On 11 December, Peter Connolly was sentenced to life – with a minimum term of fifteen years in prison – for the murder of Christopher Alaneme, an 18-year-old who died after being stabbed in Sheerness, Kent on 21 April 2006.
That night, Christopher, whose Nigerian family had moved from London to Kent because they felt it was a safer area, was out celebrating his birthday with friends. Walking down the street they met up with a group of White Londoners, who were holidaying at a Sheerness caravan park. According to evidence that emerged at the trial, a racist remark was made about Christopher (who was Black and over six foot tall). Witnesses said either that the words he ‘was a hard one to spot’ or ‘look at that Black boy he stands out’ were used. Christopher’s friends objected and remonstrated with the group of about fifteen youths. One threw a punch at Christopher, others threw a beer bottle and pint glass, which missed their targets. Members of the gang then chased Christopher, who, with hands in a defensive posture, was backed into a grassy area with a wall behind him. He was punched in the head, fell to the ground, where he was then stabbed. The knife pierced his liver.
Mark Davis, a White taxi driver who was sitting outside a bar, saw the commotion in the street and attempted to go to Christopher’s aid. He was stabbed five times in an attack, which has resulted in severe medical injuries, which will lead to medical problems all his life. Connolly was also sentenced to ten years, to be served concurrently, for wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.
The jury heard how Connolly, from Peckham, south east London, and his friends had taken drugs and drank heavily before setting out for Sheerness town centre. He was already carrying the weapon that killed Christopher and injured Mark severely. On sentencing, the judge said that ‘from the beginning you have not shown the slightest remorse. You sought to mislead the police.’ With regard to the knife, ‘you must have contemplated its use’. Two other members of the White gang were acquitted by the jury on all charges. And, earlier in the trial, the judge had ordered the jury to return not guilty verdicts on two others who had been standing trial for Christopher’s murder.
Although there was clearly a racial connotation to the events on the night of 21 April, and no one disputed that racist remarks had been made, the judge, who could have imposed an additional tariff for racial aggravation, determined at a sentencing hearing that this was not a clear racial crime. Because the remarks had not been uttered by Connolly and Connolly had gone on to attack a White man, the judge could not be satisfied that racism was the specific motivation in the murder of Nigerian Christopher Alaneme.
Read an IRR News story on: Eight-year sentence for killing
Read the IRR’s factfile on: Racially Motivated Murders (Known or Suspected) 2000 onwards