Murdered teenager Jodie Chesney was innocent bystander in 'pathetic' drug turf war, court hears

Phoebe Southworth
Jodie Chesney, 17, was stabbed in the back as she sat on a park bench near St Neot's Road in Romford, East London - PA

Murdered girl scout Jodie Chesney was a "blameless" bystander who got caught up in a "pathetic turf war" between drug dealers, a court heard.

The 17-year-old was stabbed in the back as she sat on a park bench near St Neot's Road in Romford, East London, on the evening of March 1.

Jodie's killer came up behind her as she listened to music and smoked cannabis with her friends. He plunged the blade into her with such force that the knife left an 18cm-deep wound.

She collapsed off the bench, blood pouring from her back. Her distraught boyfriend cradled her in his arms and clutched her hand, begging her to stay awake, the court heard.

The stepfather of one of Jodie's friends, who had rushed to the park in his van, tried to stem the bleeding using her jacket.

Her two assailants fled and she "took her last breath" as the first police car pulled up, jurors were told.

A witness reported seeing a black Vauxhall Corsa with its engine running near the park around the time of the murder, and two males jumping into the car with the driver before it pulled away.

Paramedics took Jodie to hospital and doctors met them halfway, where they performed emergency surgery on the forecourt of a petrol station, but they were unable to save her.

Her lung had collapsed and she died from a combination of shock and haemorrhage, the court heard.

Croatian Manuel Petrovic, 20, and Svenson Ong-a-Kwie, 19, both of Collier Row, Romford, along with a 16-year-old and 17-year-old who cannot be named because of their age, deny murdering Jodie.

They appeared at the Old Bailey this morning for the start of their trial.

Opening the case, prosecutor Crispin Aylett QC said: "Eddie Coyle, Jodie's boyfriend, says one of the two males was noticeably taller than the other. Eddie saw this taller male swing his right arm in the direction of Jodie's back. Jodie screamed. The two males ran off, noiselessly disappearing into the darkness from which they had come.

"Jodie collapsed to the ground. Using a mobile telephone as a torch, one of her friends could see that Jodie had sustained a deep stab wound to her back and she was bleeding heavily.

"None of Jodie's friends had the slightest idea who could have been responsible for this terrible and cowardly attack.

"The attack was so unexpected and so sudden that a number of Jodie's friends had not even noticed the two males who came upon them in the darkness."

Jodie in her Scouts uniform outside 10 Downing Street

Mr Aylett said all four defendants were "to greater or lesser extents" involved in the supply of drugs, and one or more of Jodie's friends had bought cannabis from one or more of them.

"There is, however, nothing to suggest that Jodie was involved in the supply of drugs or that she might have upset anyone," he said.

"Indeed, the evidence of her character, accomplishments and popularity are entirely to the contrary.

"Jodie's father Peter has described her as 'a beautiful, well-liked, fun, young woman who judged no one and loved everyone'. 

"She was a keen student at a local sixth form college and also a member of the Scouts.

"The prosecution suggest that Jodie is unlikely to have been the intended target - more likely is that the intended target was somebody else altogether.

"The drug dealing world is one of turf wars, rivalries and pathetic claims for 'respect'. And when drug dealers fall out, they do not take their problems to the police. Instead, they take matters into their own hands. They are prepared to use serious violence in order to prove whatever point it is that they wish to make.

"The prosecution allege that all four defendants had gone together in Petrovic's car to Harold Hill in order to mete out violence - and not, as Petrovic has claimed, to collect money and drugs.

"The prosecution allege that all four of them were acting together as part of a joint plan to cause at least really serious bodily harm to someone in that park, even if Jodie was not necessarily their intended target.

"The prosecution's case is not dependent on identifying who it was who stabbed Jodie. Instead, it is about identifying which of the four defendants - and the prosecution say all four of them - was a party to that plan.

"If the prosecution are right in saying that Jodie was an entirely blameless individual who got caught up in some quarrel between drug dealers, then her murder was the terrible but predictable consequence of an all too casual approach to the carrying and using of knives."

Flowers left in Harold Hill, Romford, where Jodie died Credit: Heathcliff O'Malley/Heathcliff O'Malley

Jodie lived in Dagenham with her father, stepmother and elder sister Lucy, and was studying for A Levels in psychology, sociology and photography at Havering Sixth Form College.

Her father said she was a dedicated student who loved learning and never missed a lesson.

Four months before her death, Jodie had appeared on the BBC at the Festival of Remembrance.

She marched on stage at the Royal Albert Hall with her fellow scouts in front of an audience including the Queen, Prince Charles, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

Jodie also shared a picture of herself outside 10 Downing Street in her Scouts uniform on Instagram.

She was just a few weeks away from completing a Duke of Edinburgh gold award when she was killed.

Jodie and her 18-year-old boyfriend Mr Coyle, who attended the same college, had been going out for three months.

The day of her murder, she had left college at 2pm and gone home to walk her dog before meeting up with Mr Coyle. They joined friends at Romford railway station and headed to the park in Harold Hill.

Jodie and her friends had been there for a couple of hours when two males entered shortly after 9pm - the taller one through the gate and the shorter vaulting the fence.

"Eddie says the taller youth came up behind Jodie and swung his right arm downwards towards her," said Mr Aylett.

"Eddie could see something black in his hand. Jodie's friend Faye Gibbs says that she heard a 'slashing' sound which she described as 'horrible'. Jodie screamed in pain."

The attackers then ran off towards Retford Road, the court heard.

"Jodie fell from the table that she had been sitting on," said Mr Aylett.

"Eddie caught Jodie as she fell and eased her to the ground. He realised immediately that she had been stabbed.

"Jodie was already bleeding heavily. Eddie was crying and screaming at Jodie to try and keep her awake."

A local resident came running out of her house to see what was going on, calling out "Is everything ok?", to which a voice replied "No, my girlfriend has been stabbed", jurors heard.    

"Jodie, you may think, could not have had the slightest idea of what had happened - still less, why," said Mr Aylett.