“If it was the other way around, Yousef would have got a life sentence.”
Jade Akoum had hoped the trial of her brother’s killer would bring her family justice but instead they have been left in shock after the 17-year-old who wielded the knife was cleared of both murder and manslaughter.
Yousef Makki, a bright Anglo-Lebanese student at the prestigious Manchester Grammar School, died in March 2 this year, stabbed through the heart by another teenager in an affluent village on the edge of the north-west English city.
The boy, who was named Boy A during the legal proceedings, received only 16 months imprisonment for lying to police. The jury at Manchester Crown Court accepted Boy A’s claim that he killed Yousef in self-defence.
A second 17-year-old boy, known as Boy B, who had bought two illegal flick knives, one of which was used by Boy A to kill Yousef, received a four-month custodial sentence. He was previously cleared of perverting the course of justice.
Boy B and Yousef had been friends for a long time.
Unlike his wealthy peers, Yousef grew up on a social housing estate and won a scholarship to attend the £13,000-a-year fee-paying school.
His family suspect class played a role in the verdict as both defendants came from privileged backgrounds.
"We thought we had a strong case. The police and the prosecution thought they did too, otherwise they would not have pushed for a murder charge," Jade told The National.
During the trial, the court heard that Yousef was killed in the village of Hale Barns, home to Premier League footballers and celebrities, following an argument with Boy A over a failed attempt to rob a drug dealer of £45 (Dh200) worth of cannabis.
The robbery went wrong and Boy A was beaten up, while Yousef and Boy B – a friend of Boy A’s – fled, jurors were told.
Boy A later confronted Yousef, saying that the victim had threatened him with a knife so he brought out his own knife, accidentally stabbing him through the heart.
Explaining his actions, Boy A told the jury: “I got more annoyed. I [took] it [the knife] out straight away, I don’t really know what I did, kind of lifted my arm up. I didn’t realise anything had happened at first.”
The court heard that all three boys had indulged in “idiotic fantasies” playing middle-class gangsters and that the stabbing was “an accident waiting to happen”.
But Jade, 28, believes her brother’s character was “assassinated” during the trial.
“Yousef was very intelligent – last year in his GCSEs he got 10 A*s. But he was also a very humble person. Even though he had seen the background of some of his friends, he always stayed true to himself. All of his friends loved him, everyone respected him. He would have helped anyone,” she said.
Yousef was preparing to apply for university and had ambitions to become a surgeon.
“We didn’t know him to ever carry a knife. There was no DNA evidence that Yousef did carry a knife, anyway,” Jade added.
After Yousef was stabbed, Boy A and Boy B attempted to hide the knives they had in their possession, which were later found. Boy A then lied to police and said two men in a silver car had stopped and murdered Yousef.
Boy A, who was not a friend or a classmate of Yousef’s but was known to him, showed no remorse for his actions, Jade said.
Police are currently investigating after it emerged that Boy A had filmed a video in a toilet cubicle during the trial making stabbing actions while listening to drill music about “blades” and “shanks”. The video was sent by someone to Yousef’s family.
But it is Boy B’s behaviour that has shocked the victim’s family the most.
“The friend, Boy B, Yousef was friends with. We thought he was a good boy and we didn’t know he would purchase knives,” Jade said.
After the murder and manslaughter charges were dropped, Yousef’s Lebanese father, Ghaleb, could be heard shouting from the public gallery: “Where's the justice for my son?”
“We stayed dignified and quiet throughout the whole trial, to not even get the manslaughter charge was really disappointing,” Jade said.
Ghaleb, who came to the UK from Lebanon 25 years ago, organised a protest against the verdict with his stepdaughter Jade, who is married to a Lebanese national.
Ghaleb and Yousef’s mother Debbie vowed to never give up fighting for their son in emotional speeches to the crowd outside Manchester Crown Court.
Jade, sister to Yousef through Debbie, said the death of her brother has had a huge impact on the whole family.
“We all thought the trial we would get closure and at least the truth,” the mother-of-three said. “We didn’t even get truth.”