A 16-year-old has been arrested on suspicion of murdering a man who “refused to sell cigarette papers” to a group of youths.
Vijay Patel, 49, was struck in the chest as he tried to prevent the shop he worked at in north London being vandalised by three teenagers after the shopkeeper refused to sell them cigarette papers.
Patel suffered a fatal head injury after falling to the ground, dying the next day at a nearby hospital.
The teenagers also punched the shopkeeper and then ran off.
Detectives confirmed that one of the group had been arrested on suspicion of murder late on Monday, Jan. 8. They are still seeking the whereabouts of the other two.
“At this stage we believe this to be an unprovoked spontaneous incident sparked entirely by refusal to let the suspects buy what they wanted,” said Detective Inspector Ian Lott from the Metropolitan Police’s Homicide and Major Crime Command in a statement.
“A man has lost his life for no reason other than trying to uphold the law.”
Under UK law, cigarette papers, or Rizlas, cannot be sold to anyone under the age of 18.
‘We Are Going to Smash the Shop Window’
Another worker at the shop, who did not want to be named, told the Daily Mail, “There were three of these guys, but none of them had an ID.
“One of them got a bank card out and I said ‘this is not a form of ID’, but they continued threatening and abusing us so I asked them gently to leave because I can’t risk my licence over that.
“They left the shop but they threatened me again afterwards saying ‘we are going to smash the shop window.’
“In that instant, Vijay went outside by the door and after a few seconds I went out as well and at that moment Vijay was hit in the chest with a lot of force.
“He was knocked down and the guys started to hit me as well … I tried to get them away with a board and managed to scare them off.”
Passers-by helped to put Patel into the recovery position before he was taken to the hospital.
‘The Greatest Man in the World’
Patel’s family spoke highly of him in an interview with the Daily Mail.
His 47-year-old brother, Prakash, said, “He was the greatest man in the world. He died trying to protect the shop.
“He worked all hours to fund [his sons’ education costs] and worked very hard to support the family.”
The family shared images of Patel on life support in St. Mary’s Hospital, Paddington, in the hope that it would help to catch his killers.
Patel lived in Kingsbury in northwest London and has two children. At the time of the attack, his wife was visiting relatives in Gujarat, West India, according to the Daily Mail.