Two teenagers have been found guilty of murdering an innocent 16-year-old boy who they mistakenly thought belonged to a rival gang.
Vanushan Balakrishnan, 18, and Ilyas Suleiman, 18, both from Hillingdon, were found guilty yesterday (6 March) of murdering 16-year-old Rishmeet Singh following a trial at the Old Bailey.
They will be sentenced at the same court on Friday, 28 April.
Detective Inspector Laura Semple, from the Specialist Crime Command, said: “Rishmeet was an innocent, young 16-year-old who had his whole life ahead of him. He had just spent an enjoyable evening with his friends and was making the short walk home when he was callously chased down and knifed to death by Balakrishnan and Suleiman. Between them, they stabbed him 15 times while he was defenceless on the floor. There is never an excuse to murder someone in cold blood, but this case is made even more tragic by the fact that Rishmeet was wrongly targeted by his attackers.
“Balakrishnan and Suleiman left the flat that day with the intention of ending someone’s life. Poor Rishmeet was simply in the wrong place, at the wrong time. My thoughts remain with Rishmeet’s family and friends, who have shown extraordinary courage throughout, including during the trial where they were forced to re-live Rishmeet’s horrific last moments.”
Rishmeet came to the UK in October 2019 with his mother and grandmother to seek asylum from Jalalabad in Afghanistan. His father was killed by the Taliban six months prior to that, and shortly after they tried to kidnap Rishmeet, forcing the family to flee to the UK.
In a statement, Rishmeet’s mother Gulinder said: “Rishmeet was my only child, and he had his whole life ahead of him. No words could ever explain or put into context how I have felt since Rishmeet was taken from us. He has been raised with so much love and now he’s gone. I am struggling to understand as to how and why this happened to my baby boy. I feel I have lost everything and my life is over.
“I will never get over losing him in this way. I will not see him grow up into a young man. I will not see him leave college. I will not see him fulfil his aspirations. I will not see him learn to drive. I will not see him fall in love and get married. I will not become a grandmother and see my son grow old. I have been robbed of so many future events.
“Rishmeet was attending college completing a Public Service course and his ambition was to become a police officer, all he wanted to do was to help people. Rishmeet was well loved by all that knew him, he was a faithful boy and was very caring in his nature.
“I have lost my husband and now I have lost my only child, my son. Justice is finally served for Rishmeet but their sentence will never be enough for me. They have taken my whole life away from me and Rishmeet will never come home again.”
The court heard that at about 9pm on 24 November 2021, Rishmeet had just left his friends after enjoying a pleasant evening in the park in Southall and was walking home when he saw two unknown males running towards him.
Rishmeet immediately ran back towards his friends and shouted ‘run, run.’
Rishmeet ran down Raleigh Road, in Southall, where he tripped and fell. One of his pursuers then stabbed him at least five times in the back. Seconds later, the second male also began to stab Rishmeet, at least 10 times.
His attackers then fled, leaving his bloodied and injured body on the ground.
The whole attack, from when Rishmeet tripped, lasted 27 seconds.
Officers and the London Ambulance Service scrambled to the scene after receiving a 999 call from a member of the public, but despite their best efforts Rishmeet died at the scene at 10:08pm.
Detectives launched a murder investigation and immediately began gathering evidence, including extensive CCTV enquiries to follow Rishmeet’s movements both before and after the attack.
Enquiries revealed that Balakrishnan and Suleiman, who were aged 17 at the time of the attack, had spent most of the day at a flat in Austin Road, Southall, with seven other people.
The pair left the flat shortly before 8:50pm on pedal bikes. They both changed the clothing they had been wearing all day, armed themselves with knives, put their hoods up, covered their faces with covid-masks, which the jury heard was in a bid to hide their appearance as they had intended to go out and commit murder.
They cycled to the canal towpath where it is believed they saw Rishmeet say goodbye to his friends on the bridge above and walk off alone, making him an easy target.
They dumped their bikes near the bridge and chased after Rishmeet on foot, with Balakrishnan attacking him first followed by Suleiman. They are captured on CCTV fleeing the scene, and are clearly identifiable from the distinctive clothing and covid masks they were wearing – including Balakrishnan’s dark trousers with a white stripe behind the knee.
CCTV showed that they returned to the bridge to collect their bikes, and cycled back to the flat in Austin Road. They left the bikes outside and went into the flat. From analysing their mobile phones, detectives established Suleiman booked a taxi at 9:24pm to his home address, and then onto Balakrishnan’s home address.
Balakrishnan was arrested on suspicion of murder at his home address on 2 December 2021.
Officers recovered the clothing he had worn most of the day before and after the murder, as well as a notebook containing lyrics that he had written, with some describing unique features of Rishmeet’s murder, including Rishmeet running and tripping over. Further lyrics were also found on his mobile phone.
A review of Balakrishnan’s phone also showed that he was reading news reports about Rishmeet’s murder, googling only an hour after the murder, including tributes from his family about his good character and their belief that he was stabbed for the fake Gucci pouch he was wearing.
On 28 November 2021, Balakrishnan wrote a note on his phone saying: “Saw news statement it says a good yute but he was out with paigions [enemies.]”
“Stupid media it was a glide not for some stupid **** he wears”
A ‘glide’ is entering gang territory with the intention of using violence against a rival gang.
However, the court heard that Rishmeet was not in a gang and the defendants were mistaken in their choice of target.
Just six hours before his arrest on 2 December, Balakrishnan wrote on his phone: “He tripped and got dipped into my dank.”
Also on Balakrishnan’s mobile phone was an image of a long knife on his bed with what appears to be blood on it – taken at 10.19pm on the day of the murder. The knives were never recovered by officers.
Officers also found Suleiman’s college enrolment form in Balakrishnan’s room, proving the pair knew each other.
Suleiman was being sought by police in connection with Rishmeet’s murder but he could not be located. Officers executed a search warrant at his home address on 2 December 2021. He was reported as missing by his mother two days later on 4 December 2021. The court heard that Suleiman had gone into hiding as he knew he was wanted for Rishmeet’s murder.
He was eventually arrested at an address in Edgware on 9 December 2021. He had dramatically changed his afro hairstyle from the day of the murder, and now wore his hair in braids. The mobile phone he used on the day of the murder to book the taxi was also no longer contactable, in a bid to hide evidence from officers.
Balakrishnan and Suleiman were charged and convicted as above.