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Friday, 19 January, 2001, 05:39 GMT
Rest in peace, Damilola
The grave of Damilola Taylor
A simple cross reads: "In loving memory of Damilola Olufemi Taylor"
By BBC News Online's Ronan McGreevy

Damilola Taylor made a long journey when he came from Nigeria with his family last year, but his new life in the UK was tragically cut short.

At his funeral on Thursday, Damilola's small white coffin made one final trip, leading a cortege through the rundown streets of Plumstead in south-east London on a cold, clear January day.

Media outnumbered the public behind the crash barriers outside All Saints Church, but the funeral service itself was a private affair attended by some 300 mourners.

Among them was Doreen Lawrence, mother of Stephen Lawrence - he was murdered by a racist gang in 1993.

She understood probably better than anyone else in the congregation what the Taylor family are having to endure.

Doreen Lawrence
Doreen Lawrence attended the funeral
Damilola's mother, Gloria, and father, Richard, were parted from their son before he was taken to his final resting place at a cemetery in Plumstead.

Both are members of the Yoruba tribe, which believes the only way for parents to convey their desolation over the death of their child is for them to stay away from the burial.

At the church service, in a sermon that conveyed a sense of sorrow and anger, Reverend Harold Owens praised the dignity of Damilola's parents and that of their two surviving children, Beme, 23, and Tunde, 21.

He contrasted the goodness of Damilola, who asked for a Bible for his 11th birthday, against the perpetrators who ended his life in a "few short minutes by a reckless act".

"The question we ask ourselves is why did this happen?" he said to the funeral congregation.

"There is no simple answer, it is not how God intended the world to be.

'Imperfect world'

"Damilola's killing is evidence, if it were needed, that we live in a fallen and imperfect world."

His words contained a plea to Damilola's killers, still at large despite a huge police investigation which led to15 arrests but no charges.
Residents in Plumstead
Residents watched the moving cortege

He prayed that they might be filled with remorse and admit what they had done.

The Damilola family's pastor, Olukayode Owolabi, posed the question: "What kind of society are we bringing our children up in?"

Mr Owolabi said society should use the same "zeal and haste" that the schoolboy had shown during his life to change the world for the better.

He presided over the emotional memorial service held at Damilola's church in Peckham in December, on what would have been the schoolboy's 11th birthday.

Quiet funeral

In contrast, the funeral service on Thursday was a restrained affair.

Loudspeakers were set up to relay the service to public, but there was more than enough space inside for the whole congregation

The muted end to the service was punctuated by the sound of sobbing.

Shadow home secretary Ann Widdecombe, Simon Hughes of the Liberal Democrats and Home Office minister Paul Boateng were among the politicians attending.

The former footballer John Fashanu attended from the British Nigerian community, as did the Nigerian High commissioner Prince Ajibola who conveyed his country's sorrow to the family.

Damilola's white coffin was adorned by a cross of white flowers and the hearse carried a prominent wreath from Brent African Association.

Simple grave

After the church service, the hearse made its way to a cemetery in Plumstead.

During the burial service, a single white dove was released from a bag carried by one of the mourners.

A simple cross marked the spot where the schoolboy, once full of energy and life, now lies.

It read simply: "In Loving Memory of Damilola Olufemi Taylor.

"Died 27th November 2000 aged 10 years. RIP."

A journey which began with so much hope when the family came to the UK ended in the brutal death of a younger brother and a dear son.

Damilola has finally been laid to rest, but the pain endured by his family will continue, as will the anger of a shocked community still asking 'why?'.

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Background
See also:

20 Dec 00 | UK Politics
Hague accused of race 'opportunism'
04 Dec 00 | UK
In pictures: Damilola video
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