Warning: Content may disturb
Abraham Badru was stalked by the fear that one day someone would come after him.
He had spent more than 10 years looking over his shoulder, fearful that someone would hunt him down and kill him.
He’d felt like a marked man from the moment he had stepped in and saved a young girl from being gang raped in 2007 when he was just 14.
Again when he gave his statement to the police, identified the attackers in an ID parade, and once more when he gave evidence against them at their trial.
The chilling late-night texts which followed, calling him a dead man, were almost expected.
Yes, people hailed him a hero: the trial judge gave him a £500 reward for taking the stand, and doing the right thing. He was awarded a National Police Bravery Award and got a standing ovation from senior officers at the ceremony.
Yet, all the time, the quiet, polite churchgoer and university graduate instinctively felt that some day, somewhere, someone would try to kill him.
And on the night of March 25 this year, they succeeded.
Abraham Badru, 26, had arrived at the address in Hackney, East London, he shared with his mother Ronke Badru just after 11pm and stepped out of his car when he was gunned down by an unknown assailant.
A neighbour heard the gunshots and tried desperately to revive him, as did the police and ambulance crew who arrived soon afterwards.
While they fought to keep him alive, his mother, alerted by a neighbour, had to be restrained from racing to her stricken son.
Abraham died at the scene.
“I ran to him but the police wouldn’t let me go to him,” Ronke told the Daily Mail in an emotional interview this week. “I was crying, screaming, for my son.
“For 10 years, Abraham was afraid that someone would try to kill him.
“And now it has happened. I am empty. He was killed for being a hero. How can that possibly be right?”
Today, a large pile of bouquets and a photograph of a smiling Abraham Badru marks the spot where he died.
His murder comes in the midst of an unprecedented number of knife and gun killings in London.
At the time of his death, he was the tenth person to be murdered in the capital in just 12 days.
Among the rival gangs who are largely responsible for this epidemic of shootings, stabbings and general violence, killing has almost become normalised.
But Abraham’s only brush with gang culture was when he stood up to one — and saved a schoolgirl’s life.
The police later told his mother that without his help the 14-year-old victim would almost certainly have died in the attack on the Frampton Park estate that night in 2007.
‘Snitching is snitching’
Was his death foretold, as he believed?
One long-time community worker in Hackney says he is convinced it was. “This is the process, the protocol now — revenge,” he told the Daily Mail.
“They have a code. Snitching is snitching. They are like a society within a society, with their own rules.”
Abraham’s mother certainly believes her son paid the ultimate price for his courage in saving that poor girl.
We met at Ronke’s house in Dalston, Hackney, where she lived with her son, and where he died just yards from her front door. Her sister and brother sat with her as she spoke, offering her their quiet support.
The estate Ronke lives on is, by day, a pleasant, well-cared for place, but by night, it is somewhere else entirely. People stay indoors, waiting for the next incident to unfold, praying it doesn’t involve anyone they love.
Abraham spent his early years living with his mother, a 50-year-old support worker for people with mental health issues, on the Frampton Park estate.
She had separated from Abraham’s father, Dolapo Badru, a Nigerian politician, but the boy remained close to his father and visited him during the holidays
A studious, well-behaved boy, and talented sportsman, Abraham knew some members of the Kingzhold Boys, whose single objective in life was to cause trouble and who ruled the estate — but he was not one of them.
An horrific ordeal
On the afternoon of April 30, 2007, Abraham took a call from a friend inviting him to a party in one of the high-rise flats. When he arrived, however, Abraham realised this was no innocent party. Instead, he stumbled upon an appalling scene.
As he walked down a corridor, he looked into a flat where he saw, with horror, a young girl being raped — passed around like a piece of meat — by up to nine boys. It later emerged the rape had been punishment for “disrespecting” 14-year-old gang member, O’Neil Denton, known as ‘Hitman’.
Apparently, one of the girl’s friends, who was going out with Denton, had talked of possibly ending the relationship and the rape victim had agreed it might be a good idea.
Later, Denton and his gang ambushed her as she walked home from school. During her two-hour ordeal, she was dragged around three separate locations and raped in turn by members of the gang, some as young as 13.
In an interview after the trial, the girl recalled: “One of the gang pulled out a knife and told me if I didn’t do what they wanted, they would stab me up.
“They were pushing it into my throat. I was crying and pleading with them.
“One of them told me to take off my tracksuit bottoms or he’d put me in hospital. I was shaking so hard. I was only just 14.
“Mum had only just started letting me go out close to home on my own.
“When I wouldn’t take my bottoms off, the ringleader punched me in the eye while the others kicked my legs and lower body.
“They punched me, kicked me, smashed my head against the wall, stripped me and slammed me onto my back. They were surrounding me, laughing and whooping. There were so many grabbing at me, pulling my clothes off. I’d reached the point of giving up. I really thought I was going to die.”
Such was the fear that the gang inspired, that at least five witnesses did not stop to help. She was then taken to the flat in Hackney, where the assault continued.
Then Abraham intervenes
The girl later recalled Abraham Badru arriving at the flat and telling her to run while he blocked the doorway to prevent the gang from going after her.
“He seemed to command some respect from them — and he gave evidence at my court case,” she said.
“I’m so grateful he saved me.”
Abraham didn’t tell his mother what had happened — the first she heard was when police knocked at the door a couple of days later.
“They asked for Abraham,” she said. “He’d just come home from school. The police said a girl had been raped, but Abraham had not been among the gang who’d committed it.
“He’d rescued the girl. If he hadn’t done what he’d done, the girl would have died.”
Telling his mother exactly what he’d witnessed that night, she recalled: “When he saw what was going on, he’d walked in the flat and mouthed to the girl, ‘Are you forced?’ and the girl nodded.
“She had tears in her eyes. He blocked the door while she ran out and then ran after her. As soon as they were a safe distance away, he told her to phone her dad and he came to get her.”
CCTV in the block helped the police in their investigation.
Abraham also identified the members of the gang who had carried out the rape, at an ID parade.
But in the run-up to the 2008 trial, Abraham received a number of threatening text messages, his mother says, from associates of the gang.
“They were saying things like, they would kill him. He would be a dead man,” says Ronke. “We had eggs thrown at the door.”
Abraham’s mother was, understandably, deeply concerned about the prospect of Abraham being a witness at the trial and initially expressed reservations about giving parental consent. But, she says the police said if she refused to give her permission, she would be charged with perverting the course of justice.
“I thought I would probably have gone to prison — I had no choice,” she says.
So Abraham gave evidence and, nine schoolboys, including gang ringleader O’Neil Denton and his sidekick Weiled Ibrahim, were convicted following the trial at Snaresbrook Crown Court in December 2008.
Denton and Ibrahim were locked up indefinitely. The other defendants received sentences ranging from two years and five months to nine years.
Recognised for bravery
The trial judge gave Abraham a £500 reward for bravery.
The following year, Abraham received a letter from the police informing him he was to receive a National Police Bravery Award.
“Abraham and I went to Manchester,” recalls Ronke. “When Abraham got up to receive his award, the Superintendent, the Commander, everybody, were all on their feet.”
Around this time, the council moved Abraham and his mother to another address in the borough for their own safety.
Abraham, though, remained deeply fearful that one of the gang might try to take revenge, and it was for this reason that he moved to Bristol to continue with school studies.
After completing his A-levels at a college in Bristol, he took a degree in sports science at the University of Gloucestershire. This was followed by a masters degree in sports coaching in 2016.
When, last year, he successfully applied for a position as a sports team leader in Central London, house prices being what they are, he had no choice but to move back to the capital with his mother for a while, as he saved for a deposit on a place of his own. He was £3000 short of the £7000 he needed as a first-time buyer.
On the surface, life was good — he also volunteered for a London-based football charity — but he remained on edge. Then, not long after his return, the inevitable happened. He came face-to-face with two members of the gang.
The first time, he was at a nightclub, the second was at a gym in Hoxton. On both occasions he fled, deeply shaken.
Shortly after this, Abraham’s car was vandalised — the windscreen smashed and tyres removed. He could not believe it was a coincidence, he told his mother. He felt the gang was telling him they knew where he was.
‘I remain empty inside’
The day of his murder, Abraham had spent the afternoon in North London with his father, who was visiting from Nigeria, and his half-sister, Wendy.
He arrived home shortly after 11pm and was opening the boot of his car when he was ambushed by a gunman.
A neighbour heard gunshots, rushed down to the street and found Abraham lying on the ground. They dialled 999 and then gave him CPR.
Ronke said: “I ran outside. The police were there and they wouldn’t let me near him. I was shouting, ‘I’m his mum’. I wanted to hold him and pray for him.
“I was taken off somewhere in a police car. I saw the ambulance go past. Then they changed me to another car. They put me in the back, between two officers. I kept asking, ‘How is he, how is he’ and then the lady in the back with me said, ‘Madam, he didn’t make it’.
“I jumped out of the car and I was rolling about on the ground. I wanted it to be me they’d shot. I remain empty inside.”
Last week, the coroner released Abraham’s body for burial.
His mother is now planning his funeral. Police are keeping an open mind about the motive for Abraham’s death. They have said revenge is an “active line of inquiry” but the shooting could have been a case of mistaken identity or something unknown in his private life.
His mother believes “in her heart”, however, that the motive for her son’s death was revenge.
Police, who are offering a £20,000 reward, have appealed for witnesses who saw a cyclist entering an alleyway five minutes before the shooting. A man was seen running from the direction of the car into another alleyway and someone rode away on a bicycle with a white frame.
Abraham’s mother believes her son was let down, ultimately, by the justice system he so bravely stood up to support, as a scared 14-year-old boy who’d wanted to do the right thing.
“The girl was given a new identity, a new life, she was protected, as was her right. But Abraham should have been given the same protection.
“He was a victim, too.”