Four men have been convicted at the Old Bailey for their part in the murder of a 21-year-old man in an unprovoked stabbing in the Stratford Centre.

Romanian national Beniamin Pieknyi and a friend were targeted on the night of March 20 by a group of five men, ranging in age from 19 to 23, who were "hell bent on causing trouble " and had a history of picking fights in the centre.

A guard attempted to escort the pair away from their attackers but they were pursued by the group into a Subway, where Beniamin was beaten, punched and finally stabbed in the chest with a long knife at around 9.30pm, causing him to die at the scene about an hour later.

The man who stabbed him, Vladyslav Yakymchuk, 23, pleaded guilty to murder, violent disorder and possession of a knife on June 13.

Beniamin was killed in a Subway branch like this one

Investigating officer Detective Inspector Ian Titterrell said: "Beniamin and his friend were two entirely innocent people who had arranged to meet and catch up with each other. They had every right to go about socialising with each other in peace and had done nothing at all to deserve the ire of their aggressors.

"They were attacked by a group hell bent on causing as much torment and misery as they could that evening, to anyone in particular.

"In Beniamin and his friend they found two people who they thought would be an easy target to sate their urge for violence, being outnumbered and not eager to fight.

"The group were led Yakymchuk, who was the lead aggressor, and were aware that he was carrying a knife. Yakymchuk it seems would not be satisfied until he was able to use it, which to the terror of the watching members of public, resulted in Beniamin’s untimely and tragic death.

"These convictions will, I’m sure, do little to quell the pain Beniamin’s family have endured. I hope however that they will derive some small comfort from knowing that justice has been done."

What happened leading up to Beniamin's death

The court heard Beniamin arranged to come to London to visit his friend and met him at the bus station at around 9pm, after which they made their way through the Stratford Centre.

The incident began when one of the five men, who was perched on the handlebars of another's bike, rode past Beniamin's 25-year-old friend as he waited outside a shop and hit him on the head.

The two men left when the friend confronted them for the unprovoked attack but returned a few minutes later, shouting "this is our area", at which point a row began, which drew both Beniamin out of the shop and the other three men in the group.

The friend remonstrated and the pair went away before coming back again a few minutes later, shouting out ‘this is our area’.

The group of five men became "aggressive and confrontational" and they set upon the pair. Beniamin's friend had his glasses stolen and was punched, while the bottle of water Beniamin bought in the shop was thrown away.

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Witnesses described how the two men tried to reason with their attackers, who appeared to relish tormenting them. The situation escalated into a fight, at which point a security guard went to intervene.

The guard identified himself and pointed out that there was CCTV and he did not want trouble. The group of five continued to goad Beniamin and his friend as they spoke to the guard.

As the guard attempted to help the pair leave the situation, Yakymchuk was seen pulling a knife from his waistband, at which point his friends were heard to shout "no, leave it, don't", indicating they were aware he had a weapon. However, after Yakymchuk pulled his hood up and followed Beniamin and his friend, the others followed in turn.

The group shoved Beniamin through to door of a Subway restaurant and cornered him, beating and punching him before he was fatally stabbed by Yakymchuk. Other members of the group held the friend back so he could not go to Beniamin's aid.

The Stratford Centre, where the murder took place

The attackers then fled from the east exit of the Centre towards the Broadway, with Yakymchuk trailing behind, having been slowed down putting his knife away. They tried unsuccessfully to hail a cab before fleeing on foot down Chant Street.

Of the four men, the two found guilty of manslaughter and violent disorder are Kevin Duarte, 19, of no fixed address, and Moses Kasule, 20, of Cavesson House Ribbons Walk in Stratford.

The other two, found not guilty of manslaughter and guilty of violent disorder, are Alexis Gabriel Da Costa Varela, 19 of Lillechurch Road in Dagenham, and Mario Zvavamwe, 19, of Crow Lane in Romford.

How they were brought to justice

All five men were quickly identified with the help of CCTV footage since they were already known to local officers for causing trouble in the past.

Yakymchuk was arrested four days later on March 24 in Harrods after being recognised from a shoplifting offence the previous day. Blood was found on his waistband linking him to the crime.

On March 26, police stopped a Chevrolet in Ley Street and found Varela and Duarte inside, who both refused to comment when interviewed. Officers located Zvavamwe at an address on Chauntler Close in Canning Town on the same day. He read a pre-prepared statement when interviewed and replied "no comment" to all questions.

Kasule was arrested on 28 March after officers spotted him walking past the police station. Upon being told he was being arrested on suspicion of murder, he is said to have smiled and made no reply and he also refused to comment when interviewed.

All five men will be sentenced at the Old Bailey on November 7.