Two teenagers have been locked up for life for the “callous” murder of Girl Scout Jodie Chesney.
Drug dealer Svenson Ong-a-Kwie, 19, and his 17-year-old runner Arron Isaacs were involved in a “tit-for-tat vendetta” with rivals when they killed Jodie by mistake, the Old Bailey heard.
The popular 17-year-old student had been relaxing with friends in Amy’s Park in Harold Hill, east London, on the evening of March 1 when two shadowy figures emerged from the dark and one knifed her in the back.
She screamed and collapsed in the arms of her boyfriend, Eddie Coyle, 18, as her attackers made off in a fellow drug dealer’s car.
Days later, they were arrested together as they fled from the rear of a house, with one crashing through a roof.
The defendants denied Jodie’s murder, each blaming the other for inflicting the fatal wound.
The jury deliberated for less than six hours to find them guilty last week of Jodie’s murder.
Judge Wendy Joseph QC handed the stabber Ong-a-Kwie a life sentence with a minimum of 26 years.
She ordered his “enthusiastic supporter” Isaacs to be detained at Her Majesty’s Pleasure for at least 18 years.
She told the pair: “Jodie was a bright, warm and loving girl who could have given so much to so many, and who should have led a happy and fulfilled life.
“All that was taken away by an act of callous, casual and utterly irresponsible violence.
“Those present at the scene will live with the horror for a very, very long time. The whole community has been shocked to its core, and the ramifications have been widespread.”
The judge said the stabbing had come about amid an escalating “tit-for-tat vendetta” between rival drug dealers.
The Judge agreed to lift reporting restrictions on Isaacs’ identity in the exceptional circumstances of the case.
Explaining her reasons, she said: “What is important is that a blameless girl is dead at the hands of those engaged in and those that associate with drug dealing on the streets.
“This death has brought great unease in the community. Those suffering, which spreads much further than Jodie’s friends and family, need and have a right to know and understand how this has come about.”
The court heard moving tributes to Jodie and of the “ripple effect” her murder had among friends, family and the wider community.
Mr Coyle has been left with post-traumatic stress from witnessing her murder.
He said: “Jodie was funny, silly, she always made fun of me and she had a bright future ahead of her. She was full of energy and was always out doing something. We had been going out for three months.
“I’ve never lost anyone before and for the first funeral I’ve gone to to be my own girlfriend’s is incredibly hard. I loved her.”
Jodie’s father, Peter Chesney, who gave up a job in the City, said: “I have lost the most precious human being I will ever know. I have no idea how I’m going to continue my life or come to terms with the loss.”
Her sister Lucy said: “Jodie will be greatly missed and the people who caused such tragedy to a whole family should hang their head in shame. You have ripped away a bright future that was destined to make a change to many lives.”
The court heard that Ong-a-Kwie had convictions for possessing and supplying drugs.
He admitted being in breach of a six-week suspended sentence for handling stolen jewellery dating back to October last year.
Isaacs had previous convictions for possessing a screwdriver, actual bodily harm, possession of cannabis as well as aggravated vehicle-taking.
Cath Carrie, of the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “The court heard today how the cowardly actions of these two men have ripped apart a family and a community.
“Jodie was a talented, caring and much-loved teenager and had gone to the park that night to spend time with friends. Her life was cruelly taken away as a result of a senseless dispute linked to the drug-dealing activities of these individuals.”
Speaking outside the Old Bailey following the sentencing hearing, surrounded by members of Jodie’s family, Detective Chief Inspector Dave Whellams, from the Metropolitan Police, said the force was “pleased and proud of these convictions”.
His colleague Detective Inspector Perry Benton, who led the investigation into Jodie’s murder, described it as “one of the hardest” he had ever dealt with.
“It felt like the world was watching, the world was waiting for answers,” he added.
Mr Benton said the defendants had shown “no remorse since day one” and expressed hope their sentences “will be a deterrent” to those who carry knives.
He said tackling knife crime in London required “everybody to deal with this problem”, with a “public health approach” being required.