Tashan Daniel: The Arsenal fan killed by a violent repeat offender

By Thomas Mackintosh
BBC News, London

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media captionTashan Daniel's family saw him die after Tube stabbing

On the afternoon of 24 September, aspiring athlete Tashan Daniel kissed his dad goodbye and left the house to go to watch his beloved Arsenal.

Within minutes, the 20-year-old lay dying at Hillingdon Tube station in north-west London. He had been stabbed by Alex Lanning with a weapon designed for military aviation rescue missions and capable of sawing through laminated glass.

Lanning, who had walked across from the opposite platform to confront Mr Daniel after asking him "what are you looking at?", was getting the worse of the fight he had initiated. The Old Bailey heard it was at this point he pulled out the £250 German-made knife and plunged its whole blade into his victim's body.

What can be revealed now is that 22-year-old Lanning has been found guilty of Mr Daniel's murder, is that he was on licence at the time of the killing for a similar attack in 2016.

image copyrightBTP
image captionAlex Lanning (wearing a cap) confronted Tashan Daniel (wearing an Arsenal top) at Hillingdon station

In March of that year Lanning was charged with the attempted murder of William Goodfield after a crack cocaine and heroin deal turned sour near the i360 in Brighton.

The victim survived but was stabbed seven times in the chest and had injuries to the back of his head, groin, torso and hand.

Aged 18 at the time, Lanning pleaded guilty at Lewes Crown Court to the lesser charge of wounding with intent, and supplying Class A drugs.

He received a four-year sentence, but was released in 2018.

image copyrightPA Media
image captionChandy Daniel (second from right), Celia Daniel (centre) and Tashan's sister Oceanna Daniel (second from left) are still struggling to come to terms with his death

Why Lanning was at liberty to murder their son is one of many questions haunting the Daniel family.

Tashan's father Chandy said: "It was a real shock and I was horrified to hear that someone who had done what he had done, stabbing someone multiple times, was walking the streets in less than four years of doing it.

"Obviously never being rehabilitated, he didn't learn and had a total disregard for the system and thought nothing about carrying a knife."

image captionTashan Daniel with his friend Leon Haque

Mr Daniel was a talented athlete and was determined to achieve his goal of going to the Olympics as a 200m sprinter.

The afternoon he was killed, he had treated himself to a birthday present - he had turned 20 two days earlier - of a ticket to see Arsenal play Nottingham Forest in the Carabao Cup.

He was with his friend Treyone Campbell when the pair were confronted by Lanning and his accomplice Jonathan Camille.

The Old Bailey heard how passengers looked on as a scuffle broke out on the platform and the men broke into two separate fights.

Eyewitnesses said Mr Daniel was defending himself successfully when Lanning stabbed him with the Aviator 1 knife, which was made by German manufacturer Eickhorn.

It penetrated the 20-year-old's lung and heart and cut into his breastbone, a pathologist told jurors, adding that he lost two-fifths of his blood.

image copyrightBTP
image captionAlex Lanning told the court he took the knife from Warner Bros studios

Mr Daniel's parents Chandy and Celia rushed to the Tube station on hearing their son had been stabbed.

They watched in vain as paramedics tried to save his life. His mum was able to hold his hand one final time.

By now Lanning had fled the station. He ditched his bloodstained clothes and hid the knife in a nearby estate, then went on the run from police.

How he came to be in possession of the Aviator knife would come to be a central plank of his murder defence.

image copyrightBTP
image captionAlex Lanning will be sentenced on 20 August

In the days that followed Mr Daniel's death, those who knew him were visibly devastated as they attended the many vigils that were held outside the station.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the family's local MP, visited them at their home in Hillingdon.

The 20-year-old's running coach, parents and sister gave emotional interviews on national television and appealed for the killer to hand himself in.

Lanning spent almost a fortnight on the run from police, who had quickly pieced together that he was the killer.

image copyrightBTP
image captionAlex Lanning and Jonathan Camille took floral pyjamas from an estate after discarding their clothes

Lanning, who admitted manslaughter, told the Old Bailey jury that he had slept rough before his arrest on 4 October in the City of London.

In an effort to persuade the jury he had a valid reason to be in possession of the murder weapon, he claimed he had taken it as a memento from a film set where he had been working on the latest Fast & Furious action movie, F9.

Explaining that he was told one day to move props from a storeroom, he said it was at this point he came across the Aviator knife.

"I had gadgets I had to clear out, knives and yes I had the knife and I decided to take it," he said.

However, the jury heard from F9's property master Chris Cull who said Lanning had only ever worked cleaning and unloading trucks at Warner Bros Studios in Leavesden, Hertfordshire.

The responsibility for obtaining the knives used in the movie was Mr Cull's, the Old Bailey was told, and he would only ever use two knife manufacturers - neither being Eickhorn. He said he was certain the knife had not been acquired during the production and would not have been needed in the film, and in any case knives for use on set would have been blunted.

image copyrightAlamy
image captionLanning worked at Warner Bros Studios in Hertfordshire, the trial heard

Lanning's claim about the provenance of the knife was a cause of yet more emotional torment to the Daniel family, as they had to hear details about the weapon over and again.

Tashan's mother Celia said she was heartbroken to see the knife in court and questioned why any human being felt the need to carry such a blade.

"It was nonsense," Mrs Daniel said of the claim the weapon had been taken from Warner Bros Studios.

"That he was saying in the trial that he was carrying the knife after taking it for memorabilia from the Fast & Furious film set is ridiculous.

"The defence team made a big thing about where he got the knife from - the point of the matter for us is why are you walking around with a dangerous weapon?"

image copyrightPA Media
image captionThe family are campaigning to have Hillingdon Athletics Stadium renamed after Tashan

The defence did not work and Lanning was convicted of murder, while his accomplice Jonathan Camille was cleared of murder but found guilty of manslaughter.

For Mr Daniel's family, the verdict at least means the trial - which was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic - is over.

"It's been really tough and our sleep patterns have gone out of the window," Mrs Daniel said.

"Each day has brought a new sense of drama, feelings about the case and none of it has been great for us to hear. It really has taken its toll on the three of us.

"Seeing the CCTV footage, the evidence, the murder weapon used - it's really harrowing. Also how senseless the attack was.

"How at 3.45pm was he in the wrong place at the wrong time? He was there going to an Arsenal match, there were schoolchildren around - he was in the right place at the right time."