Gang plead guilty to manslaughter of Walworth mental-health patient they believed mugged an old lady

Court Reporter (21 February, 2017) Crime

The victim, Reginald Ofei-Berko, was found lying "unresponsive" in Penrose Street in August last year

15249Dipa Modhwadia, John Gillespie, Leon Dixon

Gang members from Bermondsey and Kennington have pleaded guilty to unintentionally killing a vulnerable man from Walworth whom they suspected of mugging an elderly woman.

Leon Dixon, 37, his half-brother Mason Adrien-Dixon, 22, and friend Daniel Murphy, 20, punched, kicked and stamped on the head of Reginald Ofei-Berko in an alleyway in Walworth.

The Dixons’ cousin, Franklin McDonald, who is still on the run, also hit Mr Ofei-Berko on the legs with a bicycle during the attack.

Mr Ofei-Berko, 25, suffered only minor injuries but is believed to have died of a heart attack after the assault caused the “wiring of the brain” to misfire, the Old Bailey heard today.

Four men and a woman were originally charged with murder, but the prosecution accepted the pleas of Dixon, Adrien-Dixon and Murphy to manslaughter on the basis they did not intend to cause grievous bodily harm.

John Paul Gillespie, 43, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit affray because of his role in the lead-up to the attack.

Mother-of-three Dipa Modhwadia, 36, admitted assisting an offender by driving her partner Leon Dixon away from the scene.

All five will be sentenced at the Old Bailey on March 14.

Reginald Ofei-Berko, photo provided by Met Police

At the time of the killing, Leon Dixon was still on licence for an armed robbery at a travel agents in 2002, for which he was jailed for eleven years with five years’ extended licence.

On June 28 last year his 81 year-old grandmother was robbed of a gold chain by a tall black man with braided hair in Walworth Road.

Prosecutor Crispin Aylett QC, said: “The incident was reported to police and investigated but no witnesses could be found and in absence of any further evidence the police file was quickly closed.

“Leon Dixon, his half-brother and their cousin Franklin McDonald believed Mr Ofei-Berko was responsible for the robbery.”

Two months later on August 25, McDonald spotted the victim by chance in the street in Walworth.

Mason Adrien-Dixon, Daniel Murphy

He contacted his cousins, who recruited Murphy, Gillespie and Modhwadia to help carry out surveillance.

Mr Aylett said: “That culminated in getting the victim down a side road where he was attacked.

“Punches and kicks were thrown and on one occasion the victim was stamped on and a bicycle was thrown at his lower limbs. It was witnessed by two children.”

Mr Ofei-Berko, who was living in a hostel for people with mental-health problems in Southwark, was found lying unconscious on the pavement outside a block of flats on Penrose Street at around 3.05pm. He died in hospital later that day.

The post-mortem found no evidence of brain injury or obvious cause of death.

Mr Aylett said: “Despite the apparent severity of the attack, the only injuries identified were four small abrasions to the face, bruising to the left shoulder and a fracture to a fragile bone in the left eye socket.”

The prosecutor said that “a process of elimination” led to a pathologist concluding that the victim had suffered a fatal heart attack as a result of concussive-type trauma to the head.

Mr Aylett said: “This is not a case where it can be said there was an intention to kill.

“There must have involved an intention to cause serious harm, but that is not the same as really serious harm.”

Dixon was arrested a week later in Margate after being linked to evidence left at the scene.

Judge Steven Kramer released Modhwadia on bail until the next hearing but warned her that was “not an indication of the likely sentence”.

Leon Dixon, of Brighton Road, Crawley, West Sussex; Daniel Murphy, of St Davids Close, Bermondsey; and Mason Adrien-Dixon, of Doddington Grove in Kennington, admitted manslaughter and were remanded in custody.

John Paul Gillespie, of Carter Street, Kennington, was also remanded in custody after admitting conspiracy to cause affray.

Modhwadia, of Varcoe Road, Bermondsey, admitted assisting an offender.

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