Archway addict cleared of attempted murder over Holloway shopkeeper attack

DR Mart, on Holloway Road

DR Mart, on Holloway Road - Credit: Archant

A racist addict said “I’d love to kill a Muslim” before attacking a Holloway shopkeeper with a knife, a court was told.

Michael O’Leary, 35, of St John’s Grove, Archway, had assaulted a Camden shopkeeper in an attempted robbery two hours before the attack on Samsul Islam at about 8.45pm on September 23 last year.

Mr Islam told a jury at Blackfriars Crown Court that O’Leary, who pleaded guilty to unlawful wounding but was cleared of attempted murder and wounding with intent, had asked him if he was a Muslim and then said “I’d love to kill a Muslim” before the attack.

Mr O’Leary, who was intoxicated by a cocktail of cocaine and alcohol, told the court he did not remember what he had said but denied the claims when interviewed on arrest the next day, where he also initially refused to be processed by an Asian police officer.

CCTV seen by the jury showed Mr Islam sitting behind the counter at DR Mart in Holloway Road watching a film as O’Leary burst into the shop wearing blue latex gloves and pointing a large blade at his victim.

O’Leary walked straight up to Mr Islam and, after appearing to say something, pinned him up against the wall with his left hand and gestured at him with the knife.

The victim grabbed the knife and was pulled to the floor off camera where his attacker began to beat him, before Mr Islam, who suffered a deep cut to his right hand as he gained possession of one of two knives O’Leary was carrying, chased him out of the shop.

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O’Leary pleaded guilty to assault with intent to rob at a preliminary hearing.

Summing up the case, Wayne Cleaver QC for the prosecution argued that the words Mr O’Leary was reported to have said coupled with the fact that he was armed with the knife were proof of his intent to kill.

But defence barrister Ross Cohen said that O’Leary had four opportunities to kill Mr Islam and chose not to. “He didn’t even touch him with the knife, let alone try and make the fatal strike,” said Mr Cohen.

“Threats are common place, killings are thankfully less so. People often say these things without willing to carry out the offence.

“If Mr O’Leary had intended to kill Mr Islam why didn’t he just go in and stab him.”

O’Leary had tried to rob Greenland Stores in Camden at about 7.15pm but was thwarted by the lone man working in the store who also received wounds to his hands grabbing a knife being wielded by O’Leary.

He left the knife at the scene as he fled and then went to his mothers house where he picked up two more knives and went to the shop in Holloway Road in what he says was a second attempt for drugs money.

Mr Cleaver had suggested that the fact that O’Leary had not even attempted to get any money from the cash register at DR Mart proved this was a “more sinister” attack.

But Mr Cohen presented a different interpretation of his client’s actions.

“The reason he didn’t go back to the till was that he was aware that the victim now had the knife.

“The predator had turned victim and he ran out of the store.”

CCTV showed the brave Mr Islam chasing the “cowardly” Mr O’Leary out of the shop and into the street, which was backed up by witnesses outside the newsagents.