Police said the 25-year-old was fatally stabbed on Thursday afternoon in Shepherd’s Bush. Two men aged 27 and 28 have been arrested on suspicion of his murder and remain in custody.
The victim has been named in reports and on social media as Harry Uzoka, who was signed to the same modelling agency that helped launch the careers of models such as Naomi Campbell and Cindy Crawford.
Mr Uzoka, who had modelled for Mercedes and Zara and recently appeared in GQ, has been hailed by those who knew him as a “charming” and “inspirational” individual who “lit up a room”.
Leomie Anderson, Mr Uzoka’s former girlfriend who was also a model, said he was “proof that you can change your entire life and become a role model, no matter the circumstances”.
She wrote on Instagram: “I’m not even ready for this and I still don’t accept it. He wasn’t just my ex-boyfriend, he was one of my oldest and dearest friends. He didn’t deserve this and I am heartbroken.
“I remember when we were together, things had just started for you, you hadn’t even left the country before and I took you to Paris for your 18th birthday. Fast forward seven years and you’ve been all over the world and been an inspiration to so many.
“You are proof that you can change your entire life and become a role model, no matter the circumstances. So much I want to say, so much I feel and don’t feel right now but just know you are loved, you are love and light and I just can’t believe this.”
Singer Jourdan Dunn described the young model as a “Young King”, while Wretch 32 said he was “ground-breaking”, before criticising “mental” knife crime in an impassioned post following the news of the 25-year-old’s death.
Dutch designer clothing company G-Star Raw, for which Mr Uzoka had also modelled, described his personality as “contagious”, posting on Twitter: “Harry has worked closely with us as a model. He had a contagious personality – he would light up the room and make everyone on set smile. We will miss him. Rest in Peace, Harry.”
Ayishat Akanbi, a stylist who worked with the model, said: “Harry Uzoka truly was different. His commitment to exploring his curiosity, his intrigue in the esoteric, his generosity and f***ing smile. I’ll never stop thinking of you. RIP.”
One social media user wrote that Mr Uzoka was “literally a young icon for black boys in the UK and London”, describing his murder as “absolutely shocking news”, while another said he ”not only paved the way for black British models, but also set the bar for so many”.
Mr Uzoka’s death brings the number of murders in London in the first two weeks of 2018 to five. Police have confirmed four of the victims were stabbed to death.
Detective Inspector Beverley Kofi of the Metropolitan Police said: “This is another tragic murder with a young male victim who has met a violent death. We believe there were a number of people involved, but we are still working to establish the circumstances and a possible motive.
“We have made two arrests and continue to pursue a number of lines of inquiry. We need the public’s help to piece together what happened – who the victim was seen with, the incident itself and the immediate aftermath.”
The altercation that led to Mr Uzoka’s death was thought to have begun in Ollgar Close, on Thursday afternoon.
Anyone with information should call the Met’s incident room on 020 8358 0100, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.