10th Dec, 2016

Daniel Kirkwood's killer gets life sentence after Mother's Day heartache

Coventry Editorial 11th Apr, 2016 Updated: 28th Oct, 2016

The mother of a teenager who bled to death after being stabbed in the neck was given the heartbreaking news in the early hours of Mother’s Day – and then found his card to her.

And the man who killed 18-year-old Daniel Kirkwood by plunging a knife into his neck in a Coventry nightclub has been jailed for life – and will have to serve a minimum of 32 years.

Tobijah Thompson was told it was clear he took the knife to Society nightclub intending to have it available as a weapon – and intended to kill when he stabbed Daniel.

Thompson (25) who divided his time between his sister’s home in Bearwood, Birmingham, and an address in Towpath Close, Bedworth, had denied murdering Daniel on March 15 last year.

But last month a jury at Warwick Crown Court found him guilty of Daniel’s murder and of wounding two of Daniel’s friends, Nigel Mkhwananzi and Niall Kavanagh, with intent to cause them grievous bodily harm, and violent disorder.

He was also convicted of possessing a bladed article in Society nightclub and assaulting another of Daniel’s friends, Christopher O’Brien, whose 18th birthday they were celebrating.

Following the verdicts, entered on the first anniversary of the 18-year-old’s death, the case was adjourned for Thompson to be sentenced with three other Birmingham men.

Hasham Ali, Ramez Murtaza and Ezra Scott, had all pleaded guilty during the trial to violent disorder, having originally been jointly charged with the murder and woundings, and Murtaza also admitted Daniel’s manslaughter by acting in support of Thompson.

Murtaza (21) of Bordesley Green East, Bordesley Green, was jailed for eight years, with concurrent terms of three years and four months for violent disorder and two years and ten months for assault.

Ali (19) of Amberley Green, Great Barr, was jailed for 29 months and Scott (22) of Hawksyard Road, Erdington, Birmingham, for 28 months for their parts in the violent disorder.

Prosecutor Michael Burrows QC said the main issue in sentencing was whether Thompson had taken to knife to the nightclub intending to have it available to use.

And he revealed that in an impact statement Daniel’s mother Pauline Darcy said she learned of his death ‘at the hand of a coward’ at 5.30am on Mother’s Day last year.

She then went into Daniel’s bedroom where she found his Mother’s Day card to her – and found reading what he had written ‘heartbreaking.’

Mr Burrows also disclosed that Mr Mkhwananzi would also have died after being stabbed in the back by Thompson, if it had not been for rapid medical attention; while Mr Kavanagh has still not regained full use of the arm in which he was stabbed, and has only recently been able to hold a cup without dropping it.

Michael Borelli QC, for Thompson, who had convictions for robbery, argued it was not accepted he was the person who took the knife in.

Charles Miskin QC, for Ali, accepted he had precipitated the events of that night, but said he had neither intended nor foreseen the serious consequences of what then took place, and he was ‘extremely sorry for what occurred.’

Kim Hollis QC, for Murtaza, said he had not been involved in the initial confrontation, and had gone over empty-handed before being knocked to the floor and getting up holding a bottle which he then threw.

Paul Lewis QC, for Scott, said his part in the violent disorder had not involved him using violence himself, but that ‘by his presence he was encouraging the use of violence by others.’

Jailing the four, Mr Justice Mark Warby QC said the violence had been started by Ali, and both he and Thompson, who had joined him, were knocked to the floor.

He told Thompson: “It made you angry and you wanted to fight back. Almost the next thing you did was to reach to your waist and take out a knife, and you brandished it above your head and brought it down in a stabbing motion.

“No injury was caused at that moment, but you then went into the alcove and, within the space of 40 seconds, you used that knife to kill one young man and seriously injure two others.

“I conclude you took that knife from the man-bag you were wearing, and I am satisfied you had that knife on you when you arrived at the club.”

Mr Justice Warby said he should never have been allowed in with it, but he had not been searched because he knew the head of security and was treated as a VIP and allowed straight in.

And the judge observed: “Those in charge of security at the club that night have some questions to answer.”

He said he did not find the others knew Thompson had the knife on him when they arrived, but they must have seen it at different stages after he brandished it.”

Mr Justice Warby told Thomson: “You stabbed your victims in quick succession. You stabbed Nigel Mkhwananzi from behind in the back.

“About ten seconds later you stabbed Niall Kavanagh in the arm; and you killed Daniel Kirkwood by stabbing him in the neck when you were face-to-face, either in the moment before or the moment after stabbing Niall Kavanagh.

“The moment that wound was inflicted Daniel’s death was a certainty. He managed to stagger out of the club, but most of his blood had left his body by the time he fell to the ground outside.

“I have to consider whether you intended to kill – and in my judgement, you did.”

He told Murtaza: “I am satisfied you did not intend Daniel Kirkwood to be killed or caused serious physical harm, but you were clearly intent on violence.”

He said a measure of Murtaza’a callousness was abuse he shouted, as he and the others drove away, at the group of Daniel’s friends who were trying to help him as he lay dying on the ground.

And the judge told Ali and Scott they were ‘supporters and encouragers of the violence inflicted on Christopher O’Brien.’

During the trial Mr Burrows said Daniel and his friends had arrived at Society 1.15am, and inside Mr O’Brien spoke to a girl he knew and pushed her, which was seen by Ali who had earlier chatted to her and put his number in her phone.

Ali confronted him before leaving to fetch support from Thompson and returning to continue the confrontation.

During the clash Thompson fell, and when he got to his feet he reached for the knife from his man-bag, while Murtaza was also knocked down and got up holding a bottle.

Mr Mkhwananzi tried to pull Mr O’Brien away, and as he turned to leave he felt what he thought was a punch to his back.

“There was a moment when Tobijah Thompson was behind him. He didn’t feel any pain at the time, and went outside.

“It was only then that he saw blood on his top and began to feel pain and to gasp for breath. By then Daniel Kirkwood had gone outside bleeding profusely from his neck.”

Mr Mkhwananzi lost consciousness and was taken to hospital to undergo surgery for a stab wound which had cut his spleen and caused a tear to his diaphragm and a collapsed lung.

Mr Kavanagh was also attacked in the club and stabbed to his left arm which fell to his side where he was unable to move it because of ligament and nerve damage, and he ran outside where he collapsed, and he has still not recovered full use of his arm.

Mr O’Brien was held in a headlock and punched by two of the defendants before being kicked and stamped on.

Witness Jordan Williams described Thompson pull something out and move towards his friends making stabbing motions; and a bouncer saw Daniel on his knees and Thompson making a stabbing motion towards his neck with a knife.

Outside Mr Williams then saw Daniel come out holding his neck, and with his face covered in blood, and tried to staunch the flow until an ambulance arrived.

But tragically during the journey Daniel went into cardiac arrest as a result of the injuries to his carotid artery and jugular vein, and was pronounced dead at 2.50am.