Two Romanian brothers pleaded not guilty at the Old Bailey today (25 January 2016) to killing John Breen at Statford train station in front of dozens of horrified commuters. The teenagers – aged 15 and 16, and who cannot be named because of their age – denied murder in front of a packed public gallery. They are to stand trial on 11 April, by which point the eldest brother would have turned 17.
Breen, 53, was killed during an alleged altercation at the east London station on 24 October last year – three days before one of the defendants' 16th birthday. As well as the brothers, two 14 year olds were charged with murder, but the Crown Prosecution Service dropped cases against the pair.
During their brief hearing, judge Gerald Gordon said: "The crown accepts that the cause of death was the punch that caused him to fall down and hit his head." He added "there obviously are a large number of civilian witnesses" and acknowledged the attack happened "very quickly involving strangers".
The boys – one of whom wore a black and grey jumper, the other a blue blazer - appeared calm and smiled as they entered the dock at court number 18 for their plea and case management. They spoke only to confirm their names and address.
The court heard how 22 eyewitnesses could be called to give evidence, and that CCTV footage and photos from the scene of Breen's death and post mortem would form part of the prosecution's evidence. The boys both refused to comment during their police interviews, have been barred from the E15 postcode and have been forced to surrender their passports as part of their bail conditions.
Asking the defendants to stand, Judge Gordon told them: "As you know, the trial start date is 11 April and your lawyers will be in touch with you in the meantime."