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Teenager convicted of murdering young musician

Thursday 27 March 2014

BREAKING: A teenager has been given a life sentence after being found guilty of murdering an up-and-coming grime artist in Birmingham because of ‘ill-feeling’ between the pair over a shared love interest.

Armani Mitchell will serve a minimum of 18 years in jail after he became ‘enraged’ when he saw Joshua Ribera with his arm around the mother of his 17-month old daughter, so armed himself with a knife and plunged it into the 18-year-old’s chest on 20 September last year.

A jury at Birmingham Crown Court heard the pair came to blows throughout the evening at TC’s club in Selly Oak, whilst attending a memorial event for murdered teenager Kyle Sheehan − who died exactly a year earlier.

Scuffles between Mitchell, 18, and Joshua, who was better known by his performing name ‘Depzman’, escalated throughout the night and led to a clash during which Mitchell, of The Green in Northfield, threatened to stab him.

Mitchell was then ejected by security staff at TC’s but soon afterwards returned and managed to get back in. He then found Joshua and the pair went outside together; CCTV footage showed them being held apart by a key witness, who saw the fatal attack.

He described how, at around 10.40pm, Mitchell pulled out the knife and lunged at Joshua, striking him in the chest with a flick knife. He collapsed against a car on Coronation Road as Mitchell ran away.

Party-goers performed first aid before paramedics tended to Joshua and took him to hospital where, after undergoing emergency surgery, he died in early hours of the following morning.

Mitchell was arrested later in the day after handing himself in to police. He always admitted attacking Joshua but claimed he never intended to kill him. However, a jury today (27 March) found him guilty of murder following a three week trial.

Investigating officer, Detective Inspector Gary Plant, said: "Joshua Ribera needlessly lost his life, he was just 18 years of age and had a very promising future in the music industry; he had everything to live for. Armani Mitchell, who was also 18, has today been convicted of his murder, after inflicting one single stab wound to the heart. 

"This murder has impacted greatly upon a lot of people, not only the friends and family of Joshua, but those of Armani too. Both families are devastated, as both have lost someone close to them. Albeit in different ways, both families are victims to knife crime.

"I hope that in time the pain that is being felt from Joshua’s death will ease, but for certain it will not totally go away. 

"Armani said he carried the knife for protection. Some people believe that it is big and clever to carry weapons and believe their friends consider them ’hard’. Let me say this − if you carry weapons, you are not ’hard’, you are not big and you are not clever, you are stupid and run the risk of ruining not only your own life but the lives of those closest to you too.

"The message is clear and I hope that people can see the pain and hurt that this has caused and can learn from it. Just stop and think about what you are doing. Armani didn’t and will have to live the rest of his life with the consequences of taking Joshua’s life and quite rightly serve a long prison sentence for doing so. Make sure you don’t go the same way."

In a Victim Impact Statement Joshua’s mum Alison Cope said: "I have never known anyone loved as much as Josh, he was truly a genuine and unique person, so kind hearted, so full of life and he had blossomed into a beautiful young man that anyone would be very, very proud of.

"He was an amazing and special person; no one had the right to take him from this world as he didn’t want to go, he wanted to live, to love and to be successful. He was ambitious and truly beautiful inside and out. I loved him with all my heart and soul and now my heart and soul are broken without him.

"Josh loved life and had matured so much in the last 12 months; he knew exactly where he wanted to be with his life and to be an honest positive member of society. He loved living and loved his life, loved spoiling people and loved seeing the world and that was taken from him because of jealousy."

Detective Superintendent Mark Payne, from Force CID, said: "It is desperately sad that this is now the second time in as many months I’ve had to speak about a young man needlessly losing his life after being stabbed but it only strengthens our resolve to spread the anti-knife crime message.

"This idea that people carry knives for protection is ludicrous − Joshua was not attacking Mitchell at the time he was killed, he was unarmed and effectively alone, but Mitchell took out the knife and stabbed him at point-blank range.

"The reality is that as soon as someone picks up a knife and takes it out on to the street with them, the stakes are raised and lives are inevitably put at risk. More often than not, two lives are taken − that of the victim, who ends up dead and the killer, who faces a lifetime in prison."

In 2012-13 there were 1,480 knife crime offences reported across the West Midlands Police area - that’s down almost a third from the previous 12 months and down more than 75 per cent on a decade ago.

Det Supt. Payne added: "I understand statistics can feel intangible to victims’ families at times like this: these people’s lives have been irreversibly changed. However, fatal stabbings are not commonplace in the West Midlands and should be viewed in context; they are shocking but they are also mercifully rare."