Man jailed after leaving girlfriend for dead in Camden Road hotel - because he 'thought dead friend was communicating with her'
PUBLISHED: 12:30 20 August 2019 | UPDATED: 15:12 20 August 2019
A man was jailed for life on Friday after beating his girlfriend with a bin and leaving her "close to death" in a Camden Road hotel.
Japhet Bokwa, 19, was convicted of the brutal assault - which has left his former partner Joana Albano, with permanent brain damage - earlier this year.
He will serve a minimum of six and a half years in prison - less the year and a month he has spent on remand.
Judge John Dodds QC said the life sentence was justified because "there's no way of telling the length of time you will remain dangerous".
The attack happened at the Dome Camden hotel in June last year.
The young couple - who were both studying for further education qualifications - chose to stay the night there.
In the morning, Bokwa left the hotel after 11.30. Ms Albano - 18 at the time of the attack and from Hoxton - was found on the floor of their room with horrific injuries to her head, face, neck, arms and legs.
She spent the next seven months in a vegetative state.
Passing sentence, Judge Dodds said he had been left with no option but to consider Bokwa as dangerous and lock him up for life given the level of violence used towards the "much-loved" Ms Albano and the fact it had coincided with a psychotic episode - which medical experts had told the court was "likely" to happen again.
The unusually low minimum tariff reflected the fact that, in different circumstances, the judge would have passed a 13-year sentence.
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He said: "On June 15 last year you and your girlfriend booked into a hotel in Camden intending to spend the night together. You left the hotel the following day. Your girlfriend was close to death. She had been brutally assaulted many times and left in a state of undress.
"You came very close to murdering her - that's the harsh reality of this case. She had her whole life before her and you have taken that away from her and her family. She was an intelligent and ambitious young woman with great plans for the future. Those plans have been dashed.
"No sentence I can pass today can possibly [...] repair the damaged caused."
In mitigation, defence lawyer Ms Nerida Harford-Bell said Bokwa had been disturbed by the murder of "close friend" Israel Ogunsola in April 2018. Israel was stabbed by Jonathan Abora and another man who has yet to be found in Link Street, Hackney.
"That's very much the background," Ms Harford-Bell said, adding Bokwa had "no history of violence, anti-social behaviour or any criminal behaviour" prior to the attack.
The judge accepted Bokwa had suffered a pyschotic episode either during the attack or in its immediate aftermath.
A former student at City Academy, Hackney, he had been "smoking cannabis and drinking brandy" to excess in the weeks between his friend's murder and the attack on Ms Albano. But despite smoking in the hotel bathroom, he had not been incapacitated by drink or drugs on the night in question, the court heard.
Although Bokwa did not give evidence, he had told a member of staff at the John Howard secure unit - where he was held for a number of months after being sectioned following his arrest - that he had "believed his dead friend was communicating with her" and that Ms Albano was "possessed by the devil".
In a statement read in court by prosecutor Ms Usha Shergill on behalf of Ms Albano's family, her cousin said: "The events of June 15, 2018, have totally transformed our lives. She was outgoing, focused and independent and she had a close network of friends. She was like a sister, and I remain in disbelief and shock."
After the sentencing, Det Con Paul Needley of Camden and Islington's safeguarding unit told this newspaper: "Bokwa's actions resulted in what the judge rightly described as a brutal and sustained attack on a defenceless and innocent young woman. This attack has led to her life being altered forever.
"Domestic violence is a serious crime. It is a crime perpetrated by someone you love and who is supposed to love you. This case illustrates the real damage caused by this sort of offence."
The detective added that, although Ms Albano had been unable to speak for herself at the trial, Scotland Yard and the Crown Prosecution Service "will always stand with victims of this horrendous crime and will prosecute those who perpetrate it".