Father-of-two Ricky Smith was stabbed to death in front of his partner in an unprovoked attack in Highbury, north London, on Friday October 3, 1997.
The couple were walking home from a kebab house when they were approached by the killer in Highbury Park near Hamilton Park just before midnight.
Ricky, a 25 year-old floor fitter, was immediately stabbed in the chest and died on arrival at Whittington Hospital. His murder remains unsolved.
The suspect ran into Aubert Park, Avenell Road and then Conewood Street opposite the old Arsenal football ground. Detectives later found a blue baseball cap, a ‘Chicago Bulls’ jacket and two carrier bags – one green with a ‘Fenwicks’ logo and the other white with a ‘Wilkies’ logo. They also recovered a lock knife with a three and a half inch blade with a yellow £9.95 price sticker attached.
In October 2011 new forensic analysis of clothing found at the scene allowed officers to link the murder to the stabbing of another man two hours earlier in Harlesden, northwest London.
At around 9.15pm Juan Marais was heading to a party with a carrier bag containing cans of beer. As he walked along College Road a man walking behind him asked for the time before pulling out a knife and stabbing him in the chest and abdomen. The man then picked up the victim’s bag and walked away towards Kensal Rise station.
Mr Marais suffered serious injuries but went on to make a full recovery.
It was a long time ago but I can clearly remember what happened. I’d moved to London from South Africa and I’d been walking to a friends’ house for a BBQ when a guy asked me the time. As I looked down at my watch he just went for me. At first I thought I’d been punched but as I got away I looked down and saw the blood all down my shirt and my jeans. I made it to an off-license where the shop owner looked at my wounds and tried to stop the bleeding with her hands. I know she kept talking to me but I was finding it so hard to breath I was starting to panic. I know I was very lucky to have survived. Lucky that God saved me and gave me another chance. It’s amazing that after all this time my case has been linked to Ricky’s. I was just 21 at the time and Ricky was only 25. I had another chance at life but he didn’t get the same chance. I’m hoping that by speaking out we can finally achieve some closure for Ricky’s family.”Juan Marais, speaking in 2011
The suspect in both attacks is described as a tall black man aged between 18 to 30 years.
Appealing for more information in 2011, Detective Inspector Colette Smyth of the Homicide and Serious Crime Command based in Hendon said: “Ricky was a devoted father of a ten-year-old girl and a 14-month-old boy. His young son grew up never knowing Ricky and his devoted parents and family have had to cope for 14 years without him. Ricky had just started a new career as a specialist floor fitter when his life was tragically cut short in what appears to be a completely unprovoked attack.
“The suspect did not utter a word before producing a knife and stabbing Ricky in the chest. His family and friends have had over a decade of unanswered questions and have had to find ways to explain his untimely death to his devastated children. Someone holds the key to helping us solve this. With DNA evidence we can easily eliminate or identify anyone put forward by the public. We are determined to hold the perpetrator to account and to achieve closure for the family of Ricky and Mr Marais.”
In September 2012 the case was featured on the BBC’s Crimewatch programme. Detectives revealed that a man went to the scene the day after Ricky’s murder and asked about the items abandoned in Conewood Street. He said he would contact police but never did.
DI Smyth said: “I am appealing for witnesses and in particular the man who went to retrieve the items to please come forward.
“I want people to link Ricky’s murder in Islington and the attack on Mr Marais in Harlesden with the description of the clothing and suspect. I can’t believe that over the last 15 years someone out there does not know who carried out these attacks. Please come forward with any information.”
The Incident Room at Hendon can be contacted on 020 8358 0100. Crimestoppers can be contacted anonymously on 0800 555 111.
There is not a day that goes by when we don’t think about Ricky. He’s in our thoughts every moment and it’s almost impossible to imagine that it all happened so many years ago.
Our grandchildren have grown up without their dad and we want to know why this has happened. We still go over and over the events of that night and can make no sense of it. Ricky was a decent and hard-working man with lovely family and friends. He didn’t deserve to have his life taken away and his children didn’t deserve to grow up without him by their side.Ricky’s father, Keith Smith