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'We are trying to cope with this terrible tragedy'

MISSED: Olayinka and Ade with a picture of Stephen

LAST CHRISTMAS, Stephen Ojerinola and his family sat down together to enjoy a sumptuous Christmas meal.

Although his mother, Olayinka Ojerinola, preferred duck, Stephen encouraged her to buy a turkey.

On Christmas morning, Stephen took on the role of chef. The committed Christian family later sat around the dinner table, held hands and gave thanks for their meal.

They then spent the rest of the evening laughing, playing games and discussing Jesus and the spirit of Christmas. But this year, Christmas has been cancelled. Instead, the family will be making funeral preparations and awaiting the release of Stephen’s body.

Stephen Ojerinola went missing in April. On November 20, his remains were discovered buried in the garden of a property in Lynsted Gardens, Eltham, south London.


DEATH: Stephen Ojerinola

A post-mortem revealed that Stephen died from stab wounds. He was just 18 years old.

Speaking exclusively to The Voice at the family’s home in Camberwell, south London, Stephen’s stepfather, Ade Bakare, said: “The irony is that we were hoping Stephen's body would be released to us so we could give him a funeral before Christmas. But how do you think of Christmas when you have to plan a funeral?"

Stephen’s heartbroken mother added: “I feel empty. It’s like he has gone into oblivion. I will never lay eyes on his body [because it is decomposed] and that’s the thing that hurts the most.”

Disappearance

In the seven months during Stephen’s disappearance, Olayinka said she had to take sleeping tablets to get through the night.

“The stress of looking for Stephen has done damage to my brain. I never gave up hope that he would walk through the door, but deep down I knew there was something wrong,” she said. “Every morning I thought of how I would get through the day. And despite taking sleeping tablets, I would lie awake at night, trying to find answers.”

Surrounded by friends and sitting near her husband, a 48-year-old security consultant, Olayinka described her son as a “bright and charming young man with a soft heart.”

At 6ft 4in, Stephen towered over his mother, and she recalled how he had to bend down to hug her. According to Olayinka, Stephen had been a large baby, and staff at King’s College Hospital affectionately referred to him as a “monster” because he was so big.


LOSS: Stephen Ojerinola

As a child, Stephen was athletic and a die-hard Manchester United fan. “I was forever buying him new football strips,” said Olayinka.

The aspiring lawyer attended Crown Woods College in Avery Hill, Eltham, and inside the living room, his school photo and family portraits line the mantelpiece.
“Stephen was so generous with his time and he was devoted to his younger siblings. He was always buying them sweets, and I would say ‘remember their teeth, I don’t want them to have too many sweets’,” she recalled.

She said one of her fondest memories is the way Stephen took care of her after she had her son Adesoye, by caesarean section. “He did some things that I will never forget. In the house we were living in at the time, the kitchen and sitting room was on the ground floor and I was unable to get down the stairs."

"His stepfather had to leave for work at 5.30am so Stephen would make breakfast, lunch and dinner, and he would put his younger sister Derin in her buggy and take her food shopping with him. Without him, I wouldn’t have survived."

Derin, now eight, idolised Stephen. His stepfather said she and her younger brother, Adesoye, five, are struggling to process the news of his death.

Ade said: “Adesoye adored him and hasn’t really grasped it. Last weekend he wrote Stephen a Christmas card. Derin knows she isn’t going to see Stephen again, but the impact hasn’t hit her yet.”

Ade said Stephen’s 21-year-old brother, Junior, is also struggling to cope. Their closeness is cemented in the fact that Stephen’s February 26 birthday was just one day after Junior’s, Olayinka said.

Reality

“Now we have felt the reality, we are trying to cope with this terrible tragedy,” said Ade.

Lee Davies, 35, of Chiswell Square, Blackheath has been charged with murder, and William Regan, 36, of Lynsted Gardens, Eltham, has been charged with murder and two counts of burglary.

Both are due to appear for a plea and case management hearing at London’s Old Bailey on March 2. Five other people have been arrested and bailed.


MISSED: Olayinka and Ade with a picture of Stephen

Lee Jasper, chair of the London Race and Criminal Justice Consortium, and the family’s spokesman, said: “The family have been doubly victimised. Not only have they gone through the horror of losing Stephen, they have been deprived of the very process that gives them some degree of comfort and solace (by getting the chance to view his body)."

"The family now pray they get justice for Stephen.”

Stephen was last seen in the Eltham area in April. Anyone with information should contact the incident room on 0208 721 4205, or to remain anonymous call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

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