Following the sentencing of three people over the murder of her son, Michael Ugwa's mother read a statement outside court.
You can read it in full below.
"I am the mother of Michael, who was brutally murdered on 28 April 2022. Michael was a victim of a knife crime at the Food Mall of the Lakeside Shopping Centre in Essex, UK.
"My family has been shattered by this senseless act of violence and we are still struggling to come to terms with the enormity of our loss, even as we know that this is a void that will never be filled.
"The impact of Michael's murder on our family is difficult to put into words. His children, who are now growing up without their father, have been deeply affected by this tragedy. They miss him terribly and have been struggling to come to terms with his sudden absence.
"It breaks my heart to see how his now 2- year-old daughter, continues to look excitedly towards the door, waiting for her daddy that used to dance with her all the time and then breaking down into tears when she realises he isn’t coming.
"How his 8-year-old son, continues to wake up crying for his daddy every night. His 7-year-old son, still remains in shock. On Father’s Day, a few weeks ago, both boys came home to recount how sad they felt when other children were talking in class about the things that they had done with their fathers.
"His sisters and brother are still grieving the loss of their much-loved brother. The thought of the sibling you grow up with and hope you would grow old with no longer being there is unimaginable to so many people, but to Michael’s siblings, it is the reality that they wake up to everyday. The pain of his absence is felt every day in our lives."
“Michael and his partner had plans to build their family together”
"I grieve twice more each time I see how Michael's partner continues to struggle with his loss. They had plans to spend the rest of their lives together, to build and grow their family together, but those plans have so tragically and irreversibly been cut short.
"As a mother, the pain of losing my son is unbearable. I never imagined that I would have to bury one of my children; that I would spend every waking moment suddenly expecting him to come back and tell me everything is ok; endlessly searching for his face whenever I am in public even though I know it is impossible.
"Oh the countless times I have listened to his voice in recordings and looked through his pictures, thinking to myself “how on earth did this happen? This can’t really be true!
"My son was a kind, compassionate, caring, and very outgoing young man who is no longer with us today, and will be missed every day. He was the person to go to, when you needed a problem solving, a shoulder to cry on, just an ear that would listen.
"As I listened to the details of the trial, I was reminded of just how compassionate he was. Even in the face of death he begged them to calm down when he saw how scared the children and their families were at the sight of a knife being drawn in the food court of a shopping mall in broad daylight.
"He asked them, “What are you doing, bringing a knife to a shopping mall?” It is extremely distressing to think about how many other kind and compassionate people like Michael have also lost their lives to knife crimes and how many families have been left devastated in their wake."
“Forced to relive the horror of Michael’s murder”
"The grief of losing Michael has further been compounded by the legal process that we have had to endure. We have been forced to go through a trial that lasted six very painful weeks during which we have had to relive the horror of my Michael’s murder over and over again.
"Hearing every painful detail of his last moments was difficult for us to comprehend and to deal with, as a family.
"We listened to the evidence that was put forward - how the defendants tried to justify their actions on the day! Yet there truly is no justification for taking a life.
"Till this day, I always wonder what will make two young people leave their homes, armed with a knife, faces covered with balaclavas, and walk into one of the UK’s biggest and busiest shopping mall, in broad daylight, unafraid, and end the life of someone they have never met before? An evident lack of fear for repercussions and certainly no inhibition towards murder.
"To that end I would like to state that even after they are sentenced to prison, they will eventually be released back into society after serving their terms but unfortunately for Michael, the same does not apply to him. These murderers will serve their sentences and pick up their lives but our family will never truly heal from the loss of Michael. What Irony that they do a ‘life sentence’ while we actually get the ‘death sentence’.
"Perhaps a change to impose longer sentences for cases like Michael’s could be the way forward. The deterrence such an objective could create would most likely lead to a substantial decline in knife crime.
"People would be forced to consider their actions far more carefully in light of the heavier sentencing, that such senseless killings may cease to take place."
“I would like to thank Essex Police”
"My family and I would like to thank Essex Police greatly for their diligence, thoroughness and painstaking hard work in ensuring that Michael’s murderers and accomplice did not evade justice.
"In particular we wish to express our heartfelt gratitude to the Family Liaison Officers, Tracy , Steve and Ryan, without whose support our journey would have been a thousand times more painful. And of course, our immense gratitude goes to Detective Chief Inspector Julie Gowen, whose effort was paramount to tying this case all together.
"We have hope and confidence that Michael has found eternal rest with Our Lord, and that we will get to be with him again when we pass. We also dare to pray that no family will have to go through our experience.