Music manager stabbed to death for designer watch, court told

A music manager was stabbed to death for a designer watch worth up to £300,000 after celebrating his birthday, a court has heard.

Emmanuel Odunlami, 32, was set upon by three robbers after leaving Haz restaurant near St Paul’s Cathedral in the City of London on May 1 last year, the Old Bailey heard.

They had allegedly been tipped off by security operator Kavindu Hettiarachchi that Mr Odunlami was wearing a Patek Philippe Nautilus watch which, if real, was worth between £90,000 and £300,000.

Prosecutor Duncan Atkinson KC said Hettiarachchi was “an integral member of the security team” who had been hired by the events organiser Playhxuse for the private ticketed brunch and afterparty with DJ.

He told jurors: “It was part of his role to protect the safety of those, like Mr Odunlami, who were attending the event. In fact he did the opposite.”

Jurors were told the victim, known to friends as Jay, worked in the music industry managing a number of performing artists.

On the day of his death, he had driven to the City in his grey hatchback Mercedes to celebrate his birthday with friends, having organised tickets for a £1,400 table.

Mr Atkinson told jurors: “Sadly, as it was to turn out, he liked expensive brand watches. At the time when he was fatally attacked, he was wearing an Patek Philippe Nautilus watch.

“If real, such a watch could be worth anything in a range from £90,000 to £300,000.

“It is believed the deceased’s watch may not have been genuine, but was treated as genuine by those who sought to take it.”

St Paul's Cathedral
Mr Odunlami was attacked after leaving a restaurant near St Paul’s Cathedral, the court was told (Ian West/PA)

As the event drew to a close at around 11pm, Hettiarachchi was caught on camera filming outside the venue and calling Louis Vandrose, the court was told.

Vandrose and Jordell Menzies were then driven by Quincy Ffrench in a white Mercedes with altered number plates from north-west London, the court heard.

Mr Atkinson said: “The evidence shows that Ffrench, Vandrose and Menzies were setting off in car with a disguised registration in order to carry out a robbery, and that their target for that robbery was at the Haz restaurant where Hettiarachchi was working, and to which by phone he had summoned them.”

Jurors were told the security operator had filmed the victim and his “high-value” watch and then appeared to type something into his phone.

Mr Atkinson said: “The prosecution case is that he was making those other defendants aware of Mr Odunlami and his watch, in order that they could rob him of that apparently very valuable item.

“In common sense, those planning the robbery of Mr Odunlami of what appeared to be a very valuable watch would not have expected him just to surrender.

“Rather, he needed to be compelled to do so, and to that end one of those travelling in Mr Ffench’s Mercedes was armed with a knife.”

Mr Odunlami was attacked by the group after he left the restaurant with a friend, the court heard.

Mr Atkinson said: “When they were ready, the defendants Ffrench, Vandrose and Menzies got out of the car and ran towards Mr Odunlami.

“On seeing the robbers closing in on him, Mr Odunlami tried to run, but he was caught by Menzies and then taken to the ground by the combination of Menzies and by Vandrose.

“Once Mr Odunlami was on the ground, all three defendants attacked him, shod feet were used as weapons to kick the defenceless man on the ground.

“During the course of that attack, one of the robbers, identifiable as Ffrench, bent down and took the object of this exercise, Mr Odunlami’s Patek Phillippe Nautilus watch.

“As he did so he was heard to say ‘got it’.”

The defendants then ran off, leaving the victim on the ground with a fatal stab wound to the chest.

Mr Atkinson said: “It appears from the CCTV that he was stabbed before any demand was made of him, or any other form of attempt to take his watch from him.”

A flick knife was recovered nearby and linked by scientific analysis to the victim and Menzies, who had used it to kill him, jurors heard.

Afterwards, the three robbers travelled to Bloomsbury where they changed their clothes before parting company, the court was told.

The court heard that Ffrench, 27, from Tottenham, Vandrose, 27, of Thornton Heath, and Menzies, 26, from Kilburn, admitted robbery and Menzies had also pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

Mr Atkinson said: “The prosecution case is that Menzies was physically responsible for the use of that knife to stab an unarmed man.

“It was a blow delivered with at least a moderate level of force, in the estimation of the pathologist, that penetrated 8cm through Mr Odunlami’s chest into the right ventricle of his heart.”

The Central Criminal Court in the Old Bailey, London
The trial was being heard at the Old Bailey (Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA)

Menzies is charged with murder along with Ffrench and Vandrose who allegedly acted together to encourage and facilitate the fatal stabbing.

Hettiarachchi, of Harrow, who was employed as security operator for Supreme Security, is charged with being involved in the robbery and manslaughter.

Jurors were told Hettiarachchi had fake versions of high-value watches at his home, suggesting an interest in and knowledge of expensive timepieces.

He allegedly called on the help of his friend and colleague Antonios Kfoury, 21, from Ealing, who is charged with perverting the course of justice.

It is alleged Kfoury tried to obscure the role of Hettiarachchi in the security arrangement for the event at Haz and made a false statement to the police.

The defendants have denied the charges against them and the Old Bailey trial continues.