Two teenagers have been found guilty of murdering girl scout Jodie Chesney who was fatally knifed in an east London park.
Family and friends of the 17-year-old schoolgirl told Sky News how Jodie was attacked despite not “doing anything wrong” and how they have been unable to come to terms with her death.
Jodie was attacked while talking and listening to music with a group of friends in Amy’s Park in Harold Hill, Romford, on 1 March.
She was pronounced dead on the way to the hospital.
Svenson Ong-a-Kwie, 19, and a 17-year-old boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, have been convicted at the Old Bailey.
Jodie’s family shouted “yes” as the first verdict was returned.
Co-defendants, Manual Petrovic, 20, and a 16-year-old boy, who also cannot be named, were cleared of murder after the jury deliberated for less than six hours.
The trial heard Jodie was unlikely to have been the intended target of what is thought to have been a drug dispute.
Clarice Sharp, a close friend of Jodie’s who was in the park that night, told Sky News she still has nightmares.
She told Sky News: “I could see Jodie quickly turn… and then there were just screams, very high pitched in pain screams. I think everyone went into shock… because it was so dark we couldn’t see what had happened, we couldn’t properly see if the people were still around or if they’d left.”
Sharp lifted up Jodie’s coat and using the torch on her phone saw her friend was bleeding.
“I checked her back and there was just blood…. we was just trying to make sure she stayed awake, obviously that didn’t happen but we was trying our best.
“To see one of your closest friends like that in front of you, honestly kills you, it shattered me, it was horrible.”
She struggles to understand why the attack happened.
“We wasn’t doing anything wrong, we wasn’t bothering no one, we didn’t have no arguments.”
A post-mortem was carried out on 3 March by pathologist Dr Ashley Fegan-Earl, who found the cause of death to be an 18cm knife wound.
It was on the right side of her back, and passed through her skin, muscle, between the ribs and through a lung.
Detective Chief Inspector Dave Whellams from the Metropolitan Police told Sky News he was unsure the family would ever get closure on why their loved one was taken away from them.
He said: “The wound Jodie suffered was horrific and you can’t do that sort of thing without thinking you’re going to kill someone.
“Will the family ever find out why? I don’t think so.”
Speaking after the verdicts were returned, Mr Whellams said: “It could have been anybody’s daughter… She was just an ordinary girl and that’s the tragedy.”
Peter Chesney, Jodie’s father, says Jodie’s killing still feels like a bad dream.
“I’ve not come to terms with it yet, even though it’s been so long,” he said. “Some days I can’t get out of bed, I’m getting better, I’ve got to be strong for my other daughter Lucy.
“I’ve gone through all emotions about whether I could have done something different that night, but she was just a young girl, out with her friends, living her life.”
Wiping away tears, Jodie’s stepmother, Joanne Chesney, says the family will never be the same again.
“It’s ruined our lives, it’s literally taken away everything. Our lives basically ended as we know it, that night,” she said.
Jodie’s uncle, Reverend Dave Chesney, a vicar at an East London church, said it had been an incredibly painful year.
He said: “Never in my wildest dreams of nightmares did I think I’d be taking my niece’s funeral. We have lost someone beautiful and so has the world.”
After her death, Jodie’s father Peter set up a charity – the Jodie Chesney Foundation – aimed at trying to steer young people away from knife crime.
The court heard how Ong-a-Kwie had been knifed six months before and was looking for those who attacked him on the day.
Prosecutor Crispin Aylett QC told jurors that the defendants took a “casual approach to violence” in an environment where knife crime was “routine”.
At least three knives were seized during the investigation. None were confirmed as the murder weapon.
Mr Chesney said: “Unless you’re living under a rock, you can see there’s a knife crime problem, we just want to help and in Jodie’s name, you know? Just carry on her legacy, that’s what I want to do.
“It’s not just about raising awareness, it’s about getting in there, getting into people’s heads to change this culture that is taking our kids away, right? I want to be a part of that.”
In a tribute on its website, he described his daughter as a “beautiful person” who was just “blossoming into a wonderful young woman” when her life was cut short.
He said: “She was a beautiful, well-liked, fun young woman who judged no-one and loved everyone.
“As a little girl she was very shy, but her confidence grew from strength to strength as she got older.”
Mr Chesney added that his daughter “wore her heart on her sleeve” and that her “infectious laugh would light up any room”.