The mother of a father-of-three brutally stabbed to death in a shopping mall is calling for harsher sentences for knife crimes.

Michael Ugwa, 29, was killed at Lakeside Shopping Centre in Thurrock at 4.30pm on April 28 last year after complimenting a woman.

Muhammad Khan, 24, from Ilford, was found guilty of Mr Ugwa’s murder and of affray on May 2 at Basildon Crown Court following a six week trial. 

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He was sentenced at the same court on Friday (July 28) to life in prison to serve a minimum term of 27 years before he can be considered for release.

Brandon Lutchmunsing, 21, from Dagenham, was sentenced to 13 years with a further two-year extended licence period after being found guilty of manslaughter and affray.

Romford Recorder: Dad-of-three Michael Ugwa was 'senselessly' stabbed to deathDad-of-three Michael Ugwa was 'senselessly' stabbed to death (Image: Essex Police)

Michael's grieving mother Lauretta said in a statement outside court: "My family has been shattered by this senseless act of violence and we are still struggling to come to terms with the enormity of our loss, even as we know that this is a void that will never be filled." 

She said her son, who lived with his family in Rainham, was "kind, compassionate, caring, and very outgoing young man...who will be missed every day".

She added: "It breaks my heart to see how his now two-year-old daughter, continues to look excitedly towards the door, waiting for her daddy that used to dance with her all the time and then breaking down into tears when she realises he isn’t coming. 

"How his eight-year-old son, continues to wake up crying for his daddy every night. His seven-year-old son, still remains in shock." 

The court heard Khan and Lutchmunsing had cornered Mr Ugwa before Khan stabbed him in the chest. Mr Ugwa bled to death at the scene as the two men fled.

Jurors were told how an argument broke out after Mr Ugwa made comments towards Lutchmunsing’s girlfriend, Shannon Weston.

Khan is said to have brandished a knife before he and Lutchmunsing stalked Mr Ugwa through the shopping centre food hall.

Footage played at court showed Mr Ugwa holding up a chair in a bid to defend himself before throwing it at Lutchmunsing.

Khan then stabbed Mr Ugwa in a “single and deadly” blow before fleeing with Lutchmunsing in Weston’s red Audi, Karim Khalil KC, prosecuting said.

Weston drove Khan and Lutchmunsing away from the shopping centre, and helped her then-boyfriend to evade police between April 28 and May 4.

The 21-year-old, of Canewdon, Essex, was found guilty of three counts of assisting an offender, which she had denied.

She was sentenced to two years in prison, suspended for two years.

Romford Recorder: Michael Ugwa's grieving mother Lauretta reads out a statement outside court after her son's killers were sentencedMichael Ugwa's grieving mother Lauretta reads out a statement outside court after her son's killers were sentenced (Image: Essex Police)

Lauretta' said her son's killers would eventually be released back into society after serving their terms "but unfortunately for Michael, the same does not apply to him". 

"These murderers will serve their sentences and pick up their lives but our family will never truly heal from the loss of Michael," she added. 

"What irony that they do a ‘life sentence’ while we actually get the ‘death sentence’.

"Perhaps a change to impose longer sentences for cases like Michael’s could be the way forward. 

"The deterrence such an objective could create would most likely lead to a substantial decline in knife crime.

"People would be forced to consider their actions far more carefully in light of the heavier sentencing, that such senseless killings may cease to take place."

Det Chf Insp Julie Gowen said: “I hope this case serves as a warning to anyone else considering carrying a knife of the dangers of doing so.”