Published: 12:34, 08 July 2020
| Updated: 15:03, 08 July 2020
A teenager has been found guilty of murdering a man during a row over drugs in Gillingham, which during his trial was described as "akin to an assassination."
Nathan Kitenge, 18, was found guilty today by a jury after a trial at Maidstone Crown Court.
During the trial the jury heard they boy, who was 17 at the time, was a county lines dealer who stabbed 35-year-old Anthony Eastwood five times following an argument near The Monarch pub in Fox Street.
Prosecutor Philip Bennetts QC had described the killing, which happened on the afternoon of Friday, December 20 last year, as "akin to an assassination."
He was arrested at the Channel Tunnel terminal in Coquelles, France, in January this year.
The teenager, from King Edward’s Road, Barking, had been travelling with his mother, who is in her 40s, when he was arrested.
She was also detained on suspicion of assisting an offender but was later released without charge.
Footage of Kitenge in Gillingham on the day of the killing
During the trial the jury also heard, Kitenge, had travelled to Gillingham by rail on the morning of the killing and within an hour of his arrival had left 35-year-old Tony Eastwood for dead following the brutal knife attack.
Detectives identified Kitenge following a painstaking review of CCTV footage and arrested him while he was attempting to leave the country aboard a Eurotunnel train.
He denied killing Mr Eastwood and claimed someone else had carried out the attack while dressed in his clothes, which he said had been stolen from him minutes beforehand.
Kitenge had caught a taxi from his home in Barking and then a train from the King George V Docklands Light Railway station at around 10.55am on the day of Mr Eastwood’s death, arriving in Gillingham at around 12.10pm.
CCTV cameras captured him walking through various parts of the town and also recorded him appearing to notice Mr Eastwood talking on his mobile phone in the High Street.
He was then seen to turn around and follow him to Fox Street, where words were briefly exchanged before Mr Eastwood attempted to run away.
However, Kitenge quickly caught up with him before stabbing him five times to the head and body.
Kent Police officers and medical personnel from South East Coast Ambulance Service attended but Mr Eastwood was declared dead at the scene.
It is suspected the incident was due to a drug-related dispute and that Mr Eastwood was known to his attacker.
Kitenge was previously unknown to Kent Police detectives but they were able to identify him by using the mobile phone number he used to book the taxi and tracking the journey of the same handset from London to Gillingham on the day of Mr Eastwood’s murder.
He was eventually located and arrested on board a Eurotunnel train bound for Paris in the early hours of Saturday, January 11, this year, and later charged with murder.
Just days before his trial was due to start, Kitenge claimed he had been robbed of his clothes and possessions during a 19-minute gap in the CCTV footage where his whereabouts were unknown, and that the person responsible must also have killed Mr Eastwood.
However, the investigation team were able to prove the man who arrived by train in Gillingham was the same person who carried out the attack after demonstrating that he walked the same way and had the same habit of pulling the back of his top down.
His mobile phone was also in his possession before and after the incident.
Kitenge will be sentenced at the same court on Monday, August 24.
Police at the scene of the killing in December
Less than a month after his death, Mr Eastwood's sister paid tribute to him and pleaded for justice to be done.
She said: "He was lovely, big hearted. He would do anything for anyone."
Two Kent Police officers, DC Lucy Macland and DC James Greenidge were also commended by Judge Philip Statman, after the verdict.
He also praised the family of Mr Eastwood for "showing great dignity during the trial."
Speaking after the verdict, DCI Tristan Kluibenschadl of the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate said: "County lines drug dealing is a problem shared by communities the length and breadth of the UK, with those responsible often committing acts of extreme violence in order to protect their particular brand.
"We cannot be sure of the reason why Nathan Kitenge targeted Tony Eastwood, but what is certain is that he murdered him in broad daylight with no thought for the effect it would have on Mr Eastwood’s family and friends, those who witnessed the stabbing and the wider community.
"Kitenge’s excuse that somebody else stole his clothes before attacking Mr Eastwood was ludicrous and I was confident the jury would see through his lies.
"However, it is thanks to the fantastic work of my officers who analysed hours of CCTV footage and telephone records that it could be proven beyond any reasonable doubt that Kitenge was the person responsible.
"Class A drugs ruin lives, as this case tragically proves in relation to both Mr Eastwood and Kitenge himself, who at just 18 will now spend a significant portion of his adult life behind bars.
"I hope this result sends a clear message that Kent Police takes a zero tolerance approach towards those who bring such unacceptable levels of violence into our county. We simply will not stand for it."
More by this authorPaul Hooper
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