Teenager and care manager mother jailed for ‘shocking’ machete killing sparked by gang rivalry
A mother and son have been jailed for killing a 17-year-old boy in a “shocking” machete attack sparked by petty gang rivalry.
Levi Ernest-Morrison was chased and fatally stabbed in Syndenham, south London, on the evening of April 10 last year.
Mother-of-three Nichola Leighton, 37, who drove his killers to and from the scene in her red Suzuki jeep, was found guilty of his murder.
On Friday, the former care manager (pictured, left) was jailed at the Old Bailey for life with a minimum term of 23 years.
Her 19-year-old son Tyreese Ulysses (pictured, right), from Catford, who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and was driven by a desire to protect his mother, was jailed for 13 years for manslaughter with a further five years on extended licence.
His friend Alex Sprules, 17, from Lewisham, who fatally stabbed Levi in the groin after he fell on the ground, was locked up for at least 20 years for murder.
A 16-year-old boy, who had swung a machete at Levi causing him to trip over, was detained for life with a minimum of 16 years for murder.
The defendants also received concurrent sentences for having machetes.
Judge Peter Rook QC told them: “These are truly grave offences and sadly yet another example of knife crime that is the scourge of some of our cities.
“This group attack was a brutal over-reaction to a small problem, a petty rivalry between teenagers.
“The immediate trigger was the appearance of a rival gang attending Nichola Leighton’s address which appears to have been a reaction to a taunting video made earlier by you Sprules and you Ulysses.”
Rather than waiting for police to arrive, Leighton “saw red”, the judge added.
The court heard how Leighton became “furious” after Levi and his friends kept knocking on her door looking for her son.
Leighton phoned police and said that if the boys returned to her home she was going to “batter them”.
When Ulysses learned they were “bothering” his mother, he rallied friends armed with machetes, jurors had heard.
The youths jumped out of Leighton’s Suzuki and chased Levi and one of his friends, jurors heard.
Levi was caught and fatally stabbed by Sprules, who Leighton had considered to be like a son.
Prosecutor Bill Emlyn Jones QC had said the attack took just 30 seconds.
Afterwards, the attackers sprinted back to the waiting car and Leighton sped away.
Leighton admitted driving the boys to the scene but denied being aware they were armed, while her son claimed they only wanted to scare off the gang.
In a victim impact statement, Levi’s mother Bonnie Ernest-Blake described him as “well mannered, caring, trustworthy” and “always smiling”.
He had autism and could not run very fast since being involved in a road accident, she said.
He was looking forward to starting an apprenticeship in construction and marrying his girlfriend.
In her statement read out her daughter Kayla Ernest, said she had been left “heartbroken”.
She said: “I feel like I’m in a horror film I cannot get out of my mind.”
Mrs Ernest-Blake said the “horrific events” had devastated the local community and left people feeling unsafe.
She added: “There needs to be a change – this cannot continue.”
Detective Chief Inspector Chris Wood, who led the investigation, said it had been an “extremely harrowing” case.
He said: “We have got a mother that has driven one of her sons to assist in committing this offence, it makes it even more bizarre and upsetting for the family.
“It’s shocking. I have never seen a case like this where a mother has driven her son and others to commit an offence like this.”
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