Who killed Ricky Smith? No match for fugitive killer's DNA 25 years after Islington murder

BEST QUALITY AVAILABLE Undated handout photo issued by Metropolitan Police of Ricky Smith, 25, who was stabbed to death as he walked home through a park in Islington, north London, in 1997. Issue date: Tuesday October 4, 2022.
Ricky Smith, 25, who was stabbed to death as he walked home through a park in Islington Credit: Met Police

Detectives who have the DNA of a fugitive killer who has never been identified are appealing for help to find him 25 years on.

Father-of-two Ricky Smith was stabbed as he walked home through a park in Islington, north London, in 1997.

Mr Smith, 25, was walking with his partner in Highbury Park when a man stabbed him once in the chest and ran off.

The Metropolitan Police believe the same attacker had stabbed another man near Kensal Green Tube station hours earlier.

Juan Marais, a South African living in London, was asked for the time, and as he looked at his watch was stabbed twice in the chest.

He spent 15 days in intensive care but survived.

Investigators believe the killer, whose DNA has not been matched to any UK or international database, fled the country after the attacks.

'Horrific crimes'

Detective Inspector Will Reynolds said: “We are confident that this DNA profile belongs to the man responsible for these attacks.

“Unfortunately there has been no match on our database or any international systems, meaning he does not appear to have come to police attention since the time of these offences.

“It is highly likely that the individual who committed these crimes was a violent man and it is extremely unusual that he does not appear to have reoffended.

“We therefore believe that after carrying out these horrific crimes, he disappeared, very likely leaving the UK and not returning.

“We are asking the public, especially those who are or were living in the area of Highbury or Kensal Green, to think about whether they knew of anyone who simply seemed to vanish in 1997.

“The suspect is a black male who would have been aged between 25 and 35 at the time of the incident.”

Investigators found a blue baseball cap and a red and white Chicago Bulls jacket which they believe the attacker wore.

Blue baseball cap found by investigators Credit: Met Police

They were found discarded in nearby Conewood Street in two plastic bags.

Black and red jacket found by investigators Credit: Met Police

The knife used in both attacks was found in a back garden at the junction with Aubert Park and Aubert Road.

Mr Smith’s family said in a statement issued through the police: “There isn’t a day that goes by when we don’t think of Ricky and the person he would have become.

“Ricky was just 25 years old when he was cruelly taken away and we have now had the same amount of time without him, so this is a particularly poignant anniversary.

“Since that day in 1997 our lives have had a huge void – we have had to live without our son, brother and two children have grown up without their father.

“Nothing will ever bring him back but we are desperate for answers and to find out who was responsible for turning our world upside down. Please, if you have any information that could help police, then get in touch.”

The Met is offering a reward of up to £25,000 for information leading to the identification, arrest and prosecution of the killer.

Anyone with information can call police on 020 8785 8267 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know...