TWO men have denied murdering a young father and aspiring rapper who died after he was stabbed in Greenstead, Colchester.

Sheldon McKay, 25, and Phoenix Lee, 19, of no fixed abode, are alleged to have killed 22-year-old Alinjavwa Siwale in December last year.

Appearing via videolink from Chelmsford Prison yesterday, McKay and Lee entered not guilty pleas to charges of murder and causing grievous bodily harm.

A trial is set to take place on August 9.

Judge Patricia Lynch QC said: “Mr McKay, Mr Lee, thank you for attending today, the court is grateful.

“As far as this hearing is concerned, that’s it for today.”

Mr Siwale, who was described as a “free spirit” who could “enter a room and brighten it with his smile”, was found injured in Affleck Road, Colchester, shortly after 12.15am on December 11.

Despite the efforts of paramedics to save him, he died at the scene.

Gazette: Scene - flowers left in Affleck Road after the stabbingScene - flowers left in Affleck Road after the stabbing

In a tribute after his death, his family said: “Our lives have been changed forever.

“We are heartbroken, still in shock and angry.

“Nothing can ever prepare you for the loss of a child.

“It is very painful and no mother should ever have to go through this.

“Njavwa had a big heart and made friends so easily, sometimes not in the right circles, and was true to each and every one of them.

“He supported them, guided them and made them happy.

“Njavwa loved his brothers to bits and was an amazing father to his son.”

Mr Siwale was a talented rapper, going by the stage name Swizzino.

His latest track, called Mr Essex, amassed thousands of views online, with the video being filmed at locations in Colchester.

Last year he performed a freestyle session for BL@CKBOX, a music platform which has helped launched the careers of many artists, such as Mercury Prize winner Dave.

His family said he had big dreams for the future and was beloved by his many friends.

They said: “He was a free spirit who lived in the present and on his terms.

“He had big dreams, he was a leader, he had followers.

“He had the ability to enter a room and brighten it with his smile, his attitude, his infectious laugh or just his presence.

“He also had a passion for football and had continued to play for Great Notley Football Club.

“There are no words to describe the pain we are going through as a family.

“It is very painful and he is irreplaceable.”

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