A man who stabbed a male model to death on Valentine’s Day after he was made to ‘look foolish’ in a series of prank texts, has today been jailed for life.
O’Neal Joseph, 28, fatally stabbed Yannick Cupido in the chest during a row outside an off-licence in Lower Caversham, near Reading, Berks.
Hours earlier Mr Cupido, 24, had been involved in a series of prank texts with friend Reece Weatherburn.
The texts claimed Weatherburn, a mutual friend, had been arrested because of a stabbing.
Joseph got wind and became ‘concerned’ about his friend. But concern turned to anger when he realised it was a prank.
He began a text row with Cupido and the pair agreed to meet outside the shop, where Joseph pulled a kitchen knife and fatally wounded the male model.
Today Joseph was given a life sentence at Reading Crown Court after being found guilty of murder.
Weatherburn was jailed for three years after being convicted of two counts of assisting Joseph by impeding the police investigation.
O’Neal Joseph (pictured left) , 28, fatally stabbed Yannick Cupido (pictured right) in the chest during a row outside an off-licence in Lower Caversham, near Reading, Berks. Hours earlier Mr Cupido, 24, had been involved in a series of prank texts with friend Reece Weatherburn.
The jury was previously told that on the evening of February 13, the night before the stabbing Mr Cupido and Weatherbur had started sending bogus messages to Weatherburn’s ex-partner, Mollie Brookes, claiming Weatherburn had been arrested over a stabbing.
Joseph, also a close friend of Weatherburn’s, got wind of the messages and took them at face value and began to become concerned and angry.
This led to a spate of aggressive text messages being sent before they agreed to meet outside the off-licence in Lower Cavisham.
The jury heard that the meeting soon turned violent and as the two shouted and fought until Joseph stabbed Cupido with a kitchen knife.
Mr Cupido fled the scene before collapsing a few moments later. Passers-by called an ambulance he later died from his injuries, with the attack leaving him with a deep wound that punctured his lung.
The court heard that Joseph fled the scene, visiting various friends before finally meeting up with Weatherburn at around 3am of Valentines’ Day and laying low in his flat.
Weatherburn denied knowing anything of the attack until Joseph turned himself in to the authorities two days later.
Defending Joseph, David Hislop QC said: ‘At the age of only 28 he faces a prison sentence of a very, very long time.
‘He will not see his children grow and he will have to endure the knowledge his children will know their father is in prison for murder.
‘He will also have to endure the knowledge he murdered a man in a few minutes of madness.
This led to a spate of aggressive text messages being sent before they agreed to meet outside the off-licence in Lower Cavisham. Pictured: Police at the scene
‘He has ruined not only his life but the lives of others and this he will have to live with for the rest of his life. These are all severe punishments in their selves.’
Defending Weatherburn, Nadia Chbat said: ‘The assistance from Weatherburn was minimal in the hours when Joseph hid at the his home.
‘The defendant had not been sent by Joseph to do any scoping, he does not provide him with phones, money, vehicles or gets rid of any evidence.
‘Weatherburn’s involvement with Joseph placed an immense pressure on him at that time.
‘You might think he was emotionally ill-equipped. We know Weatherburn had a great affection for Mr Cupido,’ said Ms Chabt.
‘Having had a minor disagreement with Mr Cupido on the night of February 13, he sent him a text telling him to come back so they could sort out their grievance.
‘Mr Weatherburn’s acts have not prevented Joseph being convicted of murder.’
Prosecuting, Matthew Walsh said: ‘By the time he provided the assistance by allowing Joseph to remain at his flat, he knew a serious stabbing had taken place.
‘By the time he was dealing with the police in the afternoon and the evening of the 14th, he knew Mr Cupido had died.
‘He knew Mr Joseph was a suspect. This allowed Mr Joseph to remain off the streets and time to make plans.
‘The misinformation had the effect of causing him to avoid apprehension for several days as he was able to leave the Reading area.
‘What was the damage to justice? It really caused the investigation to move at a slower pace than it might have done so. But ultimately, the effect has not hampered the conviction.’
Joseph, from Reading, was sentenced to life imprisonment, meaning he must serve 23 years and 86 days behind bars before being considered for parole. Pictured: Police at the scene
Weatherburn, also from Reading, was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment and will have to serve half of this time before he can be considered for parole. Pictured: Police at the scene
Sentencing both men, Judge Amjad Nawaz said: ‘He [Mr Cupido] may have had his faults but he was loved and he loved his family. No sentence in this court can make up for the loss felt by the family.’
The judge went on to recount the order of events leading up to the attack. He said: ‘Neither [Mr Cupido nor Joseph] was willing to back down, this was all a face-saving exercise. He [Joseph] had been made to look foolish and he was not going to stand for that. This was the catalyst for what was to follow.’
‘He [Joseph] was looking for Yannick Cupido. Shortly after that, neighbours heard squabbling between two men.
‘Mr Joseph says he came back to the Best One shop and he saw Mr Cupido. There was a physical altercation which lasted just over two minutes.
‘Yannick Cupido did have a bottle and it did drop to the ground. He may have initially acted to defend himself but that must have been to a very limited degree, the jury must have found.
‘You involved Reece Weatherburn in this crime. If you had not contacted him, he would not find himself where you are now.’
The judge then turned to address Weatherburn, saying: ‘You assert you were immature at the time and misguided by loyalty towards your friend.
‘That could have only continued so far, because you continued to not give the police the right information.’
As Judge Nawaz was in the process of sentencing he was interrupted by a court usher – and it was revealed that a member of the public in the court gallery had been recording a video of the sentencing on his mobile phone.
The man was removed from the courtroom by police officers.
Joseph, from Reading, was sentenced to life imprisonment, meaning he must serve 23 years and 86 days behind bars before being considered for parole.
Weatherburn, also from Reading, was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment and will have to serve half of this time before he can be considered for parole.