Corby murder judge warning - 'Anyone prepared to carry a knife stands only a short step from murder'

Judge talks of dangers of knife carrying in wake of Stefan Draca sentencing

Saturday, 15th January 2022, 7:36 am
The scene on the evening of Rayon's murder

A judge has warned young people of the perils of carrying knives following the sentencing of a young Corby man for murder.

Stefan Draca, 18, of the Hazel Leys estate in Corby, was yesterday (Friday, January 14) told he must spend at least 15 years behind bars after being found guilty of the murder of Rayon Pennycook.

His Honour Judge David Herbert QC said that, had the boys not been carrying knives, Rayon may still be alive.

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Victim Rayon Pennycook

In his sentencing remarks, he said: "Rayon was a young man with many positive qualities who had his whole life ahead of him.

"Those who knew him will no longer be able to celebrate the highlights and milestones of his life."

"You took a knife with you and you went to the scene with a large group," he said.

"You became involved in a two-way knife-fight with Rayon.

"I do not claim that you intended to kill Rayon, however you intended really serious harm.

"This case is sadly yet another that is before the courts that highlights the dangers caused by young people who are prepared to carry knives in public

"Anyone prepared to carry a knife and use it in a confrontation stands only a short step from murder."

The court heard how Rayon had been the 'life and soul' of the Pennycook family.

Rayon's dad said that on May 25 his life had 'changed forever'.

He said that he had received a phonecall to say that Rayon had been stabbed and that it was 'really serious'.

"I felt like my heart stopped," he said.

"And my whole world just came crashing down."

He explained how he had wanted to begin teaching Rayon to drive on his 17th birthday which would have been on November 4. That day eventually became the day that Stefan Draca's trial began.

"He was still a child with his whole future ahead of him, with lots of dreams and aspirations," he added.

Rayon had been due to start a construction apprenticeship the day after his life was taken.

Rayon's mum Sharon said that she wakes up every morning hoping that 'the past few months have been a horrid dream.'

"But I realise that it's not a dream and my beautiful son is not here," she added. "I'll never see his gorgeous, smiling face again.

"I'll never see him starting his first job, passing his driving test, get married and start his own family."

She said that her children had lost a sibling and her grandchildren had lost their 'favourite uncle'. Rayon had been the 'life and soul' of her family.

"We as a family are broken. We can't express the pain and anguish we have endured since his murder."

His girlfriend of three years said in a statement read in court that the pair had met in year eight at Corby Technical School and he had been her only boyfriend.

She said: "He made me feel secure, protected and loved.

"He was a beautiful, kind, intelligent boy whose life was taken away without a second thought."

She was on the scene of the murder and witnessed the aftermath, saying that she relives it 'time and time again'.

The prosecution argued that Draca's crime was aggravated by the face he brought a knife to the scene and by the fact there were others present when he murdered Rayon.

Because of his age and the fact he was tried as a youth, the starting point for the length of Draca's jail sentence was 12 years. Had he been aged 21, he could have been facing 25-years behind bars.

The mandatory sentence for youths convicted of murder is that they should be detained 'at her majesty's pleasure', with the judge deciding the minimum sentence the defendant should serve. Draca will have to face a parole board after 15 years who will decide whether it is safe for him to be released. If it is not, he could potentially be locked up for longer. Some dangerous criminals are never deemed fit to release.

Speaking after the case senior investigating officer Detective Inspector Pete Long said: “From the outset, this case has been one of utter tragedy. A talented, promising and much-loved young man has lost his life, and another now faces a significant jail term and the loss of his future prospects, as well as having to live with what he has done forever.

“While I welcome today’s sentence, nothing can repair the heartbreak suffered by Rayon’s family. Throughout our investigation they have shown nothing but dignity and strength, all while deeply mourning him.

“They will carry their loss and pain for the rest of their lives, and I hope Stefan Draca uses his time in prison to reflect, atone and learn to make better choices.

“This case shows just how dangerous it is to carry a knife – all it takes is one injury to end a life and ruin countless others forever.

“As ever, our thoughts remain with Rayon’s family and friends.”