Jodie Chesney trial: 20-year-old accused of murder was ‘saddened’ by death of Dagenham Scout in Harold Hill

Jodie Chesney at London Pride 2018. Picture: Chesney family

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

A young man claimed to be “deeply saddened” at the death of Jodie Chesney as he refused to help police, a court has heard.

Manuel Petrovic, 20, is one of four young people jointly accused of murdering the 17-year-old girl scout on March 1.

Jodie was stabbed in the back as she sat with her boyfriend and a group of their friends in Amy's Park in St Neot's Road, Harold Hill.

The prosecution have said she was an entirely innocent victim caught up in a dispute between drug dealers.

Petrovic was arrested within days of her death after his Vauxhall Corsa was linked to the scene around the time of the stabbing, the Old Bailey heard.

Initially, Petrovic told police he was "playing a no-comment interview" as he handed investigators a short prepared statement.

He denied involvement in Jodie's murder and said his car had been stolen in a knifepoint robbery.

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Later, as the investigation progressed, Petrovic made a longer prepared statement.

He admitted owning the Vauxhall Corsa and having a mobile phone he used for selling cannabis.

He said: "I would like to say that I have no involvement in the murder of Jodie Chesney.

"I am deeply saddened by her death and feel for her friends and family.

"A young life has been taken away in what seems to be an unprovoked attack on an innocent girl who had her whole life ahead of her."

He refused to name anyone he had been with that night "due to my own safety and the safety of my family", saying people had already gone to his house looking for him.

Petrovic said he had been with a friend on March 1 who received a call from Man A asking for a lift.

They picked up Man A, who was with another person, Man B, and they drove to Harold Hill so Man A could "collect some weed and some money", he said.

The two unnamed men got out at Harold Hill, leaving Petrovic and his friend in the car, according to the statement.

Petrovic stated: "At this point I would like to add that I was carrying a quantity of cannabis on me.

"This was to sell as and when I received calls/text messages.

"I drove to the end of the road and turned the car around.

"While waiting the lights and engine was off. There was no sinister reason for this.

"I believe my friend received a call for us to come to the end of the road."

Petrovic said Man A and B were gone up to five minutes and "seemed calm" when they returned.

He said: "There was nothing unusual about their behaviour.

"Nothing about them made me suspicious. I did not see either of them carrying anything.

"My friend and I were told that Man A was collecting money and drugs."

After dropping the two men off, Petrovic claimed a black man had pulled a knife to his throat and snatched his car keys.

He said: "The next day I heard that a girl had been stabbed in Harold Hill. I hoped it had nothing to do with why I was in the area with Man A and Man B."

Prosecutor Crispin Aylett QC told jurors: "You may recall Petrovic's claim to have been 'deeply saddened' by Jodie's death.

"Nonetheless, Petrovic was not willing to help the police.

"He continued to make no comment until the police gave up asking questions."

Petrovic, Svenson Ong-a-kwie, 19, and two youths, aged 16 and 17, from Barking and Romford, deny murder.

Mr Aylett told jurors that police went to arrest Ong-a-Kwie at the hostel where he was living and found a knife on top of a fridge in his room.

The prosecutor suggested the murder weapon itself may have been disposed of but the presence of another blade was "not without significance".

Officers continued their search for Ong-a-Kwie at another address in Dagenham, jurors heard.

He was apprehended after climbing out of a first floor window and falling through the roof of a lean-to, Mr Aylett said.

When he was arrested, the defendant allegedly told police: "Murder? I ain't done a murder."

The 17-year-old defendant, who cannot be named because of his age, was also arrested in the back garden of the house.

The trial continues.