South London Press
Friday, 01 June 2012
By Dan Levene
AN ATHLETICS club chief has urged youngsters to take up sport – instead of using guns and knives – after a second man was jailed over the cold-blooded execution of a promising youngster.
Sylvester Akapalara, 17, who was living with a foster family in New Cross, was gunned down inside Heron House, on the Pelican Estate in Peckham by a gang of youths led by David Nyamupfukudza.
After Sylvester had been shot in the neck on December 29, 2010, the gang chased down and stabbed two of his friends in the stairwell of the eight-storey block.
Nyamupfukudza, 19, of Hudson Road, New Cross, was this week given a life sentence and told he would spend at least 26 years behind bars for the murder, including a concurrent sentence of 22 years for the attempted murder of another teenager on the same night.
Sylvester, a 400m runner “of remarkable ability”, according to sentencing Judge Timothy Pontius, was a member of the Herne Hill Harriers.
While training with the club, Sylvester won a silver medal in the under-15s 400m race at the English Schools National Championships and had qualified for the senior level finals.
Club secretary Steve Bosley told the South London Press: “It is boys just like Sylvester who go on to be Olympians. He had the potential and the ambition. You do get a lot of youngsters who get dragged into trouble. But athletics can make a difference.
“I hope the Olympics will mean youngsters see role models so that they can find their potential rather than getting involved in violence.”
Sentencing Nyamupfukudza on Wednesday at the Old Bailey, Judge Pontius told him: “It matters very little for the purposes of sentence why Sylvester Akapalara was shot dead. But it seems likely he was just one of many victims, usually in their teens, who have been targeted in acts of mindless and appalling violence simply because of their membership – or presumed membership – of an opposing gang.
“Now another mother has been left devastated by the violent slaughter of a much-loved son.
“He happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Sodiq Adeojo, 20, of Shurland Gardens, Peckham, was convicted of murder at an earlier trial and is already serving at least 30 years behind bars.
In an impact statement read to the court, Natalie Williams, the daughter of Sylvester’s foster mother, said his death was “a massive loss”.
She said: “We find it hard to celebrate family occasions without Sylvester but we know he has gone to a better place and is sitting with the angels.”
Both killers were members of the notorious Peckham-based Guns, Murder, Girls (GMG) street gang.
Nyamupfukudza had denied murder and attempted murder.
As he was led away to the cells, he told the judge: “I just hope you realise you’ve prosecuted and sentenced an innocent man.”