15 October, 2020 — By Bronwen Weatherby
THE mother of a young man killed by a group of masked men last year said she missed her “lovely boy” every day as she described the devastation his death has wreaked on her family.
In her first interview, Celine Nzuzi said the community needed justice for her son, Calvin Bungisa, who was ambushed in Grafton Road, Gospel Oak, on April 1. She said: “My son didn’t deserve that, he was a lovely boy and was known to so many people around here. I miss Calvin so much every day.”
Ms Nzuzi, a former dinner lady at Haverstock School, spoke after having to hear the details of her son’s death at St Pancras Coroner’s Court earlier this month.
Calvin, 22, was attacked by four masked men dressed in black, none of whom have been brought to a courtroom, with the case still unsolved. Ms Nzuzi said news of her son’s death had reached her through her daughter.
“She started screaming and told me ‘someone has stabbed Calvin’,” she said. “We went straight down there and we saw the police had closed the road. I begged them to let me go to him, but they said no. Later a policeman said ‘I’m so sorry, your son has passed away’.”
The inquest laid bare the brutal nature of the attack, and Ms Nzuzi, who attended via a video link, said: “Hearing how Calvin died, I never knew, the police didn’t tell me and it was a shock. I wish I’d never heard because now it’s like a stain on my heart. They used long knives, a machete, a screwdriver, and they chopped him up like meat.”
She added: “To think of how much pain my boy must’ve been in before he died, I’ve just not been the same since.”
The attack was caught on the dash-cam of a passing taxi driver who stopped to help. CCTV footage led to police identifying the car used by the group but the vehicle was later found burned out.
“That’s why I told them [detectives] last week at the inquest, I want you police to work hard to find the people who did this. We need justice, the whole community does.”
Ms Nzuzi added. Calvin loved playing football and teammates around Camden took up fundraising for his funeral which was attended by an estimated 500 people.
The Met’s murder team say a 23-year-old man was arrested on July 1 last year and later released under investigation.
Five other men were interviewed under caution; two in 2019, two in June 2020 and one in August 2020. No charges, however, have been brought.
Detective Chief Inspector Mark Cranwell, who is the lead investigator, told the inquest that there remains two suspects that they are yet to speak to. Ms Nzuzi said: “The police have told me those boys are abroad so they can’t do anything, but why can’t they? If this was Boris Johnson’s son they would have brought those boys back already.”
The family and their supporters, including members of Women of Colour GWS based in Crossroads Women’s Centre in Kentish Town, have grown frustrated at how the investigation has progressed and raised questions about how the family has been treated.
Ms Nzuzi said not being allowed to see her son as he lay in the crime scene was very painful and that they were never told why Calvin’s body had remained under the crime scene tent for three days while investigations were carried out around him.
She also claims police officers subjected her other sons, their friends, and Mr Bungisa’s girlfriend to stop and searches and harsh questioning despite their state of grieving, and that they continued to check on them and made them feel harassed.
Social media videos circulated by people boasting about the murder were said to have been flagged by the community but supporters say they are puzzled why these have reportedly been dismissed as possible evidence.
Ms Nzuzi said many in the community already knew who killed her son.
A spokeswoman for Women of Colour GWS said: “This is a family targeted from day one of the investigation. How can the police’s priority be searching for drugs and constant stop and searches, and raids on homes yet when a young man’s life was brutally taken, they don’t focus on finding the killers?”
She added: “This is what the whole Black Lives Matter movement has been exposing. Many people don’t have the faintest idea what communities like ours face when we come in contact with the authorities. The ‘gang’ label is used by the police to come into communities and terrorise kids that grew up together, played together and are not divided in the way police and others claim they are.”
DCI Cranwell said: “At the start of this investigation, the community were excellent in helping us to pull together the events that led to the murder. However, naturally, with time, the flow of information is dwindling and we still have much work to do. Sadly, there remains the possibility that Calvin’s murder was gang-related and if so, there is a good chance that there are a number of people who will know what happened that night, and more importantly, who is responsible.”
Police said they would also like to speak to a group of young men who were with Calvin earlier in the day.
“If you knew Calvin or if he was your friend, please consider doing the right thing,” said DCI Cranwell.
Borough commander Chief Superintendent Raj Kohli said he could not comment on the ongoing investigation but he defended the force’s use of stop and search and said his officers’ work with the community and council had led to a reduction in knife injuries three years in a row.
He added: “The relationship between the police and the public is an important one and one that we are forever looking to work on. For example there is excellent engagement work that the NPT do, particularly around Kentish Town and Queen’s Crescent. I recognise that stop and search is a power that is often commented upon. It is an effective tactic in the fight against knife crime and serious violence, which officers will only use where appropriate.”