An Omani student was stabbed to death close to Harrods department store in London as he fought back against an apparent attempt to steal his expensive watch, his best friend told a murder trial on Wednesday.
Nasser Kanoo, 22, giving evidence via videolink from Bahrain, told a London court he and his friend Mohammed Al Araimi were attacked by two men after they left an Italian restaurant in the upmarket London district of Knightsbridge in December 2019.
Mr Kanoo’s evidence on Wednesday came after one of the defendants, more than a week into the trial, admitted killing Al Araimi, 20. Badir Rahim Al Nazi, 24, a Kuwaiti, denies murder.
Mr Kanoo said there was no warning of the impending attack as the friends walked into an alleyway just moments after they left the restaurant. “It was very sudden,” he told the court. “It was a quick approach, there was no conversation, no asking for things. It was just a quick attack.”
Mr Kanoo, who was stabbed in the back in the melee, on Wednesday watched security camera footage for the first time of the eight-second confrontation that left his friend with fatal injuries from a single knife thrust to the chest.
The student told the court Al Araimi traded blows with one attacker – said to be Mr Al Nazi – while he came face to face with the second man, identified by prosecutors as German Arseboon Dilbaro, 22. He said the second alleged attacker “was as scared as I was”.
The two victims were able to flee after the attack. Mr Kanoo told the court that he had not been immediately aware that his friend had been stabbed but Al Araimi failed to respond when he asked if he was hurt as they ran away.
Al Araimi, a student at King’s College, London, collapsed close to a Christmas tree outside Harrods and died despite the efforts of passers-by and emergency services. Mr Kanoo told the court that a homeless man handed over his coat to try to staunch the bleeding.
The prosecution says the two defendants roamed some of London’s wealthiest districts for people to rob before attacking the pair. Both victims were wearing expensive watches: Al Araimi a £34,000 ($47,177) Patek Philippe watch and Mr Kanoo a £7,000 Rolex, the court heard.
Mr Kanoo told the court that his friend had previously told him that he would fight back if someone tried to steal his watch. Mr Kanoo said that his friend told him he had combat training at a police academy in Oman and he agreed with defence lawyers that he “could take someone down if he needed to”.
Mr Kanoo denied claims by lawyers for Mr Al Nazi that his friend cursed at the defendants before the attack after they shouted at him across the street asking for a cigarette.
“That’s not what I recall,” he said. “Knowing my friend – and I was close to him for the last two or three years – that’s not something he would have done to anyone. That’s out of character.”
He accepted that his friend was from a wealthy family and told the court that they were aware of the potential threat from robbers targeting watches, money and loitering around cashpoint machines in the capital.
Mr Al Nazi – who on Wednesday admitted manslaughter – and Mr Dilbaro both denied murdering Mr Al Araimi, wounding his friend and attempted robbery.
Trial judge Usha Karu said that Mr Al Nazi’s plea on Wednesday meant that he “accepts that he unlawfully killed Mr Al Araimi, that he stabbed Mr Al Araimi with his own knife that caused his death”.
The trial continues.