A silent “assassin” who shot dead a mother-of-nine and her nephew in their own home has been found guilty of the murders following an unprecedented five trials over four years.
Drug dealer Obina Ezeoke, 28, was intent on a “vendetta of violence” when he killed Annie Ekofo, 53, and psychology student Bervil Ekofo, 21, in East Finchley, north London, on September 15 2016.
Ezeoke, who was in custody throughout, was convicted of the murders by a majority of 11 to one at the Old Bailey on Wednesday.
The verdicts followed a record number of successive trials at the Old Bailey in which jurors failed to deliver verdicts.
The first trial in 2017 collapsed after the then trial judge suffered a bad back mid-way through, two subsequent juries failed to reach verdicts in 2018 and 2019, despite a majority direction.
The fourth trial was abandoned due to the coronavirus lockdown just as the jury was deliberating in March.
The prosecution had called for a fifth trial as soon as possible, despite opposition from the defence who had argued that “enough is enough”.
In previous legal argument, Ezeoke’s lawyer James Scobie QC had said: “We are in uncharted territory. To carry on this case would be oppressive.
“If there is an expression to summarise this case it is really ‘not proven’.
“The reality of it is that is where we are after near on four years of trials.”
“Some might say to give a fifth opportunity was in itself a step too far.
“The system has not been able to produce a result one way or another.
“Is it really right and proper for this defendant to actually have the appalling prospect of a fifth attempt trying to get a conviction over the line? We submit, enough is enough.”
But prosecutor Mark Heywood QC successfully argued the “public interest” in a case “of this exceptional kind and such gravity”.
Jurors were told that Ezeoke had crept into Mrs Ekofo’s home just after dawn and shot her sleeping nephew, who happened to be staying at the time.
When she got up to investigate, Ezeoke shot her too, the court heard.
Mr Heywood described how “an assassin crept noiselessly into a second-floor family home” as six occupants slept.
He said: “The killer moved to his left and into a bedroom. There ahead of him was a young man, sleeping on a thin mattress on the floor under a duvet.
“For the killer this was as good a target as he could expect – a young man of the house of just the right age.
“He crept forward, gun in hand. He raised the muzzle and placed it almost against the back of the sleeping, dreadlocked head.
“And then, with a deliberation and purpose that was as much cowardly as it was murderous, he pulled the trigger.”
After Ezeoke had unleashed “hell”, Mrs Ekofo went into the hall, dressed only in her underwear, jurors were told.
Instead of waving his revolver to scare her off, the killer pulled the trigger for a second time, the court heard.
Mr Heywood told jurors that “cowardly” Ezeoke had gone to the flat deliberately to kill one of the teenage boys in the family as “part of a vendetta of violence”.
He said: “His hate was such that he did not falter when confronted by a second person – he simply took her life as well.
“In fact both lives were innocent. The young man he killed was a cousin, visiting at short notice, for one night only.”
The prosecutor had said there was no doubt the execution-style killings amounted to murder but the “core question” would be whether Ezeoke was involved.
Ezeoke had admitted dealing in Class A drugs, and said he was the victim of a serious assault in 2014, after which he switched to dealing cannabis instead.
The key evidence against him centred around firearms residue found in Ezeoke’s car, which was used in the getaway, and on his top recovered from a female friend’s home.
Ezeoke told successive juries that he had an alibi for time of the shootings.
He claimed his Vauxhall Meriva had been leased from a man who took it back the day before the murder.
He attempted to explain the presence of the gunshot residue saying the vehicle, which was registered under false details, must have been used in a previous shooting.
The fifth jury to try the case deliberated for 41 hours over eight days to find Ezeoke of Cambridge Heath, east London, guilty of two counts of murder.
He was remanded into custody to be sentenced on October 1.
Sally-Anne Russell, from the CPS, said: “This was an execution of two family members within the space of about a minute. Obina Ezeoke’s actions have devastated a family.
“He went to the flat to carry out a revenge attack because of an ongoing feud between himself and another in the household. When he couldn’t find the person he was looking for, he murdered a young man and a mother-of-nine instead. Both victims were entirely innocent.
“Nobody saw exactly how these events unfolded but the prosecution case included evidence of Ezeoke’s control of the car, CCTV footage of the car travelling to and from the scene, as well as a gun case discovered under Ezeoke’s bed, gunshot residue evidence and proof of the ongoing feud between Ezeoke and other members of the family involved.
“Although Ezeoke denied any involvement in the killings, the jury accepted the prosecution case and convicted Ezeoke of both murders. I hope the family and friends of both Annie Besala Ekofo and Bervil Kalikala-Ekofo can be satisfied that justice has now been served.”