Teenager found not guilty of grammar school pupil’s murder named

By Pat Hurst, PA

The teenager acquitted of murdering Manchester Grammar School pupil Yousef Makki in a leafy Cheshire village can be named today as Joshua Molnar, a rugby-playing ex-public schoolboy from a wealthy, professional family.

Molnar, 17, stabbed scholarship schoolboy Yousef, 17, in the heart during a fight in Hale Barns on March 2.

He was cleared of the murder and manslaughter of his “good friend” following a four-week trial at Manchester Crown Court in July, telling the jury he acted in self-defence after Yousef pulled a knife on him.

At the time his name was protected, with media banned from publishing any details which would lead to him being identified – until today.

For the first time his name and background can be made public following an order from trial judge Mr Justice Bryan.

The fee-paying public schools Molnar attended are often a conveyor belt to Oxford and Cambridge for their pupils – but he is currently serving 16 months in a Young Offenders Institute.

Joshua Molnar in his rugby kit (Handout/PA)

Despite the advantages of a good family and good education, Molnar instead became fixated with knives, living out “idiotic fantasies” of being a middle-class gangster, his trial heard.

One detective described him and a second defendant as, “rich kids who have never had to live in the real world”.

He admitted perverting the course of justice by lying to police about what had happened and possession of a flick knife.

The second defendant, aged 17, who still cannot be identified and is known only as boy B, was cleared of perverting the course of justice by allegedly lying to police – but also admitted possession of a flick knife. He was given a four-month detention order.

Molnar had been at one time a pupil at Ellesmere College, a £33,000-a-year boarding school in Shropshire, where Latin is still taught and its alumni include former England rugby union captain Bill Beaumont, the current chairman of World Rugby, and Hugh Grosvenor, the seventh Duke of Westminster.

He starred in the school rugby union first XV, playing at number eight before leaving with six GCSEs.

Before his time there, he had also attended £9,000 a year Cheadle Hulme School, whose past pupils include broadcasters Katie Derham and Nick Robinson.

Again he was a regular on the team sheet for the school rugby team, but left early in his mid-teens when he declined to repeat a year.

His time in the sixth form at Wilmslow High School, a state school, came to an end during his A level studies.

Joshua Molnar with his mother Stephanie (Handout/PA)

Sources say cannabis was found in his Hugo Boss bag he had taken into school, and he was subsequently withdrawn from there by mutual agreement.

Jurors at his trial were never told any details of his schooling.

If Molnar struggled academically, he thrived on the rugby pitch, playing for Altrincham Kersal RUFC, winning the Cheshire Cup for the under 16s and playing at county level for Shropshire and being part of the Welsh Exiles Programme – to identify potential “elite” players who qualify to play for Wales but live outside the country.

Despite the money spent on his expensive education, Molnar did not “get on” with his family or appreciate his parents’ largesse; he could pick his friends but not his parents he said.

During his difficult teenage years at Cheadle Hulme School, whose Latin motto In Loco Parentis means in place of a parent, his mother, Stephanie Molnar, built up a successful business.

Yorkshire-born Mrs Molnar grew up in South Africa and studied in the UK, with degrees in biology and business from Bristol, London and Warwick universities.

She worked in scientific software before becoming a marketing manager, and in 2001 co-founded the Elmscot Group – which runs children’s nurseries and out-of-school clubs in Cheshire.

She found inspiration for the business, she said, because as a working mother with young children, she struggled to find the right nursery for her own children, Lexi, a one-time Miss Cheshire contestant, and younger brother Joshua.

Molnar had been initially enrolled at £2,600 a term Hale Preparatory School, which takes children aged from four to 11.

He struggled with the “teaching methods” there, according to his family, and was moved aged five to another school until the age of 11.

The nursery and after-school club business co-founded by his mother now employs more than 225 people, providing early years childcare and education for around 1,700 children.

On July 1 this year, Stephanie Molnar resigned as a director of Elmscot Group and other associated nurseries, according to documents lodged with Companies House.

Joshua’s father, Mark Lazlo Molnar – the son of a Hungarian refugee who was born and brought up in south Wales, is a management consultant and listed as an honorary general secretary of the Cheshire Lawn Tennis Association.

He is also listed as a director of Hale Village Tennis Club.

His parents arrived with their son on the first day of the trial, accompanied by their own security detail.

Both parents accompanied their son to court each day of the trial.

They divorced when their son was aged 13, the father living in a £500,000 three-bedroom townhouse in Hale village and the mother in a second five-bedroom house in the village, worth around £900,000.

The upmarket village south of Manchester, popular with minor celebrities and premier league footballers, was where Molnar was raised.

His life was a world away from the street gangsters in the Drill music he listened to, a genre glorifying violence.

How insult-laden “diss tracks” and rapping about gang culture from disaffected inner-city youths related to him is unclear.

He lived in a low-crime, high wealth Cheshire village, while adopting the accent, manners and accoutrements of the urban street youth – but with more refined accessories.

Molnar sported a south central LA style neck bandana, keeping his weed and “shank” or knife in an Armani man bag.

17-year-old Yousef Ghaleb Makki (Family handout/PA)

Fist-bumping, calling each other, “Bro” and “Fam” and the police “the Feds” along with Yousef and Boy B, they spent their time smoking cannabis “chilling”, Molnar riding around on a £2,000 pedal cycle.

He thought knives were “cool” and routinely smoked cannabis from the age of 15, telling the jury at his trial most of his peers smoked the drug and it was “socially acceptable”.

Videos of him posing with knives was just because people his age video everything they do, he said.

One ominous clip recovered by police showed Yousef playfully taunting Molnar, repeating: “Where’s ya shank?”

Another clip showed Molnar taking a “selfie” using a lit flare to light a cannabis joint, he tosses the flare over his shoulder towards a parked car.

It is accompanied by drill music from notorious London gang, 1011, whose members have been jailed for knife crime.

Unlike his own school friends at Manchester Grammar School, Yousef grew up on a council estate in Burnage, a suburb of south Manchester, raised by a single-mother, Debbie Makki, who also has a younger son Mazen.

Mrs Makki, a former psychiatric nurse, split from their father, Ghaleb, a chef from the Lebanon, in 2012.

Yousef was bright and won a scholarship to £13,000-a-year Manchester Grammar School, where he excelled academically.

He had been a chubby youth but had started to train at Longsight Boxing Club, shedding 20kg and putting on muscle.

He had acted as a peacemaker when a row developed between him, the second boy and Molnar after all three had been smoking cannabis.

Yousef was taller and bigger than Molnar as they came to blows in the street before he was fatally wounded.

Media were banned from identifying Molnar at the time of his trial as he was aged under 18.

But he turns 18 on Tuesday and would have lost his right to anonymity in any event.

An application by The Sunday Times to allow them to publish his name in their editions on Sunday was allowed by Mr Justice Bryan, the judge who presided over his trial.

His family are the subject of a story in today’s edition of the newspaper. They have also employed a corporate PR firm, MC2, to handle press inquiries.

Boy B is still aged 17 so cannot be identified.

He was the one who bought the flick knife used to stab Yousef, and it was boy B who had first suggested the drug deal, one of the “chain of events” Mr Justice Bryan said, that led up to Yousef’s death.

He had arranged to get £45 worth of cannabis from a dealer, and the prosecution alleged the three teenagers agreed to rob him when he arrived.

Both Molnar and boy B denied any such robbery plan, only that Molnar was “jumped” by two others during the drugs deal while Yousef and the boy B fled, leaving him to take a beating.

Both Molnar and boy B, were cleared of attempted robbery by the jury at their trial.

Whatever the reason, the attack on Molnar was the catalyst for the three to later row and the fatal stabbing of Yousef.

When friends at Yousef’s private school boasted about their expensive Armani tracksuits and Louis Vuitton trainers, the bursary boy would tap his forehead and say: “Money can’t buy what’s in here.”

His mother struggled to keep up with the other parents’ wealth, but her son had the brains and the drive of fulfilling his ambitions of becoming a surgeon.

His promise was never to be realised, tragically at the hands of one of his own friends from a world beyond his grasp.

His family is understood to be in contact with lawyers, working pro-bono, exploring the possibility of further legal action. Legal experts say the prospects for that are extremely slim.

In a statement, Stephanie Molnar said: “Circumstances on the night of March 2 led to our son Joshua accidentally killing his friend Yousef with a knife whilst defending himself against a knife. He was found not guilty to the charges of murder and manslaughter, based on self-defence, in a unanimous verdict.

“The events of that night were a tragedy. These were three friends going out on a Saturday. They should all still be here to lead fulfilling lives but they are not.

“I cannot imagine what Yousef’s parents and family must be going through as they try to come to terms with this.

“Joshua fully accepts responsibility for Yousef’s death in the act of self-defence and the impact of this acceptance is massive.

“He will have to live with the responsibility of his role in this for the rest of his life.

“We are also acutely aware that the hurt and loss that Yousef’s family is experiencing are infinitely greater than anything we are going through and nothing I can say can make up for or change that.

“There were no winners in this case.

“We fully support all the positive steps to celebrate Yousef’s life and anything positive in the future that can come from this tragedy is something we would welcome and contribute to in whatever way possible.”

A pre-inquest hearing into the death of Yousef Makki is scheduled for October 18 at Manchester Coroner’s Court.

Joshua Molnar will be released from custody next March.