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Man lured to fatal attack in Rose Lane car park, Norwich Crown court hears

PUBLISHED: 06:10 03 March 2012 | UPDATED: 08:28 03 March 2012

Police at Rose Lane Car Park after an assault took place in the early hours of Thursday <10/2/11>.

Police at Rose Lane Car Park after an assault took place in the early hours of Thursday <10/2/11>.

©Archant Photographic 2011

A 54-year-old man who died four days after being assaulted in a Norwich car park was lured to his death as part of a "revenge attack" by members of a London-based drugs gang against a rival gang, a court has heard.

Honorato Christovao died four days after sustaining serious head injuries during an assault in Rose Lane car park in the early hours of Thursday, February 10 last year.

Anthony Obariase, 31, from Norwich Road, London; Anton St Paul, 22, from Keogh Road, London, and Yiadom Spencer, 22, from Saville Road, London, have all been charged with murder. The three, who all deny murder, have appeared at Norwich Crown Court for the start of their trial.

Simon Spence QC, prosecuting, told the jury they will hear another name, Lucy Browne, who will appear as a prosecution witness after pleading guilty to manslaughter in relation to the incident and will be dealt with separately.

Mr Spence, opening the case, said the three defendants were all members of a London-based gang called GBen which was involved in the dealing of Class A drugs, primarily heroin and cocaine, in Norwich. At the same time another London-based gang, called JJ, was dealing Class A drugs in Norwich.

The court heard that on February 9, the night before Mr Christovao “met his death”, a member of the GBen gang was attacked and robbed of both cash and drugs in Norwich.

The gang member declined to co-operate with police and although the perpetrators were never identified the prosecution say they were from the JJ gang. Mr Spence said it was the prosecution’s case that on the following night the three defendants travelled from London to Norwich with the “expressed purpose of executing a revenge attack on someone from the JJ gang”.

He said Lucy Browne, a working prostitute in Norwich, user of Class A drugs and of the GBen gang, was used as a “conduit to suggest the time and place for meeting” under the context of it being a drug deal. The jury was told the meeting was to be with Mr Christovao’s partner Sharon Hodgson, a user of the JJ gang and small time dealer for them, who was to be the intended recipient of this attack.

Mr Spence said the car from London arrived at Lucy Browne’s address in Norwich and shortly thereafter left to go to the meeting place with Lucy Browne remaining at home.

Sharon Hodgson left her address in Parmentergate Court, Norwich, for the meeting place at the car park with Mr Christovao, her boyfriend, who decided to accompany her although he was not involved in the JJ gang.

Once at the meeting place Mr Spence said the couple, who had expected to see Lucy Browne, were approached by three black men and asked if they were serving for the JJ gang before they were attacked.

It was during the attack that Mr Christovao “received a serious head injury from which he sadly died four days later”.

Sharon Hodgson escaped with “little or no injury” and called the emergency services after phoning the JJ gang to tell them about the attack. The car then returned to Lucy Browne’s address before heading back to London.

Mr Spence told the jury not to trouble themselves that Lucy Browne had pleaded guilty to manslaughter as her part was “different” from these three defendants who, the prosecution say, were present at the car park and who were “directly or indirectly” involved in the assault on Mr Christovao which resulted in his death.

He added that if the “true purpose” of a revenge attack by way of physical violence was to “cause serious harm” then those involved in that violence, or “lending support to it by use of mobile phone or driving them there”, was guilty of murder.

Mr Spence said: “Even though these men have played different roles, each of them is guilty of the murder of Mr Christovao.”

After the opening the jury, which contains eight men and four women, were taken to the Rose Lane car park and given a view of the scene where the assault happened. The trial continues on Monday.

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