As two people die and another fights for their lives, GUY ADAMS investigates the horror of Brixton Academy.

Two people died and a third remains in a critical condition after a stampede at a party venue in south London last week.

One of the victims, a 23-year-old security guard named Gabe Hutchinson, was seriously injured while working in the lobby of O2 Academy Brixton at a show last Thursday night by Nigerian singer Asake.

The other, Rebecca Ecomelo, 33, a mother of two, died Saturday after being stuck in a tailspin shortly after 10 p.m., when a large mob broke down the front door of the locked building and ripped off the sold-out party.

Everyone from the police to the venue owners to the ticketless fans, the greedy promoters and the security company that was supposed to keep order, has been blamed for the tragedy, which is already the subject of several official investigations.

Victim: Rebecca Ecomelo, mother of two, died at O2 Brixton after being arrested shortly after 10pm on Saturday

So how did last night’s excitement from the Afrobeats musician’s first UK tour turn into tragedy? While many details remain unclear, disturbing videos and social media reports, along with accounts shared by many eyewitnesses, allow us to piece together the following narrative…

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For months, it was clear that Asake’s UK tour was a very exciting ticket. All three gigs, in Manchester, Birmingham and London, sold out within hours of the online box office opening in late September, so promoters decided to extend his stay with two more shows in Brixton.

Asake is a superstar in the Afrobeats genre of upbeat Afro-pop. His debut album, Mr. Money With The Vibe, was a huge hit in the US and UK this summer, reaching No. 22 in the UK charts.

Asake, who performs in two of his country’s most popular languages, Yoruba and the English-based Pidgin, has recently made a name for his signature live performances, in which he is backed by a large group of instrumentalists. A concert in the US made headlines after he arrived on stage with a live goat, while at his final show in Birmingham he tossed banknotes to fans in the front row.

By the eve of Thursday’s event, tickets to watch the 27-year-old, whose real name is Ahmet Olulade, were changing hands at more than double their face value from £55 to £65 via an online ticket exchange.

Security guard Gabe Hutchinson, 23, was seriously injured while working in the lobby of the O2 Academy Brixton at a performance last Thursday night by Nigerian singer Asake.

Security guard Gabe Hutchinson, 23, was seriously injured while working in the lobby of O2 Academy Brixton at a show last Thursday night by Nigerian singer Asake.

The doors are open

The O2 Academy Brixton is a live music venue converted from an early 1980s cinema that has hosted everyone from Madonna and Bob Dylan to the Sex Pistols, Iron Maiden and The Prodigy.

Up to 4,921 concert-goers are allowed in. Approximately a third of the seating is taken up in the upstairs circuit, with the remainder standing on the ground floor.

Fans attending the Asake concert are requested to arrive anytime from 7pm, with DJs and other supporting acts providing entertainment from 7.15, and the main event is scheduled to take the stage around 9:30pm. Large numbers of fans start arriving at the front door, a stone’s throw from Brixton railway station, from around 8pm.

Crowds gather

For reasons that will no doubt be investigated, Asake’s management team appears to be concerned about the number of people planning to come to the venue. Ahead of his first concert in London, on Sunday December 11, the singer used Twitter to warn fans: “Please don’t come to Brixton Academy tonight if you don’t have a valid ticket.”

However, not everyone paid attention. Shanice Choi, who attended Thursday’s ceremony, told the MyLondon news site that she believes many fans without tickets decided to attend after hearing rumors that the doors would not be properly secured.

I had a friend who had a ticket for Sunday [Asake show] And she basically said that when she went, her ticket wasn’t checked by security. So I think the word is starting to spread among people. “Some think, ‘Let me take the chance to go on Thursday without a ticket because I know security won’t come through.'” “”

The stampede at 02 Academy Brixton occurred shortly after 10pm, when a large mob broke down the locked front door of the building and unleashed the sold-out party

The stampede at 02 Academy Brixton occurred shortly after 10pm, when a large mob broke down the locked front door of the building and unleashed the sold-out party

fake tickets

Compounding the problem are unofficial ticket sales, where promoters appear to be either selling forgeries or persuading multiple people to buy prints of the same QR code.

As a result, it appears that far more fans are turning up than Brixton Academy can safely accommodate – and many can get in.

Partygoer Pearl Adewale told the Daily Mirror that she even saw a door staff turn away a customer who tried to enter using a mobile phone screenshot of an email, rather than an actual ticket.

‘the [venue staffer] He asked, “Did you buy this from a salesman?” He said, “Yeah, I did.” She would say, “I need a QR code.” I felt that a lot of people were being scammed.

“Neither the security nor the hosts, the people who were actually processing tickets, were thorough in giving access to people with tickets,” Kamaru Ogonkoya, another fan, told The Voice. So they were basically saying if you have a ticket, show us.

You would show them the ticket and you just walked through. They weren’t checking anything.

Anger mounts

It’s minus 3C in London, but by 8pm shuddering concert-goers are forced to join a long line that stretches hundreds of yards from the venue’s front door down an alley called Astoria Walk, then continues on the A203 towards Stockwell. It takes over an hour to get to the front, and much of the growing crowd begins to express frustration at the perceived lack of information about the cause of the holdup.

Some complain to the security staff who work for a company called AP Security Limited.

They are a relatively large business, founded in the 1980s, who until Covid were giving out £14.6m a year and work with both the Forestry Commission and Festival Republic, a promotional company that runs the Latitude, Wireless and Download festivals.

The Associated Press did not respond to mail regarding last Thursday’s events. One employee told the BBC he was “working with our lawyers, the building operators and the authorities to provide all the information requested”.

Until last week, the company’s only run-in with controversy was in 2012, when it was the subject of an investigation by sister magazine The Mail on Sunday.

The newspaper alleged that the AP breached an agreement with London Olympics organizers by subcontracting security staff for the Games to a second company, which provided inadequate training. At the time, the company also did not comment.

Everyone from the police to the venue owners to the ticketless fans, the greedy promoters and the security company that was supposed to keep order were blamed for the tragedy.

Everyone from the police to the venue owners to the ticketless fans, the greedy promoters and the security company that was supposed to keep order were blamed for the tragedy.

Danger signs

It’s 8.45pm and the place is pretty much packed with crowds. However, a large crowd was still outside. At 8.54pm the promenade of Astoria is filled with hundreds of young men and women, pressed shoulder to shoulder. Outside the front door, another large crowd had gathered.

As Asake’s scheduled stage time draws near, the mood shifts increasingly among those who have not yet made it to the venue. Many complain that they were waiting for 90 minutes, even though they had valid tickets purchased directly from the organizers.

“People are trying to make their way to Asake tonight,” says one of the hundreds of posts that have started appearing on TikTok and Twitter.

“Why do people act like animals?” he asks again.

“This Asake queue is a mess,” notes another fan, Suavito Calderone, at 9.06pm.

By this time, the police were called. They arrive at 9.11pm.

The doors are locked

At some point during the next half hour, a decision is made to lock the building’s five main front doors, apparently to prevent the auditorium from becoming dangerously crowded. News of this is posted on social media at 9.35pm.

Meanwhile, there is chaos outside the building, with the numbers swelled around the semi-circular entrance to the Academy, and the adjoining alleys filled entirely with revelers.

Support acts can be heard playing inside, which doesn’t help the rebellious mood of the crowd slamming against the entrance doors.

The foyer appears to be largely empty and most of the security staff seem to have retreated behind a second set of doors to the main hall. Inside, fans are beginning to realize all is not quite right.

By 10pm, half an hour after his scheduled start time, Asake had not yet appeared.

Mass escape

Finally, the star of the show takes the stage between 10pm and 10.05pm. With news of his arrival, things outside turn very bad and someone calls the London Ambulance Service.

A group of men opened the front doors at 10.06pm and began running into the narrow hallway, followed by the rest of the audience, causing serious choking.

Crowds breach the doors of the main hall, while about a dozen security guards try to maintain order. In the commotion, several people seemed to have tripped and fallen on top of each other, with a large pile of corpses filling the middle entrances. Other members of the crowd seemed to be throwing punches.

One woman told the Evening Standard she fell when people rushed onto the scene and “kicked like a soccer ball”.

I was going to the concert and I had a crush from behind. ‘The crowd was crazy,’ she said.

I fell down, and they were stomping on my head. I couldn’t breathe. There was a woman next to me in a very bad way too. A security guard was injured and a pregnant woman outside was resuscitated.

Show canceled

Asake, who has only performed two songs, walks onto the stage at around 10.11pm and tells the crowd that their evening is coming to an end. “Three thousand people broke down the door outside,” he told the crowd, adding, “Due to security, the police have asked us to close the show. We apologize to you, this has nothing to do with us or the promoter… Listen to what I have to say.”

The singer then passes his microphone to an unknown man, who is believed to be either a promoter or one of the directors of Brixton Academy. He promises fans they will get refunds and urges them to “leave the same way you came.”

This may have caused further chaos, as large numbers of revelers try to leave through the same entrance through which the masses are still pouring.

A fight breaks out when groups of men run into each other. It appears that the Alsatian was loose inside, with men in orange turtlenecks trying to catch him. Who the dog belonged to is not clear: the police denied having any canine units of their own.

Ugly scenes

A thin line of police, armed with clubs, eventually succeeded in stopping more people from infiltrating Brixton Academy.

However, in the unfolding chaos, clashes develop between the fans and the police. An officer allegedly threw a woman over the doorstep after an argument in the building’s foyer, in circumstances now under official review.

A woman outside runs up to an officer and punches him in the face. There is one arrest.

By 10:30 p.m., the streets outside are filled with ambulances and at least eight people are heading to the hospital.

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