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Hero pub-goer: ‘I saw ruthless pursuit before fatal stabbing’

Man tells Old Bailey murder trial how street chase on foot and bikes gave him the feeling that ‘something dreadful was going to happen’

16 March, 2018 — By Emily Finch

Victim Nashon Esbrand had been suffering from depression after ‘being targeted by gangs’, the Old Bailey was told. Picture: SliderCuts

A HERO pub-goer tried to stop gang members attacking a father who had been pushing his new-born baby in a pram just minutes before he was fatally stabbed, the Old Bailey heard on Tuesday.

Nashon Esbrand, 27, of Upper Holloway, was chased down Essex Road on August 24 last year before being “cornered and trapped” in Mitchison Road by five youths on bikes.

A knife was plunged into his leg just yards from his mother’s home, with nearby residents rushing to save him after he collapsed in a doorway, the court heard.

There were gasps from the public gallery as the jury was shown footage shot on a neighbour’s mobile phone of the moment when Mr Esbrand was stabbed multiple times, twice in the legs and once in his back with a long Rambo-style knife.

The former Central Foundation Boys’ School student was taken by ambulance to the Royal Free Hospital, in Hampstead, where surgeons operated on his legs to stop the bleeding but he was pronounced dead early next morning.

Dillon Zambon, 20, and Jhon Berhane, 18, are accused of murder. A 16-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons because of his age, pleaded guilty to murder last Wednesday.

Another suspect involved in the chase has not been identified by police through CCTV footage. The prosecution told the court a fifth youth is Jack Stevens, who is believed to be hiding abroad.

The court heard on Tuesday how a witness sitting in the Hops and Glory pub on the corner of Essex Road and Mitchison Road on August 24 saw Mr Esbrand “fleeing for dear life”.

The man, who spoke from behind a curtain, said: “A young black guy came speedily to the window. Two or three seconds after, a group came flying around the corner. Some of them were on bikes, others on foot. I immediately had the feeling something dreadful was going to happen.

Floral tribute left at the scene of the stabbing in Mitchison Road last August

“At that time, in my mind, they were lots of kids being silly. If I started shouting in an authoritative voice they might scarper. So I started walking up [the road], and starting shouting: ‘Leave him alone. Oi!’ It seems others [on the road] were shouting but it wasn’t penetrating and they were not responding.”

He came within metres of the attack and realised how serious the situation was when one of the youths took out a long blade from under his coat.

“They [the pursuers] were all together and it was coordinated and ruthless. It was threatening,” he added.

He said he remonstrated with some members of the group before he realised Mr Esbrand was wounded and rushed to his aid. “I called one of them a coward and a wanker and he told me to fuck off,” he said.

In harrowing CCTV footage played in court on Monday, Mr Esbrand was seen laughing and joking with his partner as they pushed their baby girl in a pram along Essex Road.

The same camera would capture Mr Esbrand running for his life less than 20 minutes later after, it was claimed, Mr Zambon and Mr Stevens spotted him shortly after he said goodbye to his partner and baby.

Speaking for the prosecution in his opening remarks on Monday, Hugh Davies QC said Mr Stevens had called for “reinforcements” after he recognised Mr Esbrand.

He said: “Having been summonsed by Stevens these three youths immediately joined in the pursuit. What was occurring as they joined the others was a coordinated team effort to corner Nashon such that he could be attacked. And that is exactly what occurred.

“With different escape routes blocked, and obviously outnumbered and unarmed, Nashon was eventually trapped on Mitchison Road.”

Mr Davies said there was “a pattern of hostility” shown to Mr Esbrand by his attackers, who were associates or known members of Cally Boyz, a gang whose members are made up of youths living off Caledonian Road.

He described how Mr Esbrand was awaiting trial on an affray charge following an incident five months before his death.

He said: “Nashon Esbrand was on one side and Jack Stevens and other youths who are not defendants in this case were on the other. Knives were involved and Nashon Esbrand was arrested and was in possession of a knife.”

Mr Davies said that during a police interview following his arrest, Mr Esbrand had described how gang members were targeting him after he had gone to police regarding a much older incident.

It was also revealed in court that Mr Esbrand had been suffering from depression after “being targeted by gangs”.

He had made a 999-call to police a month before he was stabbed after three youths ambushed and attacked him.

The trial is expected to last another week.

Jury views music video of youths who boast: ‘We are a violent gang’

TWO of those suspected of involvement in the stabbing of Nashon Esbrand feature in a music video glamour­ising gang violence off Caledonian Road, the Old Bailey heard on Wednesday, writes Emily Finch.

Members of the Cally Boyz and Essex Road gangs, which have come together according to police, bragged about their preferred knife choice and pulled gang signs with their fingers in the one-minute clip played to jurors.

PC Andrew Adams, who works for Islington’s gangs team, told the court the film was shot at Bemerton estate, off Caledonian Road, and uploaded online last November.

He said defendant Jhon Berhane was in the video making an “E” sign with his hand, symbolising the Essex Road gang. He identified Jack Stevens, who the prosecution say is another suspect, as making a “C” with his fingers for the Cally Boyz.

PC Adams said: “It [the video] is a statement of intent. It essentially says we are willing to come find you on your estate and do serious violence against you.”

He told the court how the two former rival gangs had merged in recent years and had “inherited each other’s disputes”. He estimated the total number of Cally Boyz at around 40, with another 30 to 40 in the Essex Road gang.

He said: “The number fluctuates. For social reasons people come in and out of gangs. It’s not like the mafia with a ceremony. It’s more a social network [to be in a gang]. People can join in a matter of days.”

The video starts with a male rapping “gang gang gang gang” and later admitting: “We are a violent gang”. It features a dozen youths – some masked – facing the camera and bopping along to the rap.

PC Adams said the rap describes Mr Stevens, nicknamed “Chinks”, as preferring a “rambs” knife, short for a Rambo-style knife. The court was told how a Rambo-style knife, named after those featured in the Sylvester Stallone films of the same name, was used to attack Mr Esbrand.

The jury heard how the video also shows the Cally Boyz portraying “disrespect” to another rival gang, Easy Cash, based in the EC1 area.

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