Jodie Chesney trial: Detectives describe extensive operation of finding and charging Dagenham Scout’s killers
- Credit: Archant
The testimony of a witness who spotted two men fleeing Harold Hill park moments after Jodie Chesney’s death proved crucial to detectives being able to track down the Dagenham Scout’s killers.
Jodie Chesney was listening to music with her friends in Amy's Park, St Neot's Road, Harold Hill when she was fatally stabbed in the back.
Det Ch Insp Dave Whellams and Det Insp Perry Benton led the major police investigation which resulted in the arrest of the four defendants.
For the two detectives, the week began with another murder, the death of 38-year-old David Lopez-Fernandez who was found with multiple stab wounds on Tuesday, February 25 in Globe Road, Bethnal Green.
The stabbing happened in a squat where 70 people were living. This meant the Metropolitan Police Service had to secure a large scene and carry out interviews with each person who had been living there at the time.
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By Wednesday, February 27, police had identified a suspect, but they still had to maintain the scene with officers working long 12 to 14 hour shifts.
'Needle in a haystack'
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Det Ch Insp Whellams was sitting at home on the evening of Friday, March 1 when his sergeant called to say a young girl had been killed in Harold Hill.
He said: "It's a difficult scenario because I can't call out any further members of my team.
"We secure the scene at the park that night. We've initially got a number of problems.
"You're hoping that there's some forensic material and you're hoping that there's some CCTV.
"But this happened at 9.15 at night and it's pitch black."
Det Insp Perry added: "We had no information from any of the witnesses - it was literally like a needle in a haystack.
"We didn't know how the suspects got there. It was quite chaotic initially trying to piece together the witness accounts."
Jodie was in the park with several of her friends and yet no one actually saw the stabbing happen.
Her boyfriend said in court that at first he thought someone was trying to punch her, and another witness thought someone was trying to steal their bags.
Det Ch Insp Whellams explained that their CCTV parameters were very wide and the police had to be quick in retrieving as much footage as possible.
In the initial days of the investigation, the detectives had around 40 to 50 police officers working on the case.
The day after Jodie's death, a testimony from a witness provided a crucial step in helping the detectives with their case.
Det Ch Insp Whellams said: "The major breakthrough comes for us when a witness comes into Romford Police Station on the Saturday.
"He was able to tell us the time and location where he was trying to pull up on the side of the street in Retford Road and he couldn't because a Corsa Nova was in the way.
"Luckily for us, he's a patient man and while he was waiting to collect his girlfriend, he sees two people come running out of [Amy's] park.
"They jump into the car and drive off."
The witness had a dash cam but didn't know how to use it and unfortunately the detectives weren't able to retrieve the footage.
Instead they used ANPR cameras to locate the Corsa that was captured being driven by Petrovic on the A12 at 9.11pm.
Manuel Petrovic, 20, of Highfield Road, Collier Row had abandoned his car later that night in Elvet Avenue, Gidea Park after he claims a drug deal went wrong.
Fortunately the car was still at the scene when it was later recovered by the police.
They found an antibacterial bottle hidden in some nearby bushes and fingerprints on the bonnet of the car that would later be matched with Svenson Ong-a-Kwie, 19, of Hillfoot Road, Collier Row.
When Mr Petrovic called the police to report his car stolen on Monday, the police were able to begin the process of tracking him to his sister's address in Leicester and arrest him.
Mr Petrovic initially denied any involvement with the murder.
It was only after he was shown CCTV footage and telephone evidence that the 20-year-old admitting driving a car and that there had been a man A and a man B with him.
Det Ch Insp Whellams said: "Once we arrest Petrovic we've got 24 hours and it's never going to be long enough.
"We're trying to accumulate evidence and it's coming in piecemeal.
"We manage to get a warrant for further time and we're going to the absolute maximum that we can.
"It was very important from an investigative point of view that we were able to charge Petrovic.
"We couldn't have him being bailed with all of the disclosure we had given him."
While Mr Petrovic was in custody, a 16-year-old from east London was arrested.
The detectives managed to obtain text messages which led them to Ong-a-Kwie who was arrested on [March 10] along with the final defendant, a 17-year-old from east London.
Ong-a-Kwie and the youth tried to evade officers at an east London address and two more people were arrested for assisting the defendants.
Police discovered that Ong-a-Kwie turned his phone off during the time of the murder, and CCTV footage showed him wearing a jacket with a fur trim, which matched a description witnesses gave of Jodie's killer.
It took longer for the detectives to get the authority to arrest the 17-year-old and he was finally charged with murder in May.
'Family devastated from day one'
On the day of Jodie's death her father, Peter Chesney, was celebrating his birthday with friends in central London.
The detectives sent two experienced family officers to deliver the tragic news to the family.
"Speaking to the family from the outset was heartbreaking," said Det Insp Benton.
"Having to answer all of their questions in the early days when we didn't know as much, was very difficult.
"They have been very dignified throughout, but it has destroyed them."
He insisted that Jodie was innocent, regardless of people's views about whether you can smoke recreational drugs.
Det Ch Insp Whellams added that not knowing why Jodie was killed, made it harder for her relatives.
He said: "From the evidence that we gathered about the lifestyles of these people, I think we're pretty happy that this is over drugs.
"The two main protagonists are drug dealers, and of them - Ong-a-Kwie - wants retribution from someone that is dealing on his turf and he's going into the park to harm somebody.
"Why it's Jodie, we don't really know."
He added that if their intention ihad just been a drug deal, then Ong-a-Kwie could have taken a taxi.
Ong-a-Kwie and the 17-year-old were found guilty of Jodie's murder at the Old Bailey on Thursday, November 7.
They will be sentenced on Monday, November 18.
Mr Petrovic and the 16-year-old were acquitted.