Afghan asylum seeker convicted of murdering 'peacemaker' had killed before

Lawangeen Abdulrahimzai was previously convicted of murder in Serbia

Lawangeen Abdulrahimzai, 21, an Afghan asylum seeker who has been found guilty of the murder of Thomas Roberts. PA
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

An Afghan asylum seeker who stabbed a “peacemaker” to death following an argument over a scooter has been found guilty of murder.

Lawangeen Abdulrahimzai killed 21-year-old Thomas Roberts outside a Subway sandwich shop in Bournemouth, Dorset, after he intervened during a dispute over a hired Beryl scooter between Abdulrahimzai and Mr Roberts' friend in March last year.

Abdulrahimzai, 21, who had previously been convicted of murder in Serbia, had admitted manslaughter in the case.

But the jury at Salisbury Crown Court took 12 hours to find him guilty of murder on Monday with a majority verdict.

Mr Roberts was acting as the “peacemaker” in the early hours of March 12, 2022 after his friend James Medway got into an argument with Abdulrahimzai.

Mr Medway wanted to take an e-scooter Abdulrahimzai had claimed for himself and left propped against the window of the shop on Old Christchurch Road.

Screenshot taken from a Dorset Police video that was shown to the jury, showing Lawangeen Abdulrahimzai, on an e-scooter in Bournemouth. PA

The confrontation, which lasted only 24 seconds, saw Mr Roberts slap Abdulrahimzai in the face.

Abdulrahimzai then revealed the knife he had hidden between the two pairs of trousers he was wearing and stabbed Mr Roberts twice before running away into nearby woodland.

He buried the knife in the woodland before burning the trousers, jacket, and Afghan flag he was wearing as a scarf.

However he dropped his mobile phone as he fled and it was traced to his home address.

Abdulrahimzai, who lived in Poole at the time of the offence, arrived in the UK in December 2019 and told the authorities he was 16 when he was arrested, but the court has since determined that he is now 21.

In his defence, Abdulrahimzai said he had no intention to kill or cause really serious harm to Mr Roberts, that he “acted instinctively”, “feared for his life”, and felt he had to defend himself.

The court heard his parents had been killed and he had been tortured by the Taliban so he carried a knife for his own protection.

Abdulrahimzai will be sentenced at Salisbury Crown Court on Wednesday.

Detective Chief Inspector Simon Huxter of Dorset Police said: “First and foremost our thoughts are with the family and loved ones of Thomas Roberts.

“Nothing will ever make up for their tragic loss and I would like to pay tribute to them for the dignified way they have conducted themselves throughout the investigation and court process.

“I also pay tribute to those that came to Tommy's aid in the aftermath of the incident.

“This case serves as another reminder of the truly devastating consequences of knife crime.

“Lawangeen Abdulrahimzai's decision to go out in possession of a knife on the night of this murder and his utterly indefensible decision to use that weapon has seen a much-loved young man's life cruelly taken away.”

Abdulrahimzai described during the trial how his parents were killed when the Taliban planted bombs at his family home, as they suspected them of colluding with American forces.

Abdulrahimzai said he was then captured and tortured by the Taliban for up to three weeks before being dumped and left for dead on the side of a road.

The jury was shown photographs of scarring all over his body which he said was caused by the torture, during which he was beaten with the butts of rifles and injured with knives.

However, a passer-by rescued him, tended to his wounds and put him back in touch with his uncle, who arranged for him to leave Afghanistan.

He first went to Serbia via Pakistan and Iran in October 2015, before arriving in Norway with a friend he considered to be an adopted brother.

Mr Abdulrahimzai then left Norway and spent some time in Italy and Serbia, where it was revealed on Monday he had also been convicted of murder.

He applied for asylum in Norway, but when his application was refused in December 2019, he left out of fear of being deported to Afghanistan. He arrived in the UK in Poole, Dorset, in the same month.

Updated: January 23, 2023, 4:50 PM