Mohammed Assri, 47, of no fixed abode, was sentenced at Isleworth Crown Court on Thursday, 28 January having been found guilty at an earlier hearing.
On Monday, 17 February 2020, Assri made a frantic call to police reporting that he had returned to an address in St Mark’s Grove, SW10 to find James dead.
Officers and paramedics attended to find James with head injuries. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Assri was arrested and was found in possession of James’s personal items including his bank card and a large sum of blood-stained cash.
Detectives began an investigation and found the relationship between Assri and James to be unclear. Assri claimed that his name was Adam and that James was his uncle. Assri had been homeless prior to moving into James’s flat in late January.
Having moved into the flat, Assri quickly established control, seeking to exclude James’s carers. He took over his finances, including using his Halifax debit card regularly, and pawned a valuable watch-strap belonging to James.
Officers found that in an attempt to displace himself from the crime scene Assri lied about his whereabouts in the hours before James’s death. He claimed that he had been at his sister’s house at 16.45hrs that day and later returned to James’ residence, performing CPR for 30 mins before calling the ambulance at 18.45hrs. Officers found that CCTV cameras showed he had been in the vicinity of his sister’s house 12 hours before he claimed and James’s pacemaker registered a failing heart nearly two hours before an ambulance was called.
A post-mortem examination revealed bruising on James’s wrists and marks to his hand suggesting that he had tried to defend himself from the fatal attack, and gave cause of death as blunt force trauma and compression of the neck.
Assri insist that James’s injuries were sustained by falling and were self-inflicted. This was disproved by pathologists and medical evidence.
Detective Inspector Maria Green from Specialist Crime said: “This has been a truly tragic case and my thoughts are with James Dowdell’s family as they continue to come to terms with their loss. I pay tribute to them and the strength that they have shown.
“Assri is a violent and manipulative man who has taken no responsibility for his actions. He used his court appearance as an attempt to dishonour the memory and life of James and delay the trial causing great upset to James’ family.
“I hope that this conviction, and the sentence imposed, will send out a clear message to those intent on committing violent acts – that tackling violence in London is a top priority for the Metropolitan Police and we will continue to apprehend those responsible for causing misery and fear in our communities.
“The community will be a lot safer as a result of Assri now being behind bars. People must remember that they can play a really important role in tackling violent crime and if you have information about crime, we urge you to tell us, so that we can tackle violence together and help keep our neighbourhoods safe.”
In a victim impact statement, James’ Mother said:
“As a family we arrived expecting a two week trial. In the event it ran to six weeks. One of the traumas of this was that it appeared that the timetable could be puppeteered by a lying manipulative murderer who seemed to thrive on all the attention. It felt that the Defendant could simply produce a new story at will to keep everyone dangling.
“James’ body riddled with more than 60 injuries shows how courageously he fought for his life. It highlights the levels of venom and savagery within this murderer that he could almost casually and for no possible motive brutally destroy James. The blood splatters on every wall and devastation in James’ room are graphic testament to that.
“It is simplistic to say life is made up with two types of people those who “give” and those who “take”. But I know which one James was and it isn’t the same as his murderer. So I suppose, it was inevitable that someone like James with no hatred or violence in his soul was too late in recognising such evil in another. We have heard how he was slowly becoming aware of the increasing threat but when asked by his friend Grainne if he would survive until she came to him, he replied; – ‘Hopefully!!!!’ This will resonate with us for ever more.”
If you are a victim of domestic abuse or are worried about someone else please have the confidence to approach police or the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111. It doesn’t matter what your lifestyle is, we will help.
If you need urgent help and cannot talk, dial 999 and press 55 to let the operator know the call has not been made in error.