A DESPERATE teenage boy told pals he “had a target on his back” moments before he was knifed to death in 40 seconds.
Louis Johnson, 16, was brutally stabbed in front of shocked commuters last night – with cops still hunting his killer today.
He had messaged his two best friends to warn them someone was trying to “set him up” after he was attacked hours earlier in Battersea, South West London.
Louis told friends he’d been set up in an attempt on his life on the morning before his death when he was involved in a scuffled with a stranger.
The tragic teen, from South Norwood, is then believed to have been followed before he was knifed inside East Croydon station during rush hour that evening.
His heartbroken pals told The Sun Online he had visited his Youth Offending Team in Battersea and was even promised a £50 voucher to get home early after the incident in the morning.
British Transport Police said the boy was attacked on a bridge moments after he arrived at the station with a pal.
Horrified witnesses claimed to have seen a machete-wielding man, and the teen slumped on the floor bleeding after the attack just after 4.30pm.
He died at the scene and police are hunting the killer who fled on foot.
Mia, 16, from Lewisham, first met Louis when she was 11 and spoke to him every day.
She said his mum “was his world” and he would have been thinking about her during his final moments.
He was going home to his mum but didn’t make it and was killed at 4.30pm.
Mia, one of Louis’ friends
Speaking through tears, she told The Sun Online: “I saw him a couple of days ago, he was so happy.
“His mum was his world. He loved her more than anything. He had the kindest heart and was the nicest guy.
“He wanted to make it this year, he wanted to come off the streets. Everyone wants to be able to go home and Louis just wanted a peaceful life.”
She added: “He told me that someone tried to set him up yesterday morning.
“He was involved in a scuffle with a stranger and the Gucci pouch he was wearing was ripped.
“But thankfully he managed to run away and messaged me to say he felt like he was being ‘set up’.
“I think he was going to meet a girl but was then set upon.
“The people probably followed him to YOT and then followed him on to East Croydon where he was heading home to his mum.
“I told him to go home and make sure you stay safe and he said ‘you know me I’m always safe’.
“He was going home to his mum but didn’t make it and was killed at 4.30pm.
“It was probably postcode wars. You have still got people who are carrying knives and have beef with people when they shouldn’t.
“It all happened so quickly, he was probably lying on the ground thinking ‘mum, I love you so much’.”
‘TARGET ON HIS BACK’
“The person had a machete, clearly knowing they were targeting Louis.
“The police think they are doing everything they can to stop knife crime but it is so easy to buy a machete online within five seconds and click and collect.
“Louis would never approach someone he was unsure of. If he knew something was going to happen, he would take himself out of the situation. He was set up.
“He was the tallest, skinniest person ever and they stabbed him with a machete. That would have gone straight through him.”
Another friend, Ashanti, 16, from Catford, added: “He would always make us laugh and would do anything to make people smile.
“He would pull funny faces and make jokes, he was such a good friend.”
Cops this afternoon confirmed they are looking for two people, and that a knife was used in the attack.
Officers have told Louis’ heartbroken family of the murder, and are yet to make any arrests.
A witness added: “He was walking away by himself. Then I thought he had been punched in the face and broken his nose or something.
“He was walking towards me on the bridge. For a few seconds nobody did anything, we were all in shock, and then people were running in panic.”
Detective Chief Inspector Sam Blackburn said: “This was a senseless killing at an extremely busy time of the day, and my thoughts are with Louis’s family at this painfully difficult time.
“For such a young man to lose his life in these circumstances is truly devastating, and I would like to reassure everyone that a thorough investigation is well under way.
“With that in mind, we continue to appeal for anyone with information to get in touch as a matter of urgency. The incident was over within a matter of 40 seconds, but I know many other passengers or members of the public would have seen what happened. If you have not already spoken with police, please get in touch.”
Detective Superintendent Williams said last night: “There is a heavy police presence at the scene and the air ambulance reportedly landed nearby in Park Hill Park.
“We have now launched a murder enquiry and I am urgently appealing for any witnesses to get in touch.
“We believe the assault happened near the back entrance to East Croydon station near Ruskin Square, shortly after 4.30pm.
“If you were in the area and witnessed any altercation, please contact us as soon as possible.
“Alongside the Met, throughout the evening, we’ll be increasing our patrols in the East Croydon area and we have authorised additional Section 60 Stop and Search powers.”
Anyone with information should contact BTP by sending a text to 61016 or by calling 0800 40 50 40 quoting reference 395 of 27/01/2020. Or you can call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.