Man guilty of murdering father-of-three at Lakeside Shopping Centre in Essex

A man has been found guilty of murdering a father-of-three in a food court of a shopping centre in Essex.

Muhammad Khan, 23, stabbed Michael Ugwa to death at Lakeside Shopping Centre in Thurrock in April last year following an altercation.

Khan of Ilford, east London, was also found guilty of affray, Essex Police said.

Another man from east London, Brandon Lutchmunsing, 20, was cleared of murder by jurors but was found guilty of manslaughter and affray, authorities added.

Both men had denied the charges against them.

Mr Ugwa, 29, was killed at the shopping centre after complimenting a woman, a trial at Basildon Crown Court was told.

Jurors were told how an argument broke out after Mr Ugwa made comments towards Lutchmunsing's girlfriend, Shannon Weston, who was found guilty of three counts of assisting an offender.

Khan is said to have brandished a knife before he and Lutchmunsing followed Mr Ugwa through the shopping centre food hall.

Mr Ugwa was chased around the food court until both men cornered him in a "pincer movement" before Khan stabbed him in the chest, according to prosecutor Karim Khalil KC.

Mr Ugwa, from Rainham, east London, died of "catastrophic" blood loss at the scene as the two men escaped.

The court was shown footage of Mr Ugwa defending himself with a chair before throwing it at Lutchmunsing.

Khan then stabbed Mr Ugwa in a "single and deadly" blow before fleeing with Lutchmunsing in Weston's red Audi, Mr Khalil said.

Weston, 21, was accused of driving Khan and Lutchmunsing away from the shopping centre, and of helping her then boyfriend to evade police between 28 April and 4 May.

A 'particularly shocking' killing

Mr Khalil said: "The killing is particularly shocking because it happened just before 4.30 in the afternoon in the public food court.

"It happened in front of a number of people going about their normal business. Witnesses were clearly frightened for their safety."

Lutchmunsing said he was unaware that his friend had pulled out the knife until he stabbed Mr Ugwa, while Khan had claimed he was acting in self-defence.

Senior investigating officer temporary detective chief inspector Julie Gowen said afterwards: "Although this incident played out over the course of a few minutes, the fatal assault was over in a matter of seconds.

"This case shows the tragic consequences that carrying a knife can have and how quickly an incident can escalate when weapons are involved."

The defendants are to be sentenced at Basildon Crown Court.