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How birthday drink ended in tragedy in Stratford

PUBLISHED: 08:00 04 July 2012 | UPDATED: 14:58 04 July 2012

Victim Liam Woodards

Victim Liam Woodards

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Killing of young man, 24, shocks shoppers

Forensic officers at Westfield. Broken glass where cabinet was thrown at victim. Picture Max Nash PA  WireForensic officers at Westfield. Broken glass where cabinet was thrown at victim. Picture Max Nash PA Wire

The family and friends of a young man killed at the Westfield Stratford City shopping complex are still in a state of shock over the birthday celebration that ended in death.

Liam Woodards, 24, had been out having a mid-afternoon drink with friends to mark his birthday a day earlier when trouble erupted in The Street part of the complex.

Liam and his family had recently moved from one part of Plaistow to another. One relative said: “Everyone’s overwhelmed. It is just so hard to take in.”

A neighbour in the tower block where the family live said he had seen Liam at residents meetings and added: “It is so shocking.

“He seemed such a nice person and it shows how your life and that of your family can change so quickly.”

Mother Frances said she could not believe her son had gone. “I just want to see my son again,” she said.

Friends said he was a “good guy” who helped to organise roller-skating events to keep kids off streets. He had a new job.

Two friends of Liam’s who were injured managed to flee to Stratford station and were treated in hospital for minor injuries.

Shoppers screamed and fled in terror when trouble flared. The victim was stabbed to death in one of the busiest sections of the complex.

Paramedics tried to save him outside a branch of Foot Asylum as security staff moved shoppers to other parts of the £1.4 bn shopping complex.

One woman, who did not want to be named, said she was in Foot Asylum when she saw a man she believed to be the victim being chased.

She said the group attacking him had hoods on and were shouting and screaming.

She said one of the young men picked up a glass cabinet and threw it at the victim.

The woman and the shops staff were kept in the store for their own safety until police arrived.

She saw the victim on the ground and paramedics trying to revive him.

At the time of the incident Olympics officials were being taken around the Athletes’ Village.

Shoppers were escorted out of the complex as forensic experts began their investigation.

One shopworker said: “It all happened very quickly. It’s terrifying that it can happen in broad daylight here with the security guards and cameras everywhere.”

More than 100 floral tributes was removed on Sunday from the spot where Mr Woodards died.

One tribute had been placed on Monday. The card read: “Can’t believe your gone. Now you walk with angels. RIP.”

A post-mortem examination at Greenwich mortuary gave Mr Woodards’ cause of death as a stab wound.

The arrests came after Newham police used social networking sites to reveal that they had stepped up patrols at Westfield to prevent any further trouble following the gang fight which ended in murder.

They said on Twitter and Facebook that had flooded the area with extra patrols and officers to stop any potential further trouble and that there would be an increased presence.

Detectives continue to appeal for witnesses and information after the murder at the centre.

Officers were called at about 4.25pm to reports of a fight involving a large group of males in The Street at Westfield. An incident room has opened at Barking under Acting Det Chief Insp Andy Kelly. Enquiries continue into the full circumstances of the incident.

Mr Kelly said: “We believe that shoppers at the centre may have filmed or photographed some part of the incident on their mobile phones. We encourage them to come forward and share this potentially vital material with us.”

Any witnesses or anyone who can assist should call the incident room on (020) 8345 3775; if you wish to remain anonymous, call Crimestoppers on 0800 555111

The area around where the fight occurred was sealed off and some shops were asked to close early while police forensic teams investigated. Parts of the complex remained closed on Saturday, but most of now back to normal.

A spokeswoman for the shopping centre said “Westfield are working closely with the police and emergency services.”

London Ambulance Service sent two ambulance crews, a responder in a car, an officer and London’s Air Ambulance to the scene.

“Sadly, despite extensive efforts to resuscitate him, the patient was pronounced dead at the scene,” said an ambulance service spokesman. “We were also called to Stratford Underground station and sent two further ambulance crews and another responder in a car. Two male patients were treated at the scene, one of them for stab wounds and a second for minor injuries,”

Nine people appeared in court on Monday accused of violent disorder. Two appeared in custody at Barkingside Magistrates’ Court. Michael Alvaranga, 23 of Leytonstone and Javin Righbie, 22, of Stratford, were remanded in custody for a week

The other seven appeared at Thames Magistrates’ Court on the same day. Michael Ndefo, 21, of Plaistow, Jason Vaughan, 24, of Stratford, Jerome McLeish, 20, of Custom House, Danny Caton, 23, of Stratford, and Rhys Regisford, 20, of Plaistow, were remanded in custody for a week. Emmanuel Oloyede, 19, of Plaistow, and Tony Caton, 21, of Stratford, were bailed until July 30.

A 23-year-old man arrested in connection with the investigation was later cautioned for affray and released with no further action.

A 20-year-old man also arrested in connection with the investigation has been bailed to return to an east London police station on a date in July.


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