The court hears the killer was "shot and tortured" after being drafted into the Eritrean army aged 12
LONDON -- A jury has ruled that an illiterate Eritrean who was granted asylum in Britain in 2019 murdered a complete stranger in a random stabbing attack on one of the men two years laterLondonbusiest commercial areas.
Tedi Fanta Hagos, 26, has been found mentally unfit to stand trial for the murder of Steve Dempsey, 60, who was fatally stabbed while walking past a Microsoft store in Oxford Circus, central London, on July 1, 2021 .
But on Wednesday, after just 20 minutes of deliberation, a jury at the Old Bailey ruled Fanta committed the "act of murder" and Judge Michael Topolski said the only appropriate sentence was an indefinite hospital order.
Topolski said, "This defendant launched a random and totally unprovoked attack" on Dempsey, adding, "Had it not been for the courageous actions of bystanders to stop this attack," he had no doubt he would have attacked others.
The judge said Fanta was "untreated, poorly cared for and very dangerous" at the time of the attack.
Fanta, who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, is being held at Ashworth High Security Psychiatric Hospital in Merseyside.
Topolski also publicly praised both skaters, recommending that they be paid £750 each for their "brave" actions.
The court heard Fanta, who arrived in the UK in 2014, already had a criminal record for criminal damage, assaulted a police officer and a first responder and was out on bail for owning a saw at the time of Dempsey's murder.
The court heard Dempsey's sister Kathleen, who lives in Italy, received a missed call from him after he was stabbed.
She said she didn't call back and only found out the next day that he had died.
“The shock was terrible and I was overcome with pain. I felt like I couldn't breathe," she said in a victim statement read in court.
Fanta, who was granted asylum in 2019, was living in the Welsh city of Swansea at the time of the attack.
A volunteer at the Swansea shelter, who knew Fanta well, gave a statement to police saying she had noticed a "rapid deterioration" in her mental health in the weeks leading up to the attack.
Patrick Upward, defending himself, told the court his client's parents died in Eritrea when he was a child and he was drafted into the Eritrean army at the age of 12.
He said he was shot and tortured while in the army before eventually defecting, spending time in Zimbabwe before crossing the Sahara and being tortured again in Libya.
"By then the damage was done": defender
Upward said: "Eventually it made its way to Britain via a detour through Europe. He was eventually granted refugee status. But by then the damage had already been done.”
The court heard Fanta traveled by train from Swansea to London, then visited the Ethiopian Embassy before walking through Hyde Park and Mayfair before reaching Oxford Street around 7pm.
The jury were shown CCTV footage of Fanta wearing a red top, sweatshirt and gloves, walking near Oxford Circus on a hot summer's day.
Shortly before 8 p.m. He stood in front of the Microsoft Store and watched the shoppers walk by.
Moments later, he suddenly lunged at Dempsey, stabbing him multiple times as he ran into the street and tried to flee.
A double-decker bus was forced to stop and onlookers watched in horror as Fanta climbed onto Dempsey and continued to stab him.
Prosecutor Caroline Carberry, KC, told the jury: “His victim could have been anyone close to him in central London that day. Unfortunately for Stephen Dempsey and his family, he was."
The jury was shown footage of two skaters, Injesh Khadka and his friend Jay Verceles, both 21, trying to stop the attack by hitting Fanta in the head with their skateboards.
"It occurred to me that it could be a terrorist attack"
Carberry read a statement that Verceles gave to police, in which he said: "Injesh and I looked at each other in disbelief. We knew we had to act. There were a lot of people there, but they couldn't do anything. I didn't think about the consequences. It occurred to me that it could be a terrorist attack.”
He added: "Injesh threw his skateboard at him and I aimed mine at the back of his head. I didn't mean to mortally wound him, I just wanted to stop him. I think the hits from our skateboards may have knocked him out a bit.
Verceles said: "Some people were filming with their phones. I don't think it was very helpful. Help or stay out of the way.”
Khadka said in her statement to police, "I quickly analyzed what was going on and realized that because I had a skateboard I was in the best position to help... If I didn't stop, the man [Dempsey ] hurt more or hurt other people."
Fanta was beaten unconscious and unarmed, and when he regained consciousness a minute later, Khadka held him in a choke hold until security guards and then police arrived and arrested the attacker.
Khadka said, "I'm not trained in martial arts and I only know one choke from the UFC."
The jury heard that the two skaters were so shocked and traumatized by the incident that they left the scene immediately and were only found after a police call.
Several witnesses, including police officers, testified what Fanta said after his arrest.
One officer, Gary May, said: "He was rambling and it was hard to make out what he was saying, but I caught the line, 'You're making me gay. I am not gay. Blacks are pure.”
Dempsey underwent emergency surgery but died shortly before midnight.
May said he woke Fanta up in his cell at Charing Cross police station at 1.20am and told him he was being charged with murder.
May said, "He said, 'What?' He didn't seem concerned or apologetic and fell right back asleep."
Carberry read a statement from Maria Nicholas, a volunteer at a drop-in center at St David's in Swansea, who tried to help Fanta when he arrived in town.
She said: "He said he arrived in the country in August 2014 and it took five years for his asylum application to be granted... He is illiterate and has no formal education. He never had a job.”
Nicholas said Fanta had been homeless for a time before he was given accommodation - a one-bedroom flat - by council in the Ravenhill area of Swansea.
She said Fanta also told her he had been tortured by Eritrean soldiers, but said he never wanted to talk about it.
Nicholas said she noticed a "rapid deterioration" in Fanta's mental health a few weeks before Dempsey's death.
"He said, 'White people follow me,' and he talked to himself, sometimes in his own language," said Nicholas, who said he knew he'd been dissected while living in Newham, east London, in 2020.
She said she saw him with a Swansea Council social worker in late June 2021 and he had shown signs of paranoia, saying: 'You're following me. The animals are there.”
Nicholas said she discussed an "action plan" with the social worker, but on July 1, 2021, she received a call from an official at the Ethiopian Embassy in London saying Fanta was there.
She said: "I said that Tedi is not doing very well and he is struggling with his mental health and he is not doing well. I was concerned that he had gone to London.
A report released on Tuesday by the Refugee Council (pdf) said 1,509 people from Eritrea arrived in Britain between January and September 2022 after crossing the English Channel in small boats.
The same report states that Eritreans have a 98% asylum-granting rate.