Teenager’s stabbing was not unlawful killing, coroner rules

A coroner has ruled she could not be sure of the exact circumstances in which a teenager died after being knifed in the heart by his friend but ruled out unlawful killing.

Former private schoolboy Joshua Molnar stabbed Yousef Makki with a flick knife after the two, both then aged 17, had a row in Hale Barns, Cheshire, on the evening of 2 March 2019.

Molnar claimed self-defence and was cleared of murder and manslaughter following a trial at Manchester crown court four months later.

Molnar was jailed for 16 months for possession of a knife in a public place and perverting the course of justice by lying to police at the scene.

Lawyers for the Makki family had urged Alison Mutch, senior coroner for Greater Manchester south, that because the standard of proof in criminal trial is “beyond reasonable doubt” while the standard during inquests is lower, being “on the balance of probabilities”, she could conclude Yousef was unlawfully killed.

Alistair Webster QC, representing Molnar at the inquest, said Yousef’s death was simply a “terrible accident”.

At the end of the seven-day inquest, Mutch told Stockport coroner’s court she could not be sure, even on the balance of probabilities, the “precise sequence of events” and ruled out both unlawful killing and accidental death as a conclusion.

In a lengthy narrative conclusion, Mutch recorded Yousef died from a stab wound to the chest.

She added: “He died from complications of a stab wound to the chest, the precise circumstances of which he was wounded cannot, on the balance of probabilities, be ascertained.”

Mutch said she would write to the education secretary to ask how teenagers’ knowledge of the dangers of carrying knives can be improved – having heard in the inquest how it was seen as “cool”.

Molnar and another youth involved in the incident, Adam Chowdhary, had led double lives, playing “middle-class gangsters” listening to drill music, smoking cannabis and carrying knives, the trial heard.

Yousef, from south Manchester, won a scholarship to the £12,000-a-year Manchester grammar school, where Chowdhary was also a pupil and they became friends.

The court heard Chowdhary had bought two flick knives from an online website, Wish, for himself and Yousef, and took them out that day to impress Molnar.

The lead-up to Yousef’s death, the jury at the trial was told, was a drug deal gone wrong leading to Molnar being beaten up and his £2,000 bike thrown in a hedge and lost, while Chowdhary fled and Yousef stood by.

Martin Bottomley, head of the cold case unit at Greater Manchester police (GMP), conducted a review of the force’s investigation and that of Cheshire police during an incident involving Molnar in Wilmslow two weeks before Yousef’s death.

He told the inquest that GMP now believed the “precursor event” was not a drugs deal but a revenge attack on Molnar for the Wilmslow incident.

A boy had been set upon and Molnar was arrested but quickly released. He denied any involvement and was never prosecuted but the victim’s cousins, two brothers Mohammed and Ibrahim Chaudhry, then attacked him in revenge, the inquest heard.

Yousef stood by during the attack on Molnar – leading to the row between them later that night when Yousef was stabbed.

Both Chaudhry brothers were summonsed to give evidence at the inquest. They were warned they did not have to answer any questions that might incriminate themselves and they declined to answer about 60 questions put to them during the hearing.

Cheshire police referred themselves to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) over the Wilmslow investigation.

Mutch warned the inquest could not be a rerun of the criminal trial and inquests were not allowed in law to apportion criminal blame.

Peter Weatherby QC, representing the family of Yousef, accused Molnar of lying to save his own skin.

Molnar replied: “No. I did not do that at all.”

Sergeant Nicholas Bamber of GMP told the inquest that at the crime scene Molnar told “convincing” lies.

Chowdhary told police he did not see what had happened and merely repeated to police at the scene what he was told by Molnar.

He was initially allowed to keep his phone before his status changed, from “witness” when police first spoke to him, to “suspect” later that night.

But in between, police found call record logs and other material had been deleted and could not be recovered, the inquest heard.

Chowdhary declined to give evidence at his trial alongside Molnar.

Molnar said Yousef had taken a knife out but Chowdhary told the inquest he did not see a knife in Yousef’s hand.

Chowdhary was cleared of perverting the course of justice by the jury at his trial but admitted possession of a flick knife and was given a four-month detention order.

Molnar admitted possession of a knife and perverting the course of justice by initially lying to police about what had happened, and was given 16 months in custody.

Both were cleared of a charge of conspiracy to rob.

At a press conference after the inquest, Jade Akoum, Yousef’s older sister, said the last 32 months had been “beyond awful” and the family were disappointed with the verdict.

She added: “Over the coming days and weeks we will be discussing with our legal team the next steps.

“Yousef was the kindest, most charming young man. … This is how we want to remember him, with his warm smile and his caring nature. The last conversation we ever had together was of his dreams of going to Oxford or Cambridge University – a dream that he was very much on track for.”

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