Former champion boxer shot dead for trying to enforce smoking ban

A FORMER British boxing champion was shot dead after asking a group of men to stop smoking, the Old Bailey heard yesterday.

James Oyebola, 46, died four days after being shot at a club in west London in July last year.

Mr Oyebola won a Commonwealth Games bronze medal in 1986 and was a former British heavyweight champion.

He was at the Chateau 6 nightclub, owned by a friend, on 23 July, 2007, when he was shot in the neck and leg.

Kanyanta Mulenga, 23, Rene McKoy, 20, Cyle Carth, 18, and Dean Francis, 24, all of south-west London, deny murder and affray.

Jeremy Donne, QC, prosecuting, said: "The reason for the killing was particularly senseless. James Oyebola had become involved in a dispute over smoking inside the club.

"In the course of the resulting confrontation with these four defendants, one of them produced a gun and fired four bullets – two striking Mr Oyebola."

Mr Donne said Mr Oyebola was sitting in a small courtyard known as the Garden bar at the back of the building.

He explained: "This space has a retracting roof and is part of the enclosed premises and therefore subject to the smoking ban.

"A number of witnesses who saw him assumed he was a bouncer, partly because of his size – 6ft 9in and powerful build – and partly because he was asking people not to smoke in the garden area. He did so in a perfectly pleasant way."

Mr Donne claimed the defendants were among 50 people at a party night at the club.

Mr Oyebola was shot just three weeks after the ban on smoking in enclosed public spaces was introduced, the court was told.

Mr Donne showed the jury a converted replica Baikal automatic pistol said to have been of the same type as the one used in the shooting. He played CCTV footage to the jury allegedly showing "an angular shape like a shallow V" which Mulenga held under his shirt as he and the other defendants left.

The four men were seen leaving in a "comparatively casual way" while there was a "rush of people running out".

James Cornwell, the DJ at the club, heard a disturbance and looked out towards the garden.

"He saw the victim standing inside the garden, being jostled by three men. He thought it looked like a giant against kids," said Mr Donne.

A fourth man was apparently pushing them apart but Mr Cornwell had the impression he also "had an issue" with Mr Oyebola.

Mr Cornwell saw shoving, and then a "break". According to the other witnesses, the gun was then fired into the roof.

Mr Donne added: "Mr Cornwell saw the gunman raise his arm and fire three more shots before turning round, at which point everyone seemed to bolt for the exit."

The trial continues.

BACKGROUND

JAMES Oyebola was born in Lagos, Nigeria, on 10 June, 1961. He moved to England with his parents when he was six, and was brought up in Paddington, west London.

The likeable 6ft 9ins boxer, described as a "gentle giant", won a bronze medal in the 1986 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, after losing to Lennox Lewis in the semi-final.

In his professional career, between 1987 and 1996, he won 18 of his 23 fights. The high point was in 1994, in Cardiff, when he became British heavyweight champion after knocking out Clifton Mitchell.