Teens jailed for life after murdering 'pure in heart' Afghan refugee, 16, in west London, in case of mistaken gang identity

10 May 2023, 14:44 | Updated: 10 May 2023, 14:46

Vanushan Balakrishnan and Ilyas Suleiman killed Rishmeet Singh
Vanushan Balakrishnan and Ilyas Suleiman killed Rishmeet Singh. Picture: Alamy/Met Police

By Kit Heren

Two teenagers have been sentenced to life behind bars for murdering an Afghan refugee, 16, who they thought was a rival gang member in west London.

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Vanushan Balakrishnan and Ilyas Suleiman, who are now 18, stabbed Rishmeet Singh 15 times in November 2021 after chasing him down a road in Southall.

Balakrishnan was sentenced to serve a minimum of 24 years.

Suleiman will be in prison for at least 21 years.

Both were found guilty in March, and have had their sentences reduced for the time they have already been behind bars.

Vanushan Balakrishnan
Vanushan Balakrishnan. Picture: Met Police

The court earlier heard how when Balakrishnan and Suleiman attacked Mr Singh, the victim tripped over and fell.

Their remorseless attack was over in 27 seconds and the murderers left the teenager's body on the ground as they ran from the scene.

Rishmeet's family had come to the UK for a better life after fleeing the Taliban, after his father was killed by the group. He acted as a translator for the family.

His mother Gulinder said after the trial: "Rishmeet was my only child, and he had his whole life ahead of him."I feel I have lost everything and my life is over.

"Rishmeet was well loved by all that knew him, he was a faithful boy and was very caring in his nature.

Ilyas Suleiman
Ilyas Suleiman. Picture: Met Police

"I will never recover from this evil act. I have lost my husband and now I have lost my only child, my son. Justice is finally served for Rishmeet but their sentence will never be enough for me.

"They have taken my whole life away from me and Rishmeet will never come home again."

Judge Sarah Munro said: "All who knew Rishmeet spoke very fondly of him."

"It defies belief that you two sought him out to kill him."

Friends described him as "a good person who would not harm a fly", "pure in heart" and "a humble guy".

Rishmeet Singh
Rishmeet Singh. Picture: Alamy

The court heard how the murderers had deliberately set out for a "glide", which means an attack on an enemy gang's territory.

The attackers heard how Balakrishnan and Suleiman chased Rishmeet and his friends through a park and "ferociously attacked" him.

Read more: 'It can be anyone's child': Mother of murdered Jermaine Cools' plea as killer Marques Walker is jailed for life

Read more: Schoolboy stabbed to death in Walthamstow named as Renell Charles, 16

A member of the public called the emergency services but Rishmeet died at the scene after suffering "unsurvivable" stab wounds to his head and chest.

Balakrishnan and Suleiman were captured on CCTV running away and were later identified by their clothes.

After they fled, the two gang members, from Hillingdon, west London, changed their clothes at a gang safe house and returned to their homes by taxi.

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