Leon Forbes was beginning to make a name for himself as a talented young music producer when he was shot dead near his home in in Clapham, south London.
At the age of 21, the father-of-two had reached the finals of the 2002 Mobo Unsung awards for unsigned black artists with his band Ghostt, had formed his own record label and was renting a studio in north London.
On the evening of 6 December 2003 Leon rang his friend and asked him to come round to listen to a new CD he had put together.
His friend arrived at the house in Daley Thompson Way at around 12.15am and they both got into a black Vauxhall Astra owned by Leon’s mother in a nearby car park.
Leon was pulling out of the parking space when his phone rang. He terminated the call and continued to exit the car park. As they drove towards the exit they passed a man standing in front of a stationary car with its headlights on.
Moments later shots were fired into the rear of the car, hitting Leon in the neck. He slumped over the steering wheel and the car crashed into other vehicles.
Two cars, one red and the second silver and shaped like a Saab, were seen leaving the car park shortly after the shooting.
Leon’s friend fled back to the house in Daley Thompson way to alert Leon’s family, who pulled Leon from the car and gave first aid until the emergency services arrived. Leon was taken to hospital but died at 9.20am on 7 December 2003. His second child was born a few months later.
Detectives investigating the shooting arrested five people in 2003 and 2004 but nobody has ever been charged.
The murder prompted Leon’s mother Michelle to team up with another bereaved mother, Lucy Cope, whose son Damian was shot dead in July 2002, to set up the group Mothers Against Guns and call for the government to take more action against gun crime.
Their high-profile lobbying campaign saw the pair meeting Tony Blair in Downing Street and visiting Bill Clinton and former New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg.
Michelle Forbes, who worked as a probation officer, died in 2021 without seeing justice for her son, whose murder remains unsolved.
In an interview with the Evening Standard in 2012 she said she could not understand the “wall of silence” surrounding the shooting. “Someone knows something about this. They are local people, I’m sure. It had to be someone who knew Leon.”
She had previously told how the family believed the murder was connected to Leon’s music. Mrs Forbes said: “Prior to his death, Leon said people were jealous of him – ‘player-haters’ who couldn’t bear to see people making a success of their lives. I told him not to be silly, but he said ‘Trust me’.
“Maybe they thought my son was too full of himself. He was a very confident young man. He said he was going to make it by the time he was 30. He spent every waking moment trying to achieve it.”
In 2022 the Metropolitan Police launched a new appeal for information about the murder.
Detective Chief Inspector Amanda Greig said: “Leon’s family have desperately waited for justice for almost 20 years. You now have the opportunity to give them that. Maybe you were reluctant to come forward at the time for a number of reasons, but allegiances and circumstances might have changed over the last 19 years and you may feel differently about speaking to us now. Please know, that any information you give us will be treated with absolute confidence. If you would like to ensure you remain completely anonymous, please contact the independent charity CrimeStoppers.
“Leon was only 21 years old when he was brutally murdered and he had his whole life ahead of him. He was an up and coming music producer and his career was going from strength to strength, he was renting a music studio in north London and his band reached the finals of the Mobo Unsung awards. He was the proud father of a little girl and he could not wait to meet his second child – but sadly that opportunity was snatched away from him.
“His heartbroken mother Michelle, a former probation officer, was the vice president and co-founder of ‘Mothers against Guns’ and campaigned tirelessly for the Government to impose tougher sentences on gun crimes. She sadly died last year and will not see her son’s killer brought to justice, but you can still give Leon’s family the answers they have patiently waited for by doing the right thing and speaking to us today.”
Although it was 19 years ago that Leon was taken from us, I remember it like yesterday. My memories are so vivid from that night – the smells, the sounds, the terror, the fear of that night when gunmen decided to come and take my brother’s life, leaving him to be found by his mother.
The one thing I cannot get over is the constant memory of my mother and I, taking it in turns trying to give my brother CPR and willing him to breathe. On the 7 December 2003 our lives changed forever and I know it will NEVER go back to how it was. My mother has now since passed and never got to fulfil her promise to Leon, to see those responsible brought to justice. This is often very painful and heartbreaking. I now have to fulfil that promise to her and Leon, I will continue to seek justice and one day face those responsible in court and ask them – WHY?
Leon was young, ambitious, confident and outgoing. He loved his family and friends and most people that met Leon, even for the first time, loved him. As a family we appealing to those who may know who is responsible, any information you have, to come forward and speak the truth. Some of you may even have children the same age Leon was at the time of his murder – 21 years old. Leon would have been 41 on 20 December, but for us as a family he will always be 21 as time has stopped since that day in 2003.
We have waited too long and we need justice to have some closure.Leon’s sister Erica, speaking in 2022
To provide information either call the Met’s Specialist Casework Team on 020 8785 8267 or 101, or contact the independent charity CrimeStoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.