The 18-year-old student was walking home from watching a West Ham football match when he was chased and stabbed to death by at least three people. Was he unwittingly caught up in a gang dispute and targeted by mistake? His family are still waiting for answers and justice.
Going to watch West Ham play at the London Stadium was normal for Sami Sidhom and his friends. The 18-year-old football fan, who was in his first year studying history and law at Queen Mary’s University, set off from his family home in Chestnut Avenue in Forest Gate, Newham, at 6pm on Monday, April 16, 2018. It was the last time his father saw him before he was fatally stabbed just yards from their front door.
After watching the match between West Ham and Stoke (which ended 1-1), Sami took a bus to Romford Road and walked towards his home, via Sebert Road, although he did not appear to take the most direct route. After turning left into Cranmer Road, he turned then left again on to Capel Road before crossing into Chestnut Avenue. He then walked down Chestnut Avenue towards his home.
CCTV cameras recorded a silver car approaching the junction of Chestnut Avenue and Capel Road at this time, shortly before 11pm, before three men chase Sami into Chestnut Avenue followed by the silver car.
The stabbing appears to have taken place near the junction with Horace Road, not far from the Sidhom family home. It was not captured on CCTV.
Part of the attack was overheard by witnesses (who are not named in this account). “We were sitting in the upstairs front room watching TV, we had the windows open, we were watching Newsnight,” one witness said in a statement to the inquest into Sami’s death. “I could hear raised voices coming from outside. The main voice was “Help, help me”. I looked out the window in to the street, I saw an argument between two guys, on the other side of the road. Both of the males are facing towards Horace Road. I saw the male behind the victim punch him in the left side of the lower back. I was also aware there was another person on the street to my left. After the punching motion I saw a silver car pull up, the doors of the rear of the car opened, and the person who threw the punch [moved] around the back of the car and got into the driver’s side of the vehicle. I saw he had a black-bladed knife… another man got into the rear passenger side door… and the car drove off.”
Another witness, who was also walking home from the West Ham match, heard male voices, one in anger and one in fear saying “Help me I’ve been stabbed”. This witness saw two cars appear and drive away, and then saw Sami moving towards him near the junction with Horace Road. “I saw his eyes roll… I slowed his fall to the ground.”
Both those witnesses and nearby residents attempted to help Sami, giving first aid, providing towels and calling the emergency services. The police arrived first, followed by paramedics.
Sami’s father also came out of their home on Chestnut Avenue after seeing blue lights outside his window at around 11pm. “I called Sami but he didn’t answer his phone,” Samer Sidhom said. “I then walked outside and saw a male outside on the flaw with police and paramedics around him. I could see this was my son.”
Doctors opened Sami’s chest at the scene in an attempt to save his life but he was pronounced dead at 11.27pm.
The postmortem revealed he had been stabbed twice in the back, to the right side, causing a wound to his liver. He had also been stabbed several times in the buttocks – a type of injury sometimes described as a “punishment” wound that has been used by gangs in London. The pathologist, Dr Ben Swift, concluded death was caused by blood loss. He also found evidence that more than one knife was used, based on different dimensions of some of the wounds, though most appeared to be similar in size. There were no marks or injuries of a defensive or offensive nature, suggesting he was taken by surprise and did not fight back.
By the time of the inquest in March 2022, nearly four years later, nobody had been charged with the murder.
The Metropolitan Police told the hearing they had arrested ten suspects and wanted to arrest a further suspect who had left the country shortly after the murder and was believed to be in Somalia.
DI John Marriott described this suspect as “very much a person of interest” but suggested it would be difficult to bring him back to the UK to face trial.
The motive for the attack also remained clear, the detective said, with one possibility being that Sami – who was of good character and had never been involved with the police – may have unwittingly been caught up in a gang or drug dispute.
DI Marriott told the inquest: “There has probably been some sort of incident in Avenue Road previous to this which I believe is some sort of gang or drug dispute which has ended in violence. Whether Sami has seen that occurring and has taken a strange route towards his own home to avoid trouble, I can’t say. Unfortunately trouble followed him.”
The inquest returned a verdict of unlawful killing. Assistant coroner Ian Wade said: “Sami was in the wrong place at the wrong time. It was a determined attack, all the injuries were to his back, he was unarmed and fleeing for his life and was set upon criminally, wickedly, and maliciously. I am quite satisfied that it was deliberate and unlawful.”
In October 2023 a further appeal was issued, in which detectives urged an anonymous person who had supplied several tip-offs about the case to speak directly to the police.
DCI Mark Rogers said: “I believe people in the Newham community know who was responsible for the murder. I understand how daunting it can be to come forward after such a terrible crime, but, hopefully now some time has passed, someone will be brave enough to come forward and tell us what they know. Sami’s family have been devastated by the senseless loss of their son. They have had only questions, but no justice. I urge anyone who has information about Sami’s murder, but in particular the person who has reached out anonymously before to provide key information, to contact us.”
A £20,000 reward has been offered for information leading to the conviction of those responsible. Call detectives on 020 8345 3715 or, if you want to remain anonymous, contact the Crimestoppers charity on 0800 555 111.
My son’s life was taken away for no reason whatsoever. It’s so cruel, he did nothing wrong. If you’re out there, and you know who these people are, I plead with you to do the right thing. Sammy didn’t deserve this and we need to have justice. If these killers continue walking free, they can just do it to someone else. There is a reward of £20,000 being offered and you can provide information anonymously. Please contact anonymously, we need your help.Sami’s father Samer Sidhom, speaking in 2023