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Asyraf Haziq hearing:
Two men in the dock claimed not guilty
LONDON: Mobile phone records, CCTV and YouTube footages plus evidence from two anonymous witnesses led to the arrest and charges against two alleged participants in street riotings in the Barking area of East London last August, on a summer's day when looting, arson and street riots engulfed parts of London and other major cities in England.
In the dock at the Wood Green Crown were Reece Donovan, 21 and John Kafunda, 22, both accused of robbery with an alternative charge of theft from Malaysian student Asyraf Rossli soon after he was forced to dismount from his bicycle and then punched to the ground while trying to escape from a mob in East London while he and his friend Sheikh Azhar, were on their way to a friend’s house. Donovan is separately charged with violent disorder and burglary. Both pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Donovan and Kafunda were not accused of stealing Asyraf's bicycle or breaking his jaw, for which another young man, Beau Isagba, was found guilty by jury in a separate trial two weeks ago, the prosecution told the court.
Asyraf's manhandling by the mob that day Saturday, 8th August, was filmed by two different people from Equinox House, a tower block overlooking the flyover where the incident took place. Whilst one of the films was never seen by the public, the other was shown on television and the internet and roused the sympathy of millions of people around the world.
Prosecution counsel Christopher Hehir told the jury that they should not be swayed by what they have heard or seen of the film footage but try the case only on the evidence presented to the court.
The two films, one taken on a mobile phone and another on a camera, were submitted in evidence. In the first film the court saw the initial contact between Asyraf and the group of young people gathered at the foot of the tower block, the aftermath of the attack on him and the convicted Beau Isagba riding off with his bicycle.
After this loss and still reeling from the punch that fractured his jaw, a young man who was ostensibly assisting Asyraf to his feet soon helped himself to his possessions. Another young man came to rummage in his rucksack and got away with his Sony Playstation portable and 10 Playstation games.
The person who came initially to help was seen in the film to be holding Asyraf back from stopping the theft from his rucksack.
The prosecution conceded that it was impossible to tell from the video footages who the abettor and the perpetrator of the theft were. The evidence they had to prove the identity of the accused came from a man and a woman who came forward to testify that the false Good Samaritan was John Kafunda and the man seen swaggering away with Asyraf's Playstation and games was Reece Donovan. They contacted the police after viewing the footage on television.
"We do not suggest that you could look at the two men in the footage and then look at the two men in the dock and safely conclude that they were the same people," Hehir said.
"The films were not of sufficient quality to prove the identity of the two men and nor could Asyraf's evidence assist," he added.
The court, presided by Judge J Patrick, was told that the two persons who knew Donovan and Kafunda well will give evidence anonymously. The male witness was known to the court only by the assumed name of Kieran Thomas, and the female witness, Sarah Bishop.
The court heard that the witness known as Thomas had known Donovan for many years under the name of Reece Regan, who he had identified as the white man seen taking the item from Asyraf's rucksack.
"He [identified him] from his clothing, the distinctive way he walked on footage and even the way he was smoking a cigarette," the prosecution counsel told the court.
When Sarah Bishop saw the black man 'helping' Asyraf in the film, she immediately recognised him as John Kafunda and came forward to assist the police. She told the police that she recognised his face, stance and manner of walking.
"Even the fact that he did appear to be helping the victim was, according to this witness, the sort of thing John Kafunda would do," the court was told.
When the accused were arrested they denied having been at the place on the night of the incident but the prosecution said they can prove from their mobile phone records that they were at the scene of the crime.
The prosecution had further evidence to show that Reece Donovan was at the scene of the crime.
"The custody facility where Reece Donovan was taken after arrest has CCTV cameras. The footage of Reece Donovan filmed there, which I am not going to play to you now, shows him walking in a similar distinctive way to the man in the footage," he said.