. Even after I gave them what was in my pockets, they kept pouring acid over me, just because they could.
"When I looked in the mirror and saw my injuries for the first time, I felt like I had become a zombie in just two hours. They could have taken my money or physical possessions if they had just threatened me, I wouldn’t have fought back because they’re just possessions. Even when they threw acid over me, I still didn’t fight back and just tried to shield my face from them. It was horrid trying to wash my face and feeling the acid all over me and it was so hard to clean it off and so painful. My right eye went entirely white, which was horrible to see. Friends came to visit me and I didn’t want them to see me because I knew it would upset them.
"Socially, my life has been really impacted. I used to be an outgoing, bubbly person. I enjoyed running, cycling and other activities, and anything that relied on my eyesight has been robbed from me. My mood from day to day hinges almost entirely on my vision and my medical condition. I feel happier when it improves, but that rarely lasts, and when it hasn’t improved or is worse, I feel worse too. Even things that don’t rely on my eyesight I have been less willing to do. I used to never be at home and would always be out socialising, but now I’m always at home, I feel tired and sleep a lot. I used to be a really trusting person, but since what happened I have lost so much confidence in other people.”
Investigating officer Detective Constable James Rush, from Enfield Major Crime Unit, said: “These males appeared to feel no guilt over their actions, using strong acids, alkalis, and knives, to rob and maim their victims without a second thought for the impact the injuries they inflicted would have.
“Over the course of their offending they carried out 19 robberies, leaving victims with life-changing injuries. They also conspired to rob many more.
“They are dangerous individuals and these lengthy prison sentences are the only way to ensure the public are kept safe.
“Their behaviour is truly shocking. I commend the bravery of all the victims and witnesses who provided the evidence to help secure these convictions.
“I would also commend the efforts and teamwork of the many officers across multiple units whose work contributed to this excellent result.”