An Afghan asylum seeker who stabbed to death an aspiring Royal Marine has been jailed for life with a minimum term of 29 years.
Thomas Roberts, 21, was stabbed to death by Lawangeen Abdulrahimzai, also 21 – who duped Border Force by posing as a 14-year-old boy – during an argument over an e-scooter last year in Bournemouth.
Abdulrahimzai had posed as a young Afghan orphan in order to gain entry into the UK in 2019, but in reality he was a 19-year-old man who was wanted by police in Serbia for shooting two people dead in an apparent argument over people smuggling.
Passing sentence today, Judge Paul Dugdale described the fatal stabbing as an ‘act of extreme, senseless violence’.
Lawangeen Abdulrahimzai, 21, posed as a 14-year-old boy to dupe Border Force officials
He murdered Thomas Roberts, 21, during an argument over an e-scooter in Bournemouth town centre
The double-killer who tricked his way into UK
Lawangeen Abdulrahimzai was sentenced to a 20-year prison sentence in his absence following a trial over the killing in Serbia, a preliminary hearing for the UK court case heard.
Prosecutor Nic Lobbenberg KC said: ‘Between July 31 and August 1 in 2018, during the evening in Dobrinci – near the motorway – he murdered two people also from Afghanistan.
‘The name he was using was Huan Yasin.’
Mr Lobbenberg KC said Afghans were staying in a shed in the area when an argument broke out over trafficking.
‘The defendant arrived and an argument broke about the business of transporting migrants.
‘He was armed with an automatic assault rifle, two others had pistols… one of the group said ‘who is the smuggler?’ and then aimed their weapons at the victims
‘He shot 18 rounds of a 7.62 calibre Kalashnikov.
‘It’s a military weapon with great firepower and rapid rate of fire.
‘The range of the shooting was said to be relatively short, three to 10 metres.’
Mr Lobbenberg KC said the killer did not move position and fired six rounds into each victim, with some bullets hitting their heads.
‘An enormous number found their target’, he said.
Abdulrahimzai, who fled Serbia, was later identified by a taxi driver who drove him away from the scene, it was heard.
The taxi driver said he was ‘sweating’ and ‘showing signs of anxiety’, with the court also hearing he got the weapon from ‘gypsies’.
In November 2020 he was convicted of murder in his absence by a Serbian court, having been wanted in the country since the attacks.
He was understood to be 15 at the time of the killings, it was heard.
He told Salisbury Crown Court: ‘I sentence on the basis that Mr Abdulrahimzai was at all times the aggressor that night and by his behaviour created a situation that led to Thomas Roberts’ death. Over and above that, he was looking for trouble.”
On March 12, 2022, you murdered Thomas Roberts, a man you had never met before.
‘You spent 26 seconds of your life with him, at the end of which you stabbed him fatally twice to the chest with a large knife you routinely carried with you.
‘You started the conflict and throughout you were the threatening aggressor.
‘In seconds you took the life of a thoroughly decent man with a bright future who was loved greatly by so many people.
‘Your momentary act of extreme, senseless violence has left a family with a tragic loss that they will feel for the rest of their lives.’
Earlier, Mr Roberts’ father Philip described how his son’s death has left ‘a terrible void’.
Giving a victim impact statement, he said: ‘I miss him very much in so many ways – his struggle to get up for work at 5.30am, I miss having his help fixing things at home, I miss all his friends coming to the house, I miss his lovely girlfriend coming to stay with him.
‘Tommy is my only son, I always wanted a son and he has been taken away from me, leaving a terrible void. I miss him every day, every hour, every minute. Now I ask justice is served.’
Other close family members also addressed the court to describe the pain of losing their relative – who had been waiting to find out if he had a place in the commandos when his life was ‘cut short’.
His mother, Dolores Wallace-Roberts, said: ‘My heart bleeds, broken-hearted knowing that you are not here anymore.
‘I will never see you, as a father with your children, a handsome husband to your future wife – and for me, I will always have this emptiness.
‘I always wanted to be a grandmother to your future children one day, but now it’s just a glimpse in the clouds.
‘I miss your beautiful face, that deep dimple of yours when you laugh. I miss your cuddles and hugs and telling me why I shrunk! That cheeky face and camera shy, I miss you son with all my heart.’
His partner Gemma Walker, said ‘my world, my life and my purpose has been ripped away’ and that she is ‘trapped in an endless cycle of disbelief’.
A tearful Ms Walker added: ‘Every day I wake up knowing that Tom is no longer in bed lying by my side.
‘Sitting in that hospital room, waiting and praying is the most traumatising thing I have ever had to do. Listening to the doctors declare that they couldn’t save him.
‘It is haunting. I hear it and see it playing on repeat. Being speechless and in utter shock and disbelief.
‘It has physically and mentally broken me. I didn’t get to say goodbye. I didn’t get to say I love you one last time. I didn’t even get to see him. All chances of seeing my boy, my future was ripped away.’
Abdulrahimzai, a ‘knife-obsessed’ former drug dealer, had fled Serbia after shooting dead two men and being sentenced to 20 years in jail, but his previous convictions were not marked on any police databases or intelligence systems.
Armed police arresting Abdulrahimzai for murdering Mr Roberts in Bournemouth
He arrived in Poole, Dorset, on a Brittany Ferries service from Cherbourg in France on Boxing Day 2019, and was allowed into the UK after telling officials he was a child whose parents were killed by the Taliban.
Mr Roberts was acting as the ‘peacemaker’ in the early hours of March 12, 2022, after his friend James Medway got into an argument with Abdulrahimzai.
Mr Medway wanted to take an e-scooter Abdulrahimzai had claimed for himself and left propped against the window of the Subway sandwich shop in Old Christchurch Road.
The confrontation, which lasted only 24 seconds, saw Mr Roberts slap Abdulrahimzai in the face.
Abdulrahimzai then revealed the knife he had hidden between the two pairs of trousers he was wearing and stabbed Mr Roberts twice before running away into nearby woodland.
He buried the knife in the woods before burning the trousers, jacket, and Afghan flag he was wearing as a scarf.
However, he dropped his mobile phone as he fled and it was traced to his home address.
In the months before the incident, Abdulrahimzai shared pictures of himself posing with a knife about 10in long on the social media and video sharing app TikTok.
He had been seen carrying a knife by his foster parent, who had warned him not to, and had also been warned by police and social workers about the dangers of carrying a knife.
The asylum seeker, seen here on bus CCTV, broke down in tears and claimed his parents were killed by the Taliban and detailed the alleged torture he endured
The Afghan national was today convicted of the murder of aspiring Royal Marine Thomas Roberts (above), 21, outside a Subway sandwich shop in Bournemouth on March 12 last year, having stabbed him twice in the chest with a ’10cm blade’
Abdulrahimzai told the court that he carried a knife because he was ‘fearing’ for his life because there were people from Afghanistan who wanted to kill him, and he had also had death threats in Bournemouth.
The defendant said he posted photos of his knife on TikTok to get followers from ‘people out there liking knives’.
In his defence, Abdulrahimzai said he had no intention to kill or cause really serious harm to Mr Roberts – he ‘acted instinctively’, said he ‘feared for his life’, and felt he had to defend himself.
After the verdict was delivered at Salisbury Crown Court, prosecutor Nic Lobbenberg revealed Abdulrahimzai had been previously convicted of murdering two people in Serbia.
He was found guilty of two counts of murder as well as a related firearm offence in 2020 following a trial in his absence, having already fled Serbia.
He had been sentenced to 20 years in prison for the offences, which took place between July 31 and August 1 2018.
Details about his journey to safety through Europe were also revealed in court.
The triple killer first headed to Serbia through Pakistan and Iran in October 2015, before arriving in Norway later that month with a friend he considered to be like an adopted brother.
A police cordon outside the Subway sandwich shop on Old Christchurch Road in Bournemouth
The police cordoned off Horseshoe Common in Bournemouth following the fatal stabbing in March last year
Abdulrahimzai then left Norway and spent some time in Italy and Serbia. He applied for asylum in Norway, but when his application was refused in December 2019, he left out of fear of being deported back to Afghanistan.
Following the sentencing, Detective Chief Inspector Simon Huxter, of Dorset Police’s Major Crime Investigation Team, said: ‘Our thoughts remain with the family and loved ones of Thomas Roberts and I want to thank them again for the dignified way they have conducted themselves throughout the investigation and court proceedings.
‘I would also like to thank all those from Dorset Police and the prosecution team from the Crown Prosecution Service, who have worked tirelessly to achieve justice for Tommy and his family.
‘Tommy’s family and loved ones have suffered an unspeakable loss as a result of this horrific incident involving a knife.’
DCI Huxter added: ‘Matters relating to the defendant’s background and previous convictions have been shared with relevant agencies to ensure appropriate reviews are carried out and areas for learning are identified.
‘However, my focus over the past nine months as senior investigating officer has been to gather evidence relating to the brutal murder of Thomas Roberts and ensure his killer was brought to justice for this offence.’
A Home Office spokesman said: ‘We welcome the judge’s sentencing in this horrific case. Our deepest sympathies are with the family and friends of Thomas Roberts, whose life has been needlessly cut short.
‘Foreign national offenders who exploit our system and commit crimes here in the UK will face the full force of the law, including deportation at the earliest opportunity for those eligible.
‘The Government is committed to stopping abuse of the immigration system, taking decisive action against those who try to play the system.’
The Home Office has also said it will investigate the ‘red flags missed’ and look at the full circumstances surrounding the case.
Bloodstained journey of Afghan double murderer who shot two people dead with an AK-47 in Serbia but was allowed to claim asylum in the UK before killing again
By Tom Cotterill for MailOnline
He was the drug dealing double murderer whose violent past eluded the Home Office and Border Force agents when he claimed asylum on Boxing Day 2019.
But barely two years after arriving in Poole, Dorset – having duped officials into thinking he was a 14-year-old boy – ‘knife obsessed’ Lawangeen Abdulrahimzai added a third victim to his body count, murdering innocent Thomas Roberts in cold blood.
The 21-year-old Afghan national stabbed the aspiring Royal Marine to death during an argument over an e-scooter in Bournemouth town centre in March last year.
And on Monday, Abdulrahimzai was found guilty of murder following a trial at Salisbury Crown Court – where his bloodstained journey from Afghanistan to Bournemouth was finally unveiled.
In a stunning revelation, the court heard how Abdulrahimzai had been handed a 20-year prison sentence in his absence for ruthlessly slaughtering two fellow Afghans in Serbia, gunning them both down with an AK-47 assault rifle in 2018.
Earlier, the court heard how as a 15-year-old child, Abdulrahimzai had been tortured and left for dead by the Taliban – who had previously executed both his parents when he was just four or five.
Now Abdulrahimzai’s journey can be revealed.
The bloodstained journey of triple murderer Lawangeen Abdulrahimzai, 21, from Afghanistan, to the coastal resort of Bournemouth, Dorset is revealed
October 2001: Lawangeen Abdulrahimzai claimed, like many Afghan children, not to know his date of birth. But a court later determined that he was born around this time – just weeks after Al-Qaeda boss Osama bin Laden masterminded the 9/11 terror attacks in America.
Abdulrahimzai said he was four or five years old when his parents were killed by the Taliban in the Laghman province in the east of the country.
Oct 2015: Having been tortured by the Taliban and left for dead at the side of the road, Abdulrahimzai is smuggled out of Afghanistan through Pakistan by a man described as his ‘uncle’. He has his fingerprints taken in Serbia, and then a few weeks later in Norway.
Jul 2016: Abdulrahimzai, using one of his many fake names, has his fingerprints taken in the northeastern port city of Trieste, Italy.
Feb 2017: He is convicted of two drug offences in Italy and handed a suspended sentence.
Jun 2017: Abdulrahimzai is back in Serbia.
Jul 31 to Aug 1, 2018: Abdulrahimzai guns down two fellow Afghans with an assault rifle at a shed near a motorway in Dobrinci in an apparent argument about people smuggling. He flees in a taxi. He is declared a wanted man by Serbian authorities.
Oct 2018: Abdulrahimzai is back in Norway.
Nov 2019: He applies for asylum in Norway, but is refused.
Abdulrahimzai (centre with black hood) was caught on camera headbutting a reveller on a night just minutes before he murdered an aspiring Royal Marine in a row over an e-scooter
CCTV footage showed the moment Abdulrahimzai (circled in white) flees on foot while being chased by a man (circled in yellow)
Dec 26 2019: Weeks later, Abdulrahimzai travels as an unaccompanied passenger on a Brittany Ferries service from Cherbourg in France to Poole in Dorset. Upon arrival, he tells officials he is 14, when in reality he is thought to be around 19 years old.
Jan 2, 2020: He is placed into the foster care of Nicola Marchant-Jones, an experienced foster carer in Bournemouth. Adbulrahimzai, who is initially unable to speak English, later begins attending school locally – where the depraved killer went on to ‘terrify’ young girls, sending them indecent selfies, and beating up young boys.
Nov 2020: Abdulrahimzai goes on trial, in his absence, in Serbia for the double-murder. He is convicted and sentenced to 20 years in jail.
Dec 2020: Ms Marchant-Jones raises the alarm with social services, who contact police, after she spots Abdulrahimzai with a knife during a shopping trip. He is spoken to, but not arrested.
Aug 2021: Abdulrahimzai has an argument with his foster mother and leaves the home. He is later placed with another family.
Mar 10, 2022: Dorset Police receive a report that he is carrying a knife. No weapon is found, however, and no arrests are made.
An image of the a knife held by Abdulrahimzai in a video posted on his TikTok page
Mar 12, 2022: Abdulrahimzai headbutts a man during a row outside a nightclub in Bournemouth. Moments later, he gets into an argument with 24-year-old James Medway over an e-scooter. Thomas Roberts, 21, acts as ‘peacekeeper’ but is then stabbed twice by Abdulrahimzai. The incident lasts less than half a minute. The killer escapes on foot. Aspiring Royal Marine Mr Roberts dies later in hospital.
Mar 13, 2022: Abdulrahimzai is arrested after accidentally leaving his phone at the scene. He tells officers he is 16 years old.
Jan 23 2023: Abdulrahimzai, determined by a court to be 21, is convicted of murdering Mr Roberts.