Man tortured as child refugee 're-enacted violence' in City Slots casino killing

Abel Berhany, 23 from Leyton

Abel Berhany, 23 from Leyton - Credit: Met Police

A man tortured as a child refugee has been jailed for life, after he "re-enacted the violence inflicted on him" and killed a complete stranger with two fire extinguishers and a broom handle.

Abel Mery Berhany launched the "cruel, heartless and inhuman" attack - which was caught on horrifying CCTV footage - at the City Slots in Camden High Street on July 28, 2020.

Berhany, of Leyton Grange Estate, Waltham Forest, originally went on trial for murder on June 6 after it was found that he did not have a defence of diminished responsibility.

New information which emerged during those proceedings prompted a fresh psychiatric examination of the defendant.

The results altered that original assessment, meaning the 23-year-old could rely upon that defence and plead guilty to the lesser offence of manslaughter.

This plea was accepted, and Berhany was sentenced to life imprisonment at the Old Bailey today (June 17).

The 23-year-old will serve a minimum term of 18 years, with Judge Martin Picton remarking that he poses a "significant" risk in terms of potential re-offending and may never be considered safe for release.

According to prosecutor Danny Robinson QC, Berhany - aged 21 at the time - "kicked, stamped or jumped" on the head or upper body of victim Abraham Haile "99 times" during a 16-minute period.

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The attack came after the manager had ushered seven other customers outside and locked the door.

Using a pen, bleach, aerosol spray, a broom and two fire extinguishers as weapons, Berhany stopped mid-way through the attack to have a cigarette.

“He hit Mr Haile’s head with two fire extinguishers a total of 50 times and he discharged both fire extinguishers over and into Mr Haile," said Mr Robinson.

When three police officers finally managed to break into the casino, Berhany continued with the violence. 

The officers were commended by Judge Picton for stopping the attack, and for trying to save Mr Haile's life - but he was pronounced dead at the scene despite their best efforts. 

Eritrean national Berhany had been tortured in Libya as a child before being granted asylum in Britain.

The court was told that he had post traumatic stress disorder, psychosis and undiagnosed paranoid schizophrenia when he launched the attack.

He said the defendant’s treatment of Mr Haile was "cruel, heartless and inhuman", and that his actions "simply beggar belief."

“The defendant was entirely remorseless in his desire to inflict as much pain and indignity as he could," added the judge.

"There was no trigger to the savage acts of violence perpetrated on Abraham Haile.

"He had done nothing to explain, let alone justify why the defendant focused on him to the be the victim of this outpouring of rage.

"No one who has had to watch the CCTV footage will ever be able to forget what they witnessed."

Judge Picton continued: “Abraham Haile lost his life in the most awful of circumstances. His family and those who loved him will never recover from the impact of this senseless tragedy.

"They will be left wondering why him and why did no-one save him?”

"The defendant has never given an account of what was in his mind as he attacked Abraham Haile.

"Psychiatric reports suggest he was re-enacting elements of the torture to which he himself was subject."

Mr Haile’s family described the impact of his death, saying it was a “terrible way to go out” which had cast a “dark cloud” over their lives.

In a statement his brother said there had been over 100 people inside the church for his funeral - despite the coronavirus pandemic - adding that there had been "many more outside wanting to pay their respects".

"When we found out how he was murdered during the trial it has made this dark cloud twice as big," he added.

"He was intelligent and had a civil engineering degree, his family relied on him, he was so caring, selfless, and such good company to be around."