Tcherno Ly murder: Police mystified over motive and lack of witnesses to Chapeltown stabbing

Police have admitted that they do not know why a 21-year-old man was knifed to death in a busy area of Chapeltown during Carnival weekend.

By Grace Newton
Wednesday, 28th August 2019, 4:11 pm
Floral tributes left at the scene on Chapeltown Road

Tcherno Ly, from Hunslet, was attacked just metres from Chapeltown Road, where hundreds of revellers were partying on Sunday evening ahead of the Leeds West Indian Carnival.

He died from a stab wound sustained during the assault, which took place between 9-10pm when the area was busy.

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Floral tributes left at the scene on Chapeltown Road

Tcherno, who was originally from Guinea-Bissau in west Africa but had lived in the UK since his early teens, was not known to police and detectives do not believe the killing was gang-related.

An 18-year-old man who was found nearby with stab wounds has been arrested on suspicion of murder and remains in hospital, but police are not able to confirm whether there was an altercation between Tcherno and the suspect. A 22-year-old man is also in custody.

Detective Superintendent Mark Swift also admitted he was concerned over the lack of known witnesses to the attack, and appealed on Wednesday afternoon for more people to come forward with information. Anyone involved is likely to have fled the scene wearing bloodstained clothing.

Tcherno was hurt on Button Hill, a side street off Chapeltown Road that is close to many bars, takeaways and shops that were open late for the Carnival celebrations. The spot is a short distance from where 24-year-old Christopher Lewis was shot in a targeted gang killing in August 2018.

Police were unable to say whether the attack on Tcherno was random or whether he had been robbed.

The young man was not in employment or full-time education at the time of his death.

There was a heavy police presence in Chapeltown during the Carnival weekend, and Det Supt Swift said he was satisfied with the allocation of resources across all three days of the festivities, which culminates in the Bank Holiday Monday parade.

What do police say?

Detective Superintendent Mark Swift, of the Homicide and Major Enquiry Team, said: “Tcherno’s family are understandably completely devastated at losing him in such sudden and violent circumstances, and we are doing everything we can to support them and get them the answers they need.

“Our investigation is progressing and we have made two arrests but we still need the public’s help to assist us in building up a picture of the assault upon him and the circumstances surrounding it.

“The area was very busy at the time with people socialising for the carnival weekend and we are still keen to speak to anyone who saw what happened or who has any information that could assist the investigation.

“I would like to hear from anyone who was in Chapeltown Road between its junctions with Button Hill and Grange View between 9.30pm and 10pm on Sunday and who saw any part of this incident. It’s possible that those involved would have had bloodstained clothing and we would like to speak to anyone who saw anyone like that in the area.

“Tcherno was not someone known to the police for being involved in crime and we are still working to establish the motive for the attack that led to his death.

“I know people may have reservations about coming forward and speaking to the police but I would ask them to consider how they would feel if it was one of their loved ones who had been taken from them at such a young age.

“We are determined to continue doing everything we can to get justice for Tcherno and his family, and support from the community in the form of witnesses and other information will be absolutely vital to achieving that end.”

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Homicide and Major Enquiry Team online through the Major Incident Public Portal at or via 101 quoting Operation Paveend or call the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

A history of violence on Carnival weekend

Leeds West Indian Carnival has been held on Bank Holiday Monday since 1967 and is one of the most popular events of its kind in the country, attracting 150,000 people of all ages and backgrounds to Chapeltown every year.

It's organised by a committee who work closely with police and other partner agencies to ensure the event is safe and welcoming.

However, unofficial parties that have sprung up around the Carnival have led to the weekend being associated with gang violence.

The Carnival had been peaceful from its inception and throughout the 1970s and 80s, especially compared to the Notting Hill Carnival in London - the event had no arrests at all in its first two decades.

However, in 1990, three people died during post-Carnival violence. One man was stabbed on Harehills Avenue after an argument over a sound system, and two others were shot, one accidentally when he was hit by a ricocheting bullet.

Subsequent improvements in planning and policing led to a reduction in firearms incidents.

But in 2016, 42-year-old Jason Bailey was 'hunted down', shot at point-blank range and knifed on Carnival weekend. Three men were jailed for the attack outside the Nite Trax nightclub. Bailey survived.

On the 50th anniversary event in 2017, 20-year-old Meshec James was jailed after firing a converted handgun at a man sitting in his car in Chapeltown. The weapon misfired and the victim suffered only a superficial wound.

On the same weekend a 19-year-old man was injured in a separate stabbing.