‘My son was shot in a case of mistaken identity but the press made it feel like he was on trial too’

Mother of innocent young man questions media’s coverage of murder inquiry as five men are sent to prison for fatal shooting near playground

Friday, 20th May — By Anna Lamche

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Up to 200 friends and family attended Imani’s funeral procession

THE mother of a murdered young man has criticised coverage of her son’s death, saying a media circus played up “stereotypes” and gave “false perceptions” of the circumstances surrounding his killing.

The Old Bailey was told unequivocally that Imani Allaway-Muir was killed in a case of mistaken identity and had the misfortune of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

After the gruelling 11-week trial, his mother, Keetha Allaway, told the Tribune: “I think the media needs to take a second thought when they’re reporting stuff. Imani was killed July 4 2020, and we’re only now getting papers that are writing it in a way to prove he’s innocent.

“He wasn’t on trial but it almost seems like he was.”

Keetha Allaway: ‘Imani had just turned up. He was totally oblivious: he didn’t know these men’

On Thursday last week, Demetrios Kyriacou, 35, was found guilty of Mr Allaway-Muir’s murder, along with Nathaniel Reece, 41, who pleaded guilty to murder on the second day of a trial.

James Nicholson, 36, Matthew Hardy, 35, and Darren Dredge, 40, were all found guilty of manslaughter. Three other men who were arrested in connection to the inquiry were not charged.

The court heard that on the day of Mr Allaway-Muir’s death, Mr Kyriacou was robbed by four unknown men, who took his Rolex watch, cash and an iPhone and left him with head injuries before driving off.

When police arrived on the scene, Mr Kyriacou refused to speak to the police about the incident. Shortly after, Mr Kyriacou, along with the other defendants, tracked the stolen property using Apple’s “Find My iPhone” app to Westbourne estate near Roman Way.

Once the men had identified the location, they drove to the area and encircled it.

A loaded gun was collected en-route. Mr Kyriacou and Mr Reece walked down an alleyway towards a group of people, where “Find My iPhone” indicated the stolen items were located.

Ms Allaway and her son Imani

By coincidence, Mr Allaway-Muir had just arrived at Westbourne estate.

Detectives established the 22-year-old had nothing to do with Mr Kyriacou’s robbery.

“Imani was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time,” police later said.

Mr Reece mistook Mr Allaway-Muir for the thief and opened fire, shooting him four times before running from the scene.

When emergency services arrived, they found Mr Allaway-Muir near the entrance of a children’s playground close to the shooting.

Despite their efforts to save him, he was pronounced dead 30 minutes after he had been shot.

“It was a children’s park, it was a sunny day. Imani had just turned up. He was totally oblivious: he didn’t know these men,” said Ms Allaway.

In the weeks and months following his death, many news outlets dubbed Mr Allaway-Muir’s murder a “revenge shooting,” despite the fact he had not robbed anyone.

“We’ve been so frustrated because all the headlines have always been ‘Rolex Robbery’ – no one stipulated his innocence,” Ms Allaway said.

Imani Allaway-Muir

It has taken almost two years for the media to reflect the reality of the case, Ms Allaway said.

“The newspapers do read totally differently now. And that’s meant everything to us because ‘Revenge Rolex Robbery’ is not saying how it went,” Ms Allaway said.

She said media coverage “gave a false perception of why Imani was killed. Being a young black boy in society today, there’s already so many stereotypes attached to that.

“The backlash off some headlines got such a negative response – people were almost saying my son deserved it without really knowing the facts,” Ms Allaway said.

“That’s really hard when you’re grieving the loss of your child who’s been murdered, who you know was killed innocently.”

She said that the Tribune had been the only newspaper that she trusted to report on the case properly and give Imani’s loved ones a proper voice.

Ms Allaway said it was “really hard to fight his innocence. It’s almost as though Imani was on trial for something he genuinely didn’t do.”

She said media outlets need to “be mindful of headlines especially: try and dig and get the ultimate facts. Be mindful of that family’s lost one – it just shows a bit of respect to that person who has been killed.”

The day after the trial, Ms Allaway said she was “very grateful for the five convictions that we had” but was “tearful” at the thought that more people could have been involved in her son’s death but would now never face a murder charge.

“I think in murder cases, especially where there are multiple defendants, the jury should be given several options to consider, other than murder or manslaughter as they equally all played a significant role in the murder of my son,” she said.

Of the defendants who were convicted, she said: “It’s a seedy, dark world they’re coming from and my son paid the ultimate price for something he never did.”

She said she was very grateful to the Met Police and the prosecuting barristers for all their hard work on the case – and spoke of how hard it had been to sit through the court case each day.

“There’s been a lot of tears,” she said. “It’s been a rough 12 weeks. Everything just hit us again today – it kind of feels like we’ve lost Imani all over again.

“When your son is murdered, you’re robbed of so much,” said Ms Allaway, who arrived on the scene as Imani was being treated by the emergency services.

“I wasn’t allowed to touch him, hold him, feel him – nothing. No mother wants to see their child die. That will haunt me for the rest of my life.”

Ms Allaway said she now wants Imani to be remembered as “the funny, lovely, family-oriented person that he was” – “the joker, full of charisma”, adding: “Ultimately, he just loved his family, and we will never forget him.

“I will speak his name every day until the day I die.”

Detective Chief Inspector Neil John, from the Met’s Specialist Crime Command, said: “There is never an excuse for violence, especially violence using an illegal firearm, and everyone in the Met remains committed to tackling violence in all its forms and removing dangerous weapons, and those who carry them, from the streets of London.”

‘Horrific act of violence’

Detective Chief Inspector Neil John said: “Imani was a young man who had his whole life ahead of him, but by simply being in the wrong place, at the wrong time, he was tragically killed in a horrific act of violence that took place in broad daylight.”

Demetrios Kyriacou

Nathaniel Reece

He added: “Kyriacou had refused the police’s help after the robbery and decided to take matters into his own hands, recruiting his friends to take part in his deadly revenge plan.

“The joint actions of these men resulted in the execution of Imani, who paid with his life for a robbery he had no involvement in.”

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