Obina Ezeoke executed student Bervil Kalikaka-Ekofo and his aunt Annie Ekofo after he sneaked in through the unlocked front door of their family home in East Finchley, London
A ‘cowardly’ assassin who shot dead an innocent mother-of-nine and her sleeping nephew was jailed for life today after he was tried a record five times.
Obina Ezeoke, 28, executed student Bervil Kalikaka-Ekofo, 21, and his aunt Annie Ekofo, 53, after he sneaked in through the unlocked front door of their family home.
Ezeoke carried out the botched revenge hit after footage of him being attacked was shared on Snapchat by rivals including Ms Ekofo’s son Ryan Efey, 22.
The Old Bailey heard Mr Efey was probably the intended target but Ezeoke decided he would kill anyone in the flat as part of a ‘vendetta of violence’ when he broke in on 15 September 2016.
Juries in May 2018 and March last year failed to reach verdicts and a 2017 trial was aborted after a judge was forced to withdraw with agonising back pain.
Prosecutors made the exceptional choice to pursue a fifth trial after his last hearing collapsed due to the coronavirus pandemic in March.
Traditionally, a defendant was only ever tried twice if a jury could not agree.
Ezeoke fired a bullet into the back of Bervil’s head with a vintage Western-style revolver at the apartment in east Finchley, London.
He then wheeled around and blasted the victim’s aunt Annie Ekofo, 53, in the chest with the Smith and Wesson.44 when she came out of her bedroom dressed only in her underwear.
Ezeoke carried out the killings as part of a ‘vendetta of violence’ before fleeing the scene in a Vauxhall Meriva at around 6.30am in the morning.
He maintained that he had been on Grahame Park estate in north London with four friends at the time of the murders.
The killer claimed that gunshot residue particles discovered in the getaway car, which evidence showed had been bought and insured by him under a false name, came from a different shooting when others had used the vehicle.
But an Old Bailey jury convicted him of the two murders by a majority of 11 to one after deliberating for 41 hours and ten minutes over eight days.
Ezeoke returned to the dock on Thursday wearing a burgundy jumper and jeans, bearing a distinctive scar across his right eyebrow.
The wound is thought to have been sustained during the attack which sparked his vengeance.
The double killer remained expressionless as he was jailed for life with a minimum term of 40 years today.
Mrs Ekofo’s husband Osman Jeanefey said in a statement that he did everything he could to stop the image of his late wife dying on the floor ‘haunting’ him.
Mr Jeanefey was happily married to Mrs Ekofo for 34 years before he saw her die in front of his eyes.
The husband said: ‘When my wife and my children’s mother was murdered, our lives changed forever.
‘I think about Annie every day. I can’t believe she has gone. Sometimes I think I will go mad because the image of her dying on the floor is always in my head.
‘Whenever I’m alone or whenever I speak to police or go to court that image goes round in my head as if it is in front of me. to stop this image from haunting me.
‘I’ve taken down all the pictures of Annie from my house to stop me thinking about it all the time.
‘When I saw my wife in the mortuary I couldn’t believe this had happened. I miss her every day.
‘We go to clean her grave and put fresh flowers.
‘A mum or teacher will ask after Annie and it will make me think of what happened.
‘My wife’s family blame us and don’t speak to us.
“The nice family relationship we had is gone.It feels like Annie held us together. I pray that our future will be better and that god will give me the strength to stop crying and to be there for my kids. When we think about Annie, we can’t stand it – there is so much sadness in our house now.’
‘I saw my wife for 34 years die in front of my eyes. I’ll never forget that image nor will my children.’
Chantelle Mamie, Bervil’s mother, remembered his ‘beautiful young soul’ and said the ‘cold blood’ killing spoke volumes about Ezeoke’s character.
‘I don’t think any words can describe how traumatic it is for a mother to have their child killed,’ the devastated mother said in a statement.
‘Although this tragedy is seemingly ending, I can’t help but feel a conflict of emotion as although I’m happy that some justice will be served it is also devastating as I will never be able to see or speak to my son again.
‘When the incident initially happened I tried to take my own life. I just couldn’t accept that my son was killed. My life will never be the same. I’ll never be able to fill my son’s void and neither will the rest of my children or my family.
‘As people at some point, we grow to accept that. Death is a part of life and we should embrace it.
‘However, no one really prepares you for burying your child whose life was taken from them by another.
‘This beautiful young soul was killed in cold blood with absolutely no sympathy for someone in such a defenceless position, and to immediately after kill a mother who was barely dressed in her own home with her kids sleeping speaks volumes for the type of person these innocent people encountered.
‘I have no more words as my heart is heavy. I just hope that justice continues to be served.
Bervil’s heartbroken dad Patrick Ekofo said the grief ‘still hurts like yesterday’ despite four years having passed since the murder.
Mr Ekofo said: ‘It’s been four years since Bervil died, and it still hurts like yesterday. There are many strong feelings and daily silent tears.
‘What I have now is no life. I no longer go out, I rarely work. I used to speak with Bervil every day and see him often. Without my son I feel I cannot do anything.’
Mrs Ekofo, who came to the UK with her husband from the Congo in 1991, lived with her family at the flat in Elmshurst Crescent in East Finchley.
Four other people including Mr Jeanefey were also in the house but were unharmed in the attack.
James Scobie QC, defending, said the case had a ‘unique’ history with the crown opting for an unprecedented fifth trial.
He said: ‘It is a case with unique history. I’ve told my client it’s no part of our opportunity or duty to comment on any shape or form as the result of this case.
‘It’s been a long road for everybody.
‘Whatever sentence is imposed today has to bear in mind that two people were murdered and murdered in a way that the defence accepted throughout the whole nature of this case.
‘He’s been a victim on three occasions himself one of which nearly cost him his life and one of which inextricably links him to the victims in this case.
‘The two desperate victims of this case. The whole connection as the court will know to that address related to a personal deep sense of grievance.’
Prosecutor Mark Heywood had said: ‘Ezeoke went there quite deliberately, with a gun and of course sufficient ammunition to use it, to attack and kill one of the young men of the family.
‘His hate was such that he did not falter when confronted by a second person and he simply took her life as well. Both lives taken were wholly innocent.’
Mr Kalikaka-Ekofo was visiting the flat in East Finchley at short notice for one night only so he was not one of those who could have been expected to be there.
‘It was two separate murders within a short space of time,’ said Mr Heywood.
‘No one could, or will, we understand, possibly suggest anything else.
‘These were execution killings, in effects.’
Mr Heywood added: ‘There had been a trend to modify ammunition to fit vintage weapons like the revolver and the overall likelihood is that that is what was done here.
‘One of the typical guns you might see in a Western movie.’
Mr Heywood told the court: ‘Just after dawn in the early Autumn of 2016, an assassin crept noiselessly into a second floor family home.
‘He had waited until that time in order to be able to get into the block.
‘By his great good fortune, the door of the home was not locked.
‘The layout of that flat, mirrored by others on the same estate, was probably known and clearly understood.
‘At first, not one of the six people sleeping inside it heard anything at all.
‘The killer moved forward to his left and then into a bedroom.
‘There, just in front of him, was a young man lying on a thin mattress on the floor under a duvet, his head nearer the door resting on pillows.
‘For the killer, this was as good a target as he could expect, a young man of this home, this house, of just the right age.
‘He crept forward, gun in hand.
‘His weapon was a deadly one, perfect for concealment in close quarters use, repeatedly if necessary. It was a revolver.
‘The killer raised the muzzle just enough and placed it at the back of the sleeping head.
‘And then, with a deliberation and purpose that was as cowardly as it was murderous, he simply pulled the trigger.
‘The silence of the home, the neighbourhood, was shattered and the life was immediately taken.’
Mrs Justice Cutts described the murders as ‘cold, callous and brutal’
She told Ezeoke: ‘It is likely on the evidence of gunshot residue experts that you were armed with another. Your intention was to murder a member of that household.
‘Whether you entered the flat or as playing your part in these murders, your culpability remains the same.”
‘Your cold, callous and brutal murders of two people has not only cut short their lives but has ruined the lives of many.’
But Justice Cutts ultimately ruled that the murder of Mrs Ekofo – who Ezeoke gunned down when she witnessed him killing Bervil – lacked the planning required for the tariff to be justified.
Ezeoke, of no fixed address, denied but was convicted of two counts of murder on a majority of 11-1.
He was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 40 years.