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Welcome to the Murder Mile true-crime podcast and audio guided walk of London's most infamous and often forgotten murder cases, set within one square mile of the West End.
On Boxing Day 2011, 18 year old Seydou Diarrassouba was stabbed to death outside of Foot Locker on Oxford Street, he was a promising young man from a good solid family who had a great start in life, and yet, believing that he had to carry a knife, instead of becoming someone great, he became just another statistic.
As many photos of the case are copyright protected by greedy news organisations (and I don't want to be billed £300 for copyright infringement again), to view them, take a peek at my entirely legal social media accounts - Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
The location of Foot Locker at 363 Oxford Street, W1 is marked with a blue ! in the far right. To use the map, simply click it. If you want to see the other murder maps, such as King's Cross and Soho, you access them by clicking here.
Here's some useful videos to go with the story; one the left is a tribute video created by friends of Seydou and right is some grainy footage of the aftermath.
Ep66: Seydou Diarrassouba - Another Wasted Life
SCRIPT: Welcome to Murder Mile; a true-crime podcast and audio guided walk featuring many of London’s untold, unsolved and long-forgotten murders, all set within London’s West End.
Today’s episode is about Seydou Diarrassouba; a promising young man from a good solid family, and having had a great start in life, he was popular, educated and bright, but by believing that he had to carry a knife, instead of becoming someone great, he became just another statistic.
Murder Mile is researched using original sources. It contains moments of satire, shock and grisly details, and as a dramatisation of the real events, it may also feature loud and realistic sounds, so that no matter where you listen to this podcast, you’ll feel like you’re actually there.
My name is Michael, I am your tour-guide and this is Murder Mile.
Episode 66: Seydou Diarrassouba – Another Wasted Life.
Today I’m standing on Oxford Street, W1; two streets south-east of the flat where Marion Lees Smith was stabbed to death by her brain damaged son, two blocks east of the Mount Royal Hotel where Helen Mary Pickwoad died after a horrifically botched abortion, and two streets north of curious death of the flamboyant millionaire Roberto Troyan – coming soon to Murder Mile.
As the busiest shopping district in Britain, Oxford Street draws more than two hundred million visitors every year - lured by the bright lights, scammed by the over-sized signs and duped by the totally false discounts – only to waste a day trawling the same high street stores they could ignore anywhere else, whilst jostled by deodorant-dodgers, pavement ditherers, golf-sale guys and Satan’s screaming spawn.
Although horrendously busy on Saturdays, Oxford Street is worse during National Dickhead Week, a fictional event known by retailers as the January Sales. Beginning in December (and soon in June), the sales sees swarms of red-faced morons scrabbling to buy last season’s shit, saved from the skip, solely so they can brag to their bored buddies about how they saved 75% off a price it never was, for an item they never wanted, only to take it back the next day and be denied a refund as they’ve lost the receipt.
Currently empty, after the collapse of HMV’s flagship music store, 363 Oxford Street was a sports shop called Foot Locker, which stocked some high-end running shoes for wannabe athletes but mostly tacky flashy trainers for fat wheezing sprogs with no taste. And although, on 26th December 2011, eager shoppers were lured here by the promise of prices slashed, what they witnessed was a bloodbath.
As it was here, during the Boxing Day sales of 2011, being torn between a decision to kill or be killed, that 18 year old Seydou Diarrassouba would needlessly die, and all for nothing. (Interstitial)
Originating from the Ivory Coast in West Africa; as decent, honest and hard-working Muslims, although Mr & Mrs Diarrassouba hailed from one of African’s most prosperous nations, with a wealth-gap so wide that 46% of people lived in poverty and the former French colony torn apart by armed rebellions and political coups, they made a bold decision and fled the Ivory Coast for a better life abroad.
Having travelled four and a half thousand miles from Abidjan to Britain; swapping French for English, sand for smog and sunshine for rain, London in the late 1980’s must have been a real culture clash, but it was in Merton (South London) that they would settle, seeking the things that any good parent would want for their babies – safety, education and prosperity. And raising their two boys and a girl to be polite, loyal and respectful, in 1993 their youngest son was born and they named him Seydou.
Described by his parents as “loving, down to earth, respectful and charismatic”, and being blessed with a beaming smile a mile wide, an infectious laugh and a cheeky cherubic face which made this young man look years younger, Seydou seemed like a good lad who could truly do no wrong.
As a joker with a big personality, Seydou was well-respected amongst his peers and was seen as a loyal friend who would do anything to protect those he loved. As a devout Muslim, he lived by the belief that “everything happens by the will of Allah”. And regarded by his school friends as “the nicest person you could ever hope to meet, so gentle and kind”, although he was educated at Rutlish High School in Merton, a state Comprehensive in a poor part of town, Seydou was one of the ‘bright kids’.
In fact, praised by his teacher as “a charming, personable young man with a lot of potential”, who later went on to study business at South Thames College, her only concern was his poor attendance.
Seydou was a poor black youth living on the outskirts of inner-city London, and yet, he had everything; a loving family, loyal friends, a good education and an unshakable faith, he was charming, talented and ambitious. Against the odds, he was given a great start in life… so where did it all go wrong?
Raised on the notorious Phipps Bridge estate, what began as five high-rise tower blocks to provide affordable homes for working-class families in the 1960’s, soon descended into chaos, as being badly maintained and forgotten by the cash-strapped council, a broken light led to a smashed window and soon enough Phipps Bridge became the epitome of crime-ridden squalor. Described as "an experience in misery", with walls thick with graffiti, streets blocked by burnt-out cars and playgrounds awash with heroin needles, under heavy security, the estate was often used as a grimy backdrop for police dramas.
In 1993, the year Seydou was born, Phipps Bridge was being renovated, and with four of the high-rise tower blocks demolished and a massive injection of cash, living standards were better, but the criminal element remained bringing drugs to the streets. By 2010, one year before Seydou’s death, Phipp’s Bridge was in decline, being described as "one of south London's most notorious crime vortexes".
And although council estates are demonised by the press and television as breeding grounds for crack-addicts, dole-dossers and criminal low-lifes, if this was true, why do the vast majority of its tenants remain good, honest and hard-working people, just like Mr & Mrs Diarrassouba? Seydou was raised as a moral and decent young man, he had everything to live for, and yet he died for nothing.
In his adolescence, Seydou still had the same beaming smile, but growing bigger and broader, as the boy became a man, to make his baby-face seem more adult, he grew a little bum-fluff moustache, and yet he was still Seydou. Like most teenagers; with hormones racing, emotions raging and everything confusing, trapped between being a child and an adult, life was frustrating. And lacking any money, privacy or freedom, he often tested the boundaries of right and wrong. But then again, who doesn’t?
By the age of 17, when most teenagers are working their first jobs, studying for exams or focussing their energies on sports, arts and music, Seydou had stopped attending South Thames College.
At home, he remained his mother’s little angel, but on the streets, he had fashioned himself a new identity, simply to survive, and looking like any young man in neat Levi jeans, Nike trainers and stylish blue hooded tops, his clothes hid a battle-scarred body, sliced apart by his enemy’s blades.
Whether Seydou was in a gang, we may never know; some sources state he was senior gang member, some say he was little more than an underling on the periphery, and yet, his family deny he was ever in a gang at all, he was just a good lad caught up in a bad situation. So what is the truth?
Aged 14, it is said that Seydou broke a boy’s jaw in a fight. At a house-party in Croydon, he and his friends beat two boy from rival gangs black and blue. And on 29th September 2010, he (allegedly) stole a Blackberry smartphone in a robbery at Clapham, the victim was badly beaten and Seydou initially appeared at Inner London Crown Court on 19th December 2011, one week before his death.
An unnamed associate said “Seydou was a completely different person when he was with his friends, but that’s gang life. Around other members he was a bubbly character, but when he came across his enemies, that was a different story. You couldn’t trust him. He had a cold ruthless side, and could turn on you in an instant if you were not one of his own”.
Going by the street-names of ‘TunaRaw’ and ‘Nutz’, owing to his (alleged) reputation for violence, an unnamed source stated that local teenagers would avoid him, knowing that he was armed, dangerous and that (supposedly) he was the leader of the ABM gang (which stands for All ‘Bout Money).
According to Scotland Yard’s Operation Trident - an initiative set-up by the Met Police to get guns and gangs off the streets - there are an estimated 250 active gangs in London, several in the borough of Lambeth; including the Angell Town GAS gang in Brixton (GAS standing for Guns and Shanks), TN1 (which is code for Tell No-one), the notorious O-Tray One on the borders of Lambeth and Wandsworth, The 67s on the Tulse Hill estates and the ABM gang on the Stockwell Park estate. To name a few.
And although most gangs are relatively small (averaging just ten to fifteen members), covering areas as large as a whole postcode or as small as a single street, with some gangs split into rival cliques and earning very little from minor crimes like muggings, theft and low-level drug dealing - being violent, ruthless and territorial - one in seven of all of London’s murders takes place in borough of Lambeth.
For gang members, this is their family and this is their life; they kill for pride, they protect their crew, they defend their territory, they attack without fear, and they don’t care who gets in their way.
For decades, feuds have erupted between the rival factions, sometimes over incidents as volatile as a revenge attack on a fallen friend, or sometimes it is over something as simple as a look, a tut or a word. But when problems arise, they don’t call the police. As a former O-Tray One gang member said “These boys don’t f**k about. If there’s beef, then it will be usually settled with a piece or a blade”.
Prior to the death of Seydou Diarrassouba, there were several gang-related attacks:
Valentine’s Day 2007, 15 year old Billy Cox was shot dead in his Clapham home, although it was linked to O-Tray One, the murder remains unsolved. Six months later, in nearby Stockwell, 16 year old Abukar Mohammed was chased by seven youths on bikes and killed by a single gunshot to the neck. April 2009, 16 year old Oluwaseyi Ogunyemi was stabbed to death by a masked mob. ABM gang member Chrisdian Johnson was found guilty of murder after police traced DNA from a trail of blood to his dog.
And in 2011, as the feud between the O-Tray-One and All ‘Bout Money intensified, two unnamed ABM members were chased by hooded assailants on bikes. Having hid inside the Stockwell Food & Wine Shop, three members of O-Tray-One opened fire, spraying the shop with bullets. Every round missed their target, but having fired indiscriminately, they wounded the shop assistant Roshan Selvakumar and - as she played in the aisle of her father’s shop - five year old Thusha Kamaleswaran was hit in the chest and was left paralysed for life. Her teenage attackers; Nathaniel Grant, Kazeem Kolawole and Anthony McCalla were sentenced to a minimum of 14 to 17 years each.
As part of the investigation, although the Police sought a motive for the attack, they knew they would never find one; as with the Lambeth-based O-Tray-One dressed in red (marking their affiliation to the Bloods from LA) and the Stockwell-based ABM crew dressed in blue (aligning with the Blood’s arch rivals - the Cripps), the motive could be as meaningless as their postcode or the colour of their clothes.
Styled as “the life”, although gang members have more love for each other than for their own mothers, for many young boys striving to be men, being in a gang is no life, it’s just a lie; no-one gets rich, no-one gets out, no-one gets old, and being seen as angels at home and devils on the street, you rarely see an old gang-member because they’re either grown-up, wised-up, locked-up, or dead.
Sadly, once you’re part of a gangland feud, even if you’ve left, the threat stays with you for life…
Jermaine Joseph was an ex-gang member of O-Tray-One. Aged twenty-three, he had seen it all; blood, death and destruction, and every time the circle was the same, a young life lost, a family in grief and another casket buried. Raised in Mitcham, Jermaine knew Seydou by the street-name ‘Nutz’ and knew he had a reputation to match, and with bad-blood between the two rivals stemming back years, having informed the council that he was being targeted by Seydou’s ABM crew, in April 2011, Jermaine was rehoused from Mitcham in South-West London to Tottenham in North-East London.
But unlike most stains, bad-blood doesn’t wash away…
On 9th November 2011, just six weeks before Seydou’s death, Jermaine received an anonymous call in which he was warned “we know where you live and we’re coming for you”. Unsure who would be sent, when or how, to ward off any attackers, Jermaine packed a six-inch lock-knife - small enough to hide in his pocket and big enough to look threatening - with the hope he would never need to use it.
Monday 26th December 2011 was a classic British Boxing Day. Having accidentally avoided The Queen’s Speech, being sick of the sight of turkey and about ready to strangle their relatives having been cooped up together for two whole days, thousands of people descended on the West End for the first day of the January Sales. And with not a single snow-flake to be seen, the day was warm and intensely bright.
By mid-morning, Oxford Street was busy and bustling, as although the recent recession loomed large - lured to the city by Buy One Get One Free offers, 30, 50 and even 75% off and supposedly ‘Unbeatable Discounts’, all writ large in red lettering across every store-front - great swathes of feverish shoppers mingled and jostled on the tight sweaty paths, burdened by bags, bargains and screaming babies.
Feeling flush as his pocket bulged with Christmas cash, 23 year old Jermaine Joseph and his friend 20 year old Thulani Khumalo hopped on the Victoria Line train at Tottenham Hale and headed several stops south to Oxford Circus. The tube was hot, the streets were rammed and the shops were in chaos, but being super psyched to secure himself a stylish pair of trainers, Jermaine headed to Foot Locker…
…the same idea had by Seydou and his crew.
Being just two shops up from Bond Street tube, one minute from Selfridges and opposite the Disney store, Foot Locker at 363 Oxford Street looks as it does anywhere else. Being three stories high, fifty feet wide, with tall windows on either-side and no door, just a wide open entrance; with every inch of wall space covered in a kaleidoscope of brightly coloured trainers, even if you miss the big bold sign which reads ‘Foot Locker’ in a thick black font; with the interior stylish, the models young and the stereo blasting hip-hop and R&B, there’s no denying what they sell, or who they are trying to lure in.
At 1:30pm, as Jermaine & Thulani stood outside of Foot Locker, deciding whether to go in as the shop looked rammed, Jermaine froze, as before him, he saw a familiar (and unwelcome) face from his past.
Most of what follows was taken from Jermaine’s statement in court.
Clutching a bagged box of trainers, several steps ahead, Jermain spotted Seydou, he said “Nutz looked at me and stopped walking”. Surrounded by his crew - Felix Ankah (nicknamed “Stagger”), Luis “Souza” Santos and Brian “Clips” Mudziwepasi (who two months later would be jailed for eleven years for firing a gun at two unarmed police officers) - “he congregated towards his friends and walked towards me”.
Remembering the anonymous call and the death threats which had led him to flee his home town, Jermaine said “My first intention was to get to safety. I ran into Foot Locker. I thought if I run into the shop the CCTV and security guards would stop them trying to stab me”.
With the store being packed full of oblivious shoppers, some men, some teens, some kids and babies, Nutz and his Crew didn’t care, as unwilling to talk, their sole focus was the feud. Dashing in, Jermaine said “As I got near the tables, I felt like I ran into a wall of people. I turned around and I heard Seydou say to me: ‘Where you going?’ “He was running toward me with a knife in his right hand”.
Torn between killing and being killed, from his pocket, Jermaine pulled his six inch silver lock-knife, “I held it in front of me. I thought if I hold it out, it will deter him from attacking me”. But being battle-scarred, this wasn’t the first blade Seydou had seen and this wasn’t his first knife fight, so he wasn’t afraid. As an unnamed associate had said “when Seydou came across his enemies that was a different story. He had a cold ruthless side and could turn on you in an instant if you were not one of his own”.
With both boys armed, “Nutz looked at the blade but carried on charging towards me. He swung his right hand with the knife in it. I blocked it with my left hand”. And as screams erupted across the store as the terrified shoppers tried to escape the swinging blades, the panicked people fled.
Amidst the chaos and confusion, unaware that he had stabbed Seydou in the left hip, Jermaine said “I stumbled back and the crowd started to separate. As I was falling I swung at Seydou with my knife, I remember doing that.... I thought I stabbed him in the back”.
But he hadn’t.
Seydou was stabbed with such speed and force, the knife snapped in two.
“As I swung my knife I heard it break. I wasn’t sure I even stabbed him. I thought it caught on to his coat and then it broke. I remember hitting the ground and I thought I was going to get stabbed. I curled up into a ball. I started feeling punches and kicks”. Until suddenly, it stopped.
As the crew parted, Jermaine got to his feet, stepped back towards the escalator and up to the safety of the second floor, and as Seydou stumbled out onto the busy bustling pavement, swiftly followed by ‘Stagger’, ‘Souza’ and ‘Clips’. Seizing an opportunity, the staff brought down the steel shutter of the store, shielding the customers and separating both groups, as outside Stagger shouted "You stabbed him, you stabbed him. I’m coming round to your mum’s house. You’re dead. I know where you live”.
Seconds later, Seydou collapsed.
Witnessing the aftermath, a detachment from Scotland Yard’s Diplomatic Protection Group stopped to give support to the paramedics who battled to save Seydou’s life, as an agitated crowd of more than one hundred people jostled and pushed to get nearer; some crying, some joking, some angry, many filming it for their own amusement, all blocking the road making it impossible for the ambulance to get through, as a handful of Police desperately tried to protect the paramedics and their patient.
Having been stabbed once in the chest, the six inch blade penetrated four inches deep, right through his heart, and as the silver blade broke, it remained within, as blood pooled across the grey pavement.
No-one knows what his final words were as he didn’t speak. And as his face became paler, his bright eyes sunk and his big beaming smile had gone, suddenly his hand dropped, like he had given up. And at 1:45pm, just one day after Christmas, 18 year old Seydou Diarrassouba was pronounced dead. (End)
Two knives were recovered from the scene, two sets of fingerprints and CCTV footage from the shop, and although the Police appealed to those who had witnessed and filmed the killing, the investigation was hampered by a refusal to assist the police and a petty code of silence.
Many tributes were paid on social media; some addressed to Seydou, some by his street-name Nutz, some made reference to his “sweet smile” and “big personality”, some called him a “soldier” and a “martyr”. And in an emotional plea for witnesses, his grieving family stated "Whoever took his life took our backbone away. Seydou kept us upright and now we feel weak as we have lost a very special part of us. Life seems meaningless without our special son and brother".
On 15th November 2012, after a four week trial at the Old Bailey, as the jury saw that Jermaine Joseph acted in self-defence, he was cleared of both murder and manslaughter, and the case was closed.
Seydou was a promising young man from a good family who had given him everything to ensure he had a great start in life, he was popular, educated and bright. But believing that he was a gangster who had to carry a knife, he threw it all away, and instead of becoming someone great, he became just another statistic. That year, Seydou Diarrassouba became 15th young person to be murdered on the streets of London… another wasted life, and all for nothing.
OUTRO: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you so much for listening to Murder Mile.
If you’re a murky miler, to stay tuned for the rip-roaring excitement as I make a cup of tea (ooh) and maybe, just maybe, I tell you what biscuit I’m eating today (phwoar), but before that, here’s my recommended podcasts of the week; which are Southern Gone and Murderous Minors. (PROMO)
A huge thank you goes out to my new Patreon supporters, who are Gabor Horvathand and John Palcher, who both get thank you cards of goodies from me, and a special thank you to Marianne Mattsson, a $25 patron, who gets a complimentary Murder Mile mug of goodies. As well as lots more.
This week, we have a special secret birthday shout-out for an ardent listener to Murder Mile. Originally she was from Leamington Spa, via Christchurch, Sydney and now lives in Atlanta, well that narrows it down, it’s her birthday is on Tuesday 16th July, yup that really narrows it down, so on behalf of us all, I’d like to wish Sarah Grabrovaz a very happy birthday. That special treat was arranged by Tim.
If you’d like to arrange a shout-out, you can do so via the Murder Mile Merch shop.
And a special pod-to-pod shout-out this week for Swedish podcast Mordarpodden, which is a fabulous podcast by Dan Hoerning and Josefine Molen, all about murder and disappearances. Dan also makes the hugely successful serial killer podcast called Seriemordarpodden. If you understand Swedish, check out Seriemordarpodden and Mordarpodden. And as my pronounciation was unquestionably awful, there are some links in the show notes.
Mordarpodden - https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/m%C3%B6rdarpodden/id1465907007
Seriemordarpodden - https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/seriem%C3%B6rdarpodden/id1166816895
Murder Mile was researched, written & performed by myself, with the main musical themes written and performed by Erik Stein & Jon Boux of Cult With No Name.
Thank you for listening and sleep well.
Credits: The Murder Mile true-crime podcast was researched, written and recorded by Michael J Buchanan-Dunne, with the sounds recorded on location (where possible), and the music written and performed by Erik Stein & Jon Boux of Cult With No Name. Additional music was written and performed as used under the Creative Common Agreement 4.0.
The music featured in this episode include:
Additional sounds (not recorded by myself) include:
Michael J Buchanan-Dunne is a writer, crime historian, podcaster and tour-guide who runs Murder Mile Walks, a guided tor of Soho’s most notorious murder cases, hailed as “one of the top ten curious, quirky, unusual and different things to do in London”, nominated "one of the best true-crime podcasts at the British podcast Awards 2018", and featuring 12 murderers, including 3 serial killers, across 15 locations, totaling 50 deaths, over just a one mile walk.
Michael J Buchanan-Dunne is a crime writer, podcaster & tour guide of Murder Mile Walks, hailed as one of the best "quirky curious & unusual things to do in London".
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