‘The police used him and dumped him’: Why was shooting victim Abraham Badru not protected as a gang rape witness?
- Credit: Emma Bartholomew
Murder victim Abraham Badru’s mother Ronke tells Emma Bartholomew why she is convinced his death is retribution for testifying against gang rapists in court, and why she is angry with police and the council for not helping her family move out of Hackney
“I think it’ll just be best for me to get as far away from Hackney as possible lol.”
These were Abraham Badru’s words in 2016 when he politely emailed asking the council and police to move him away from the borough where he had acted as a key witness in a gang rape trial.
But he wasn’t moved, and just over a year later the 26-year-old was shot dead, just yards from his mother Ronke’s home. “I feel cheated and I felt the police just used him and dumped him,” she told the Gazette. “When they got what they wanted, that was that – they didn’t protect him.”
Abraham was just 14 in 2007 when he was credited with saving a girl’s life by rescuing her from a knifepoint attack on the Frampton Park Estate, South Hackney. He picked out nine teens in an identity parade, and was then told to take the witness stand against them at the Old Bailey. When Ronke refused to let her son give evidence police threatened to charge her with perverting the course of justice if he didn’t.
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“They said they will protect him and they insisted,” she said. “The police would come and pick him up from home to take him to court, and drop him back. Everyone could see that, and the people responsible knew that Abraham rescued the girl. They knew it was him – it would have made no difference if he was behind a screen in court.”
It wasn’t long before Abraham, who received a police award for his bravery and £500 from the judge, started receiving messages telling him he was a “dead man”. But rather than helping him move away from the estate where the rape took place, police installed intruder alarms in their home. Abraham isolated himself indoors and Ronke began bidding for another council house.
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“Really they should have moved us immediately, but they left us to bid for a place, and you can’t bid for anywhere outside this borough,” said Ronke. “We would have gone anywhere – out of London or out of Hackney. But the council said they don’t move people from borough to borough.”
Eventually Ronke moved to Foxley Close in Dalston and Abraham secretly moved to Bristol to escape the threats, where he studied at a sixth form college. He wore a face covering when he returned sporadically to spend the weekend with his mum. In 2016 he completed his masters in sports coaching and was offered a job in London. Unable to fford his own place he moved in with Ronke. But when his car was vandalised he once more begged the council and police to rehouse them. He met a blank wall.
Pc Gillian Mills told him she confirmed he was a witness with the council, but added: “I have explained that I am unable to confirm this by way of a letter. I have also contacted witness care unit at Holborn to see if they are able to assist you with this matter in any way. If there are any further problems please free to contact me.”
Ronke breaks down as she recalls the night, 18 months later, when her son was killed. She was headed upstairs to bed at 11pm on March 26 when she heard a bang at the door.
“They said: ‘Madam your son has been shot outside’. I ran outside and the police didn’t let me get to where he was. I don’t know why. I was crying and shouting at the top of my voice: ‘That’s my only child. I’m his mum’.
“They put me in a car and the police officer came after 45 minutes. I was asking her: ‘How is my son?’ and she said: ‘They are working on him’. Later she said: ‘Madam. He didn’t make it’. It was like a gunshot.
“My life is just empty without my son. I have nobody – just him. Time doesn’t seem real. We were so close. He tells me everything. He can’t sit alone. He would just put his leg on my leg or his head on my shoulder. He was a very caring child. Every day I wake up and I look around and think: ‘Is it true my son is gone? That I won’t see him again?’ At times I put on a good face to people. But inside me. Inside me. I’m dying inside.”
Abraham’s friends are also critical of the cops. One described a “huge frustration” with the “lack of movement” in the murder investigation. He said: “I believe the reason is if any real progress is made, it will force us to point our fingers at the police and council and prove that they were negligent in protecting Abraham and his family.”
Ronke is convinced Abraham was killed for speaking out as a witness: “Then I didn’t realise it would come to this – that somebody would kill him for doing the right thing. The girl is on witness protection today. They changed her name. They changed everything about her, and my son was just left. And now my son is no more.”
Despite installing intruder alarms in his home at the time, police have claimed “no information or intelligence” was given to the investigating officer that Abraham was at risk at the time. A police spokesman said: “Witness care and protecting evidence were taken extremely seriously and any threat to those was acted upon when information came to light.”
Det Ch Insp Noel McHugh from the murder squad said there is no evidence to suggest his death is linked to him giving evidence at the rape trial. He added: “As with any murder case, much sensitive work goes on behind the scenes and we cannot always be open with the public or a victim’s friends and family about some aspects we are looking into.
“However, I would like to reassure them that we do continue to work very hard on this case and we are committed to bringing Abraham’s murderer to justice.
“I completely understand if people are worried for their safety but please make that call to police and let us assess your information - often it can help us build a picture and doesn’t mean you’ll end up giving evidence in court. And if you do, we can take steps to support and protect you if there are genuine concerns and risks to your safety.”
A spokesperson for the council said: “We always give absolute priority to families in urgent need of rehousing for safety reasons, and have agreements in place to move families outside of Hackney where they are suffering threats or harassment.
“Mr Badru’s family were initially rehoused after he had acted as a witness in a court case. They were then recognised as needing a move further away from the area and had the opportunity for a direct move to an area in which they felt safe, both before Mr Badru left Hackney in 2012 and upon his return to the borough in 2016. On each occasion the family decided not to take up the offers made.
“We were very sorry to hear of Mr Badru’s tragic death earlier this year and are now working closely with Mrs Badru to look into the difficulties she has faced since her son passed away and offer any support we can. The senior leadership of the council is taking an active interest in resolving Mrs Badru’s housing situation.”