Case: Stalker left free to kill: Arsema Dawit
Arsema Dawit
Thomas Nugusse
Status: Solved
Categories: Crimes of Passion
Case synopsis:

Stalker Thomas Nugusse killed choirgirl Arsema Dawit weeks after her mother told police he had threatened to kill her.

Nugusse, 21, stabbed his 15 year-old victim more than 30 times in the neck in a lift at the block of flats where she lived with her family near Waterloo Station.

The killer had been harassing Arsema for months after she broke up with him because of his controlling and jealous behaviour.

He was arrested minutes after the fatal stabbing, and later suffered severe brain damage in a suicide attempt while on remand in prison, which rendered him mentally unfit to stand trial for murder.

Nugusse was later found to have committed the act which caused Arsema’s death by an Old Bailey jury after a special trial of issue.

The Recorder of London, Judge Peter Beaumont QC, ordered that he be detained at a mental hospital indefinitely under sections 37 and 41 of the Mental Health Act.

He said: 'I have no option but to make a hospital order and a restriction order without limit of time.'

Doctors say he is expected to show a slow gradual improvement but it is unlikely he will ever be able to live independently.

Following the sentencing on May 20, 2009 the Independent Police Complaints Commission announced it would investigate the family’s complaints.

Arsema’s mother Tsehaynesh Medhane had reported Nugusse’s death threats against her daughter to the local police station in Kennington a month before the stabbing on June 2, 2008.

Officers took two weeks to interview him at the Harris Academy school in Bermondsey and were still investigating at the time of the fatal attack.

The Old Bailey heard Nugusse had 'dated' Arsema for two years after they met at St Michael's Orthodox Church in Camberwell.

He claimed that she was really 18 but pretended to be younger when her family arrived in the UK from Eritrea.

Friends later told police he controlled the schoolgirl as if they were married and became convinced she was seeing another boy.

Yorsalem Mnaa said in her statement: 'He didn't like her talking to her friends. He was so jealous he expressly told her not to go to church.'

Arsema DawitArsema (pictured right) ended the relationship after Nugusse hit her in the face in a McDonalds restaurant in Camberwell, south London, on April 16, 2008, for greeting a male friend.

Nugusse came to her home with a 'mediator' for a meeting with Arsema to settle the problem but she told him she was not interested.

He responded by saying he would 'find her' and made repeated threats in the weeks before her death.

Arsema's mother said in a statement: 'He kept threatening her on the phone he would find her and kill her.

'Because we were all worried we went to Kennington Police station to report him and asked them to arrest him.'

Arsema even received a text from Nugusse while she was at the station and it was shown to police.

'He pursued her after this date,' said. 'I phoned him and asked him where he was and he replied on the phone that he would kill her.'

In one phone call, Nugusse told Mrs Medhane: 'How many times are you going to accompany her? I will kill her one day.'

He also told Arsema: 'Do you love me? Because if you don't love me I will kill you.'

Nugusse also became convinced that she was going out with Kipreab Zekarios, a male friend.

On June 2 Nugusse stalked Arsema as she walked home from school.

CCTV footage shows him following her across a zebra crossing near the Matheson Lang Gardens flats in Baylis Rd near Waterloo.

At around 3.30pm, a neighbour heard sounds of an argument on the fourth floor.

Twenty minutes later Annette Simms pressed the lift button on the ground floor and found Arsema lying in a pool of blood inside.

She had been stabbed repeatedly in the neck and the knife handle was still sticking out of her lifeless body.

Arsema's personal items - a birthday card and a notebook - were scattered around her.

Nugusse disposed of his bloodstained long-sleeved t-shirt and walked to the Hungerford Bridge before dialling 999 at around 5.30pm.

The phone call printed below was played to the jury during the short trial.

Nugusse: Okay I want to tell you that I, I had a fight with my girlfriend and I killed my girlfriend so, this is because of...

Operator: Sorry and what did you say has happened to her?

N: I kill my girlfriend.

O: And what's your girlfriend's name?

N: Arsema

O: When did this happen, when did you do this?

N: just happen like er, err just one hour ago... because she cheating me, she had been with me, she been with me for two years.

O: Did you use a weapon or how have you done this?

N: Yeah weapon

O: What type of weapon?

N: knife

O: so you stabbed her?

N: yeah

O: right do you want police to come to where you are now?

N: I'm going to kill myself don't worry

Nugusse was arrested on the Hungerford Bridge minutes later and charged with murder.

Following an earlier unsuccessful suicide bid, he was found hanging by prison officers in his cell on the night of June 24, 2008.

Prosecutor Sarah Whitehouse told the court: 'He had been there for between five and ten minutes and his heart had stopped.

'Prison officers attempted to revive him and he was admitted to intensive care. He survived but in the course of attempting to hang himself the blood supply to his brain had been restricted and that resulted in severe brain damage.'

Nugusse now needs round-the-clock care because of his impaired mental ability.

Miss Whitehouse said: 'He cannot communicate in any meaningful way, would be unable to follow evidence in court, let alone decide whether to plead guilty or not guilty to the charge.'

After the jury returned their verdict, a statement by Arsema's mother was read out to the court.

Mrs Medhane said she lost hope after the death of her daughter and added: 'I have had to seek medical assistance in order to cope.

'I live in constant fear that the same thing will happen again to me and my children.

'My daughter is constantly on my mind and the circumstances of her death keep going round in my head. She was my precious child.

'I feel immobilised by fear and anxiety. With Arsema's death our family life died and the house feels empty and this has affected me and the children as well.

'I feel with her death I died too. It would have been better if the murderer took all our lives instead of only Arsema.'

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