Jodie Chesney trial: Harold Hill drug dealer delayed identifying youth as Dagenham teenager’s killer to keep family safe, court hears

Jodie Chesney at London Pride 2018. Picture: Chesney family

Jodie Chesney at London Pride 2018. Picture: Chesney family - Credit: Archant

A drug dealer told the court he delayed identifying his co-accused as the murderer of Jodie Chesney because he wanted to make sure his family were safe and out of the country first.

Jodie Chesney, of Dagenham, was stabbed to death in Harold Hill. Picture: Met Police

Jodie Chesney, of Dagenham, was stabbed to death in Harold Hill. Picture: Met Police - Credit: Archant

Jodie Chesney was fatally stabbed in the back in Amy's Park, St Neot's Road, Harold Hill, on the evening of March 1.

Svenson Ong-a-Kwie, 19, of Hillfoot Road, Collier Row, Manuel Petrovic, 20, of Highfield Road, Collier Row and two youths aged 16 and 17 who cannot be identified, from east London, have denied her murder.

Giving evidence at the Old Bailey, Mr Ong-a-Kwie told jurors that it was the 17-year-old youth who carried out the stabbing.

Defending, Natasha Wong QC, asked why he waited until just before the deadline to hand in his defence statement.

She told jurors that Mr Ong-a-Kwie his "back was up against the wall" and that he had been "hedging his bets" with his defence statement.

Mr Ong-a-Kwie responded: "My mum needed to move urgently.

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"I knew I was going to state [the youth] as the stabber as soon as my mum moved.

A drone shot of Amy's Park in St Neot's Road, Harold Hill where Jodie Chesney was fatally stabbed. P

A drone shot of Amy's Park in St Neot's Road, Harold Hill where Jodie Chesney was fatally stabbed. Picture: Met Police - Credit: Archant

"[The youth's] uncle is known for multiple kidnappings.

"I've got four sisters and my mum. I haven't got a dad to protect me.

"He had already threatened Manuel's family."

Mr Ong-a-Kwie acknowledged that it was his idea to ask his co-defendant Mr Petrovic to drive him to Amy's Park.

He told jurors that he left the car with the youth to carry out a drug deal. He then saw the youth jump over the fence and was already running when he heard Jodie scream.

"For anything that happened afterwards I take full responsibility," said Mr Ong-a-Kwie.

"It was me who told Manuel to go to Amy's Park. It was me who asked [the youth] to come into the park with me.

"It was me who decided to go get rid of my clothes and lay low.

"What I'm not taking responsibility for is the murder of Jodie Chesney."

Mr Petrovic previously gave evidence that when Mr Ong-a-Kwie and the youth returned to the car they didn't discuss what happened and he didn't discover until later that someone had been stabbed.

Defending, Sarah Foreshaw QC asked Mr Ong-a-Kwie to confirm that he had asked Mr Petrovic to bring him some clothes "because of some sort of madness".

Mr Ong-a-Kwie responded: "That's not correct - not for that reason.

"There was nothing to be said because he already knew what had happened.

"No one would hand over clothes blindly. You're going to want to know why.

"Manuel knew everything from the time we got back in the car."

When asked if he felt bad for Mr Petrovic after he had been arrested, Mr Ong-a-Kwie responded, "yes of course".

He added: "There's no reason for me to hide anything from Manuel.

"I didn't go there to kill anybody. I can't be held accountable for something someone else has done."

The amateur boxer also denied threatening Mr Petrovic in jail by telling him "snitches get stitches".

Mr Ong-a-Kwie told the court: "No that's not the even the way I talk.

"He came into my cell and I have him a handful of biscuits. That doesn't look like I'm threatening anyone, does it?"

Ms Wong reminded Mr Ong-a-Kwie of evidence Jodie's boyfriend gave where he described seeing a taller man and a shorter man in the park, and that it was the taller man who "swung out his arm and stabbed Jodie in the back".

Mr Ong-a-Kwie said he disagreed with the evidence. He said: "My understanding is that he said the tall one was 5ft 9in and the shorter one was 5ft 8in.

"He also said that the one who didn't stab Jodie was wearing a black coat which is very distinctive clothing and it's exactly what I was wearing.

"He's obviously got the height confused."

Mr Ong-a-Kwie insisted that the Dagenham teenager's murder had nothing to do with drugs.

"First of all I would never go to Amy's Park to commit violence," he said.

"It's an area that generates a lot of business for me because I'm probably going to bump into a customer or a potential customer."

Mr Ong-a-Kwie told the Old Bailey that 2018 had been a "bumper" year for him when he was earning around £1,000 a week.

In 2019 his business suffered after he lost his phone and spent more time in Collier Row which meant it took him longer to get to his customers in Harold Hill.

On the day of Jodie's death, her friends had bought cannabis from a rival drug dealer known as Jade.

Ms Wong suggested that this, along with the fact that Mr Ong-a-Kwie had previously been stabbed in the leg in Harold Hill, was motive for him to commit murder.

Speaking about the stabbing, Mr Ong-a-Kwie said: "That had already been forgotten about.

"I didn't care about it, it was five months ago.

"Because I didn't know who it was I thought I'm going not going to go to Harold Hill as much.

"It's a very small area. Everyone knows each other. We all help each other. There are no turf wars in Harold Hill - definitely not for cannabis.

He continued: "I don't carry knives. I would never go somewhere on my own turf and cause harm to anyone."

The trial continues.