An investigation into the recent crowd crush at O2 Academy Brixton – where two women died as a result of overcrowding – has a “strong possibility of [leading to] criminal charges”, according to the case’s senior investigating officer, Metropolitan Police detective chief inspector (DCI) Nigel Penney.
On December 15, 2022, Brixton Academy was swarmed by concertgoers who did not have tickets to that night’s Asake concert; an announcement made inside the venue claimed that some 3,000 people had “breached the door”, leading to a crush that sent eight people to hospital (with four of them in a critical condition).
Two people later died from their injuries – 33-year-old Rebecca Ikumelo and 23-year-old Gaby Hutchinson – while third attendee, aged 21, remains hospitalised in a critical condition. The venue’s license was then temporarily suspended until January 16, when Lambeth Council said they would meet to discuss its future.
A spokesperson for Academy Music Group (AMG) – the company that runs Brixton Academy – said the venue would stay closed voluntarily until April, in order to accommodate for the police investigations currently underway. At the council meeting, it was voted that the venue’s license would remain suspended for another three months.
As reported by The Guardian, an inquest into the deaths of Ikumelo and Hutchinson was opened on Friday (January 27) at London Inner South coroner’s court. Penney explained there that his team had begun “a huge investigation”, described by the DCI as “a vast and complicated process”.
Police are said to be tracking down and approaching witnesses of the events being investigated, as well as sifting through hundreds of hours of CCTV footage. On his team’s process, Penney told the inquest that “there are a lot of lines of inquiry to establish the facts and get to the truth”.
Penney went on to tell senior coroner Andrew Harris that there was a “strong possibility of criminal charges” being made further down the line, after Harris enquired about the potential of homicide being ruled in connection to the deaths.
At Penney’s request, Harris granted permission for the inquest to be suspended while investigations continued. “It seems to me that if this is a complex criminal investigation, this matter is going to take some years,” he said.
During the inquest, it was revealed that Metropolitan Police have been consulting with Lambeth environmental health officials, after the Health and Safety Executive declined to be involved in the investigation.
Present at the inquest were “dozens” of Ikumelo’s family members and friends, some of whom appeared for their first media interview since the 33-year-old died. “We want answers, we want to know what happened and we want accountability,” her younger brother Anthony said. “She was a great sibling. She taught me how to read and write when I was small. She was always trying to help people.”
Ikumelo’s mother, Yetunde Olodo, said her daughter had dedicated herself to her own two children, boys aged seven and four: “She was an amazing mum. Her children were her life, 100 per cent. The little one keeps asking: ‘Where has mummy gone? When is she coming back?’ They don’t understand what’s going on,” Olodo said.
“We will try our best to make sure her children have a good life. She was a shining light and she really cared for her community. As a parent I never imagined I would ever be mourning the loss of a child. I am hurting and my family is hurting too. When Rebecca died I lost a daughter, a best friend and my confidante.
“I am just so sad that her two boys will grow up in this world without having their mother there. Nothing can fill the void that Rebecca’s death has left in our family but it is important that we get justice for her death.”
Olodo and the Ikumelo family are being represented by Cyrilia Davies Knight of Saunders Law, who said in a statement: “Today is the start of my client’s quest for justice. She knows that this journey will be a long and difficult one but she is determined to find out what happened to her daughter and for those responsible to be held accountable. She hopes that the police will do a robust and thorough investigation.”
Following the closure of Brixton Academy, several shows planned for the venue have been moved and/or rescheduled.