09 August 2021

Brother locked up for killing MMA fighter at birthday party

09 August 2021

The brother of a British champion mixed martial artist has been locked up indefinitely for fatally stabbing him as he celebrated his 30th birthday.

Jahreau Shepherd, nicknamed The Nightmare, was hacked to death by 19-year-old Dwight Freeman as he partied with friends in Kennington, south London, on July 11 last year.

Freeman, who was Mr Shepherd’s half-brother, fled to Newquay in Cornwall where he was spotted five days later.

Last month, Freeman, from Vauxhall, south London, pleaded guilty to Mr Shepherd’s manslaughter by diminished responsibility and wounding 26-year-old Joel Belgrave with intent.

On Monday, Judge Richard Marks QC handed him a hospital order without limit of time.

Friends and family had filled the courtroom as prosecutor Caroline Carberry QC outlined the facts of the case.

She told the court that Mr Shepherd was an “accomplished” MMA fighter who lived with his mother and half-brother, who was known as DJ.

Mr Shepherd acted like a father figure to his younger sibling and wanted him to “fix up and be better” and stop smoking skunk cannabis”.

The court heard the victim had been “physically imposing” at times and there were issues between the pair.

In the six months before the killing, the defendant suffered mood swings and had “terrified” his mother when she woke up to find him staring at her at the foot of the bed.

She made appointments for him to see his GP which he failed to attend.

On the evening of July 11, Mr Shepherd held a birthday party and barbecue in a park, having told around 60 guests the dress code was to wear white.

At around 10pm, numerous friends looked on as Freeman, in black and with his hood up, carried out a “terrifying, sustained and unprovoked attack with a large knife or knives”, Ms Carberry said.

The weapons were variously described by eyewitnesses as a machete, Samurai sword and a large zombie knife.

One eyewitness heard Mr Shepherd appear to tell off the defendant who then hit him several times with a blade.

Mr Shepherd was heard to say: “I love you. What are you doing?”

He held his hands up as he appealed to his brother, saying: “I’m sorry, I’m sorry. Don’t do this”, the court was told.

Mr Shepherd suffered 13 wounds including to his back, shoulder, thigh, face and stomach, with the two fatal injuries being around 19cm deep.

The defendant only stopped the frenzied onslaught when a bottle was thrown at him, causing him to drop one of the weapons.

Mr Belgrave, a friend of the welterweight fighter, tried to intervene and was also stabbed, suffering a punctured lung.

Freeman fled the scene, discarding a knife under a car, and went on the run in the west country.

Before his arrest in Cornwall, he disguised his appearance by dyeing and shaving his hair, and booked a room under a false name.

The court heard that since Freeman had been in custody, psychiatrists diagnosed him with paranoid schizophrenia.

Giving evidence, Dr Emmanuel Okoro said the teenager’s severe mental illness had “played a significant part in the offences”.

Sentencing, Judge Marks told the defendant: “At the party, for reasons which are unclear, you had armed yourself with two bladed articles, one of which was either a machete or a large zombie knife.

“You attacked your brother with one or more of the weapons.

“You did so in a ferocious manner causing him no fewer than 13 stab wounds.”

“Such was the degree of violence used by you on your brother, one can only conclude your intention was to kill him.

“The severity of the injuries were such they were unsurvivable and he was pronounced dead at the scene.”

The judge noted that Freeman had been a “habitual” skunk cannabis user which may have contributed to his illness.

He said: “It’s obviously a very tragic case, more so because your mother in the six months before events had made a number of appointments for you to attend your GP but you had failed to attend, thinking there was nothing wrong with you.”

Detective Sergeant Ben Dalloway, of Scotland Yard, said: “This is a truly tragic case in which a family have essentially lost two of their loved ones.

“Jahreau was celebrating his 30th birthday listening to music and enjoying a barbeque surrounded by his loved ones. His life was cut short in an extremely violent manner which shocked and appalled those present.

“Jahreau was well loved in the local area and also amongst the mixed martial arts community. He turned to the sport towards the end of his life and was a champion fighter.“

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