Killer waited 18 years to slay Rocky Djelal in Southwark Park – and had known him as a child

A killer who waited 18 years to avenge the murder of his brother have been found guilty of the Halloween stabbing his victim to death near a playground.

Stephen O’Rourke, of Grosvenor Park, Kennington, stabbed to death Rocky Djelal, 38, after dressing up as a workman to attack him near the children’s playground in Southwark Park on October 31 2018.

It was one of five killings in a single week in South London.

The Old Bailey trial heard that 48-year-old O’Rourke believed Rocky was responsible for his younger brother’s murder eighteen years before.

Rocky Djelal

The court heard how O’Rourke took out a knife from a carrier bag and stabbed Rocky three times before calmly leaving the busy playground around 2pm on 31 October 2018 – the anniversary of his brother’s funeral.

The jury was told in the weeks earlier, O’Rourke had become increasingly obsessed with his brother’s death. Just a day before he carried out the murder he sent out messages saying he was ready to kill and ready for his own Valhalla – where Nordic warriors live on after their deaths.

In 2000 Mr Djelal had been arrested as part of the investigation into the murder of 21-year-old Michael O’Rourke, also known as Paddy, but was released without charge. No one has been prosecuted for that killing.

The court was told O’Rourke had been tracking his victim through Southwark that day. He wore a high visibility jacket, paint-splashed trousers and boots to blend in with workmen on a project nearby.

The attack happened by a popular children’s playground near the Gomm Road entrance. CCTV seized by detectives during the investigation showed O’Rourke searching for Rocky in the park and surrounding roads, before approaching him. After the stabbing, he was seen casually walking away.

Rocky managed to stumble away and others in the park came to his aid. His father and brother rushed to Southwark Park having been alerted to the stabbing and paramedics also arrived soon after. But Rocky died minutes later.

Stephen O’Rourke dressed as a workman leaving the scene

The police investigation led to O’Rourke and his brother Jason O’Rourke being arrested on 16 November 2018. Jason took his own life at Belmarsh prison while awaiting trial for assisting an offender.

A search of O’Rourke’s home address by cops and sniffer dogs found two high visibility jackets and workman boots as well as knives. The murder weapon has never been found.

Rocky’s family revealed their shock on discovering the culprit – O’Rourke had lived in the same block as them as a child.

Detective Chief Inspector Simon Harding, who led the investigation, said: “Rocky Djelal’s murder has left a family devastated. His death has left a hole in their lives that none of us can imagine.

“Stephen O’Rourke had deliberately set out that day to find Rocky; he attended the park intending to carry out a targeted and brutal attack that would ultimately end Rocky’s life.

“The casual manner with which O’Rourke walked away as Rocky lay dying was chilling. One witness described in court how she saw O’Rourke smirk as he left the scene.

“Stephen O’Rourke has been shown to be a dangerous, highly violent man and I hope that his conviction brings a measure of comfort and sense of justice to Rocky Djelal’s friends and loved ones.

“The family and I are extremely grateful to the members of the public who comforted Rocky on that dreadful day and went on to assist with the investigation.”

Louise Attrill, from the CPS, said after the conviction: “This was a pre-meditated, targeted and brazen execution of a man in a busy children’s park in broad daylight.

“Stephen O’Rourke knew his victim well. Their families had known each other all their lives. But O’Rourke believed that Mr Djelal was responsible for his younger brother’s murder 18 years before. That is why on the anniversary of his brother’s funeral he took it upon himself to carry out what he believed was a revenge killing. 

“During the trial O’Rourke claimed that he had stabbed Mr Djelal to defend himself, but using CCTV evidence and witness accounts, the prosecution was able to prove that this was a lie.

“CCTV footage showed that on his way home from the park O’Rourke changed his outer clothing no less than three times, in a clear attempt to distance himself from a man who murdered Rocky Djelal while wearing a high visibility jacket. A bystander also witnessed a chilling smirk on his face as he walked away from the scene of the crime.

“Nothing can ever bring back a loved one, but I hope this conviction goes some way in providing comfort to the family and friends of Rocky Djelal.”

O’Rourke will return for sentence on a date yet to be fixed.

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