Jodie Chesney: Stabbed in the back and left to die

By Sarah Lee
BBC News

Image source, Facebook
Image caption,
Jodie Chesney was stabbed to death just weeks before completing her Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award

Two teenagers have been convicted of murdering teenage girl scout Jodie Chesney, who was ambushed by a drug dealer who mistook her for a rival. She was stabbed to death while simply sitting with friends in an east London park.

Friday night, college is out and Jodie is looking forward to spending time with her friends. It was all planned - she would meet the group at Amy's Park in Harold Hill, Romford. There she would listen to music and unwind after a busy week.

The 17-year-old had spoken to her father, Peter Chesney, that morning - 1 March. It was his birthday.

"She popped her head around the stairs and wished me a happy birthday," says Peter. "She said that my present would arrive in the post the next day - and that she was sorry it was late."

Closing the door behind him, he could never have known that that would be the last time he would see his daughter alive.

Jodie with the purple hair

Image source, Family Handout

Sitting on a bench in the home he shared with his two daughters and his partner Joanne, Peter looks up at pictures of Jodie on top of the piano, a shrine perfectly placed on the instrument she loved playing so much.

Remembering the "shy little girl" growing up, Peter says his daughter had started playing piano in school.

"She played really well. She loved playing classical music like Ludovico Einaudi and Beethoven."

Jodie loved the colour purple - she even dyed her hair that colour on various occasions.

Her head teacher at Havering Sixth Form College, Paul Wakeling, says those who knew Jodie knew her as an "amazingly weird" young girl.

"She was very quirky and different as is evident by her hair colours. She was artistic and a loving and caring student."

Education was important to Jodie, and she would "always want to do well", her father adds.

"She loved school and her subjects. She was in the middle of studying for her A-levels in Photography, Psychology and Sociology.

"Photography was her favourite. She would often go down to the South Bank on her own and take pictures."

Her best friend Clarice Sharp, 18, describes Jodie as helping her come out of her shell.

"I was an introvert," she says. "But when I met Jodie she made me realise the world was a great place to live in.

"We would go shopping together, or go to the movies. We loved pizza. I can't even eat pizza now without thinking of how we would fight over the last slice."

Image source, Family Handout

A determination of getting the most out of life also saw Jodie getting involved with the girl scouts.

Proud to wear her scout uniform, Jodie had not long completed her Bronze and Silver Duke of Edinburgh award.

"Jodie was simply a beautiful person whose life was cut short just as she was blossoming into a wonderful young woman," Peter says.

She was weeks away from finishing her Gold Award before she was stabbed to death.

1 March, 2019

Image source, Met Police

At 21:20 on 1 March, Jodie and her friends were well into their night in Amy's Park, sitting on a bench, listening to music and smoking cannabis.

"It was a normal Friday night," Clarice says. "Lots of laughing and joking.

"Earlier that day we had just been chatting about make-up and some boots she had just bought."

It had been dark for some time when Jodie's boyfriend, Eddie Coyle, noticed two figures coming out of the darkness towards them.

Jodie was sitting on a bench table with her back to them.

Within a few minutes, calm turned to chaos for the teenager and her friends.

Jodie was stabbed in the back in an unprovoked and almost silent attack by who we now know was 19-year-old Svenson Ong-a-Kwie.

She collapsed to the ground. The knife came within a millimetres of fully passing through her body.

Image source, Met Police

During the trial, Mr Coyle told an Old Bailey jury Jodie had "screamed" out in shock.

"She didn't know what had happened. We just thought they had stolen our bags," the 18-year-old said.

"But then she started screaming continuously, very loud, and it lasted about two minutes straight.

"Then she began to faint. At this time she was falling off the bench."

It was only when he shone his iPhone torch on to Jodie's back he realised how bad she had been hurt.

The white lining of her burgundy denim jacket was covered in blood.

He would later learn that Jodie's wound was 18cm deep and penetrated her right lung, causing heavy bleeding.

As her attackers fled the scene, a local resident who heard the screams ran out to help and called 999.

When an ambulance arrived at 21:30, Jodie showed no sign of life.

The call

Image source, Family Handout

Jodie's father Peter, who described his daughter as a "proud geek", was celebrating his birthday in Dirty Martini in central London when his brother, Dave Chesney, received news of Jodie's injury.

"My brother got a phone call to say that the police were on their way to pick me up because Jodie had been attacked," he says.

"As you can imagine I was deep in shock. One minute I'm laughing the next minute Jodie has been attacked."

The police told Peter they were taking him one mile north to The Royal London Hospital, Whitechapel, to see Jodie.

Peter never made it to hospital - and neither did Jodie.

Despite doctors performing emergency surgery en route to hospital, Jodie was pronounced dead at 22:26 on the forecourt of an Esso Garage in Gants Hill, Ilford.

"I heard over the radio someone telling them to reroute to my house because Jodie had gone," Peter says.

"At that moment I just lost my composure and dropped on my knees. I cried all the way home."

Throughout the night, members of Jodie's family made their way to Peter's house to offer support.

"Fences got punched, people were getting angry and then getting sad and then not understanding what was going on," Peter says.

"There and then - my life fell apart.

"She died, but there was no reason why she died."

The trial

Image caption,
Purple ribbons were tied to bollards outside the Old Bailey on the morning of Jodie Chesney's murder trial

It was a miserable rainy Monday morning on 16 September 2019 - the first day of an eight-week trial of two teenagers and two men accused of Jodie's murder.

It's a 13-mile journey from Peter's home in east London to the Old Bailey, though it felt like an eternity for the 39-year-old.

En route he passed children wearing school uniforms on bikes on their way to Jodie's old school.

Image source, Julia Quenzler
Image caption,
Svenson Ong-a-Kwie was a known drug dealer in the Harold Hill and Collier Row areas of east London

The taxi drove through rush hour traffic from Dagenham into the city - a route which Peter frequently used for his work commute.

This journey, however, had a completely different feel.

Speaking that day, a nervous Peter said: "This will be the first time I come face to face with the suspects. Seeing them will make me want to destroy them. But I have to control myself.

"I just want to know why. Why Jodie? She did absolutely nothing to anybody."

Image source, PA Media
Image caption,
Met Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick visited the scene where Jodie Chesney was stabbed to death

The public gallery was packed with members of Jodie's family and friends, all wearing a purple ribbon in her memory.

Outside the Old Bailey, purple ribbons were tied to posts and pillars, reminding passers by of the tragedy.

Peter sat in the court and listened to those involved in his daughter's murder deny any involvement.

It was too much for him to attend everyday.

"It was just killing me. Someone said to me why was I putting myself through this?" he said.

But one day that Peter did attend, was to hear Ong-a-Kwie's evidence.

The 19-year-old told jurors he was driven to Harold Hill on the evening of 1 March to drop off drugs.

Image source, Met Police
Image caption,
Svenson Ong-a-Kwie disposed of his trainers the morning after Jodie was killed

But jurors heard how Ong-a-Kwie was looking to take out a rival drug dealer who was encroaching on his turf.

CCTV footage of the defendant and his 17-year-old accomplice was shown to the jury. An expert concluded Ong-a-Kwie was holding an object at waist height which reflected light.

The prosecution claimed this was a knife, while Ong-a-Kwie claimed it was his mobile phone.

Cell site evidence also proved Ong-a-Kwie's phone was turned off minutes before Jodie was stabbed.

The prosecution claimed he mistook Jodie and her friends as his rivals, stabbing Jodie in an "unprovoked ambush".

Ong-a-Kwie insisted it was his 17-year-old co-defendant who had stabbed Jodie that night.

But witness statements from Jodie's friends proved the killer was a dark-skinned tall man in a tracksuit who stood up on the bench before swinging a knife into the innocent girl's back.

Image source, JULIA QUENZLER
Image caption,
Jodie's boyfriend, Eddie Coyle, was a witness during the trial

His movements after the murder added to the suspicion. He burnt his clothes, dumped his trainers and threw his iPhone into a bin.

This behaviour and the evidence convinced the jury, who subsequently found Ong-a-Kwie, of Collier Row, guilty of Jodie's murder.

They also found the 17-year-old, of Barking, who also went into the park with Ong-a-Kwie, guilty of murder.

Manuel Petrovic, and the 16-year-old boy, both of Romford, were acquitted of all charges.

"Jodie's murder was the terrible but predictable consequence of an all-too casual approach to the carrying - and using - of knives," prosecutor Crispin Aylett QC said.

Justice for Jodie

Image source, PA Media

Through all the sadness and despair, Peter is determined to positively mark his daughter's life.

He set up The Jodie Chesney Foundation, a charity which will aim to tackle knife crime through supporting the parents of children and youths caught up in drug dealing and violence.

"Many charities go into schools, but I think I can be inspirational because it has happened to me," he says.

"I can get the message across to kids and parents the real effect as to what this does. How it destroys families.

"I strongly believe it all starts at home. Parents, first and foremost, must take that responsibility - that's a given."

Image source, PA Media

During the trial the prosecution said all four of the defendants accused of Jodie's murder had "broken homes" and had "drifted into a life of crime".

"What I've been told by local councillors and MPs is that no-one is really there to help the parents as much as they can be - so we are going to fill that void."

For Peter, although he has lost his daughter, he says he will not "give in to hate".

"I'm not going to spend my life hating and I know Jodie would not want that of me.

"She's going to want me to be the best version of myself and sitting here with hate is only going to eat me up inside."

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