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Tuesday, November 11, 1997 Published at 03:07 GMT


Teenager loses appeal against murder of headteacher

Learco Chindamo claims he is the victim of mistaken identity

The teenager found guilty of murdering the headteacher Philip Lawrence has lost his appeal against the conviction.

Learco Chindamo, now 17, who stabbed Mr Lawrence to death outside his school as he defended a pupil, showed no emotion as the Court of Appeal dismissed his bid for freedom.

Mr Lawrence's widow, Frances, was in court to hear the decision.

The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Bingham, sitting with Mr Justice Douglas Brown and Mr Justice Kay, rejected criticisms of the summing-up by the Common Serjeant of London, Judge Neil Denison, at the Old Bailey trial in October 1996.

"We have to say that in the light of all the arguments advanced we are in no doubt that this conviction is safe."

Mr Lawrence was attacked in December 1995 outside St George's Roman Catholic School in Maida Vale, west London, when a gang of 12 youths led by Chindamo went to attack a boy who had quarrelled with a pupil of Filipino origin.

He was punched and stabbed by Chindamo - a member of the Wo-Sing-Wo gang, which aspired to be the juvenile equivalent of the Triads - and died the same evening.

Chindamo, who was 15 at the time of the stabbing, has always claimed another youth was the killer.

Widow 'consumed by sadness'

He claimed he was the victim of mistaken identity as the other youth was wearing his jacket, and that he was 30 feet away from the murder scene.

Chindamo was ordered to be detained indefinitely after a jury found him guilty of the crime.

Mrs Lawrence, looking shattered after the hearing, said outside the court: "I am consumed by sadness.

"It gives me no great pleasure to see a young man deprived of his freedom but at the same time I am overwhelmed with sadness that my freedom to live a happy life has been taken away.

"Let us not forget that Philip's death was a direct consequence of racial intolerance."

Former Tory MP Harry Greenway, a friend of the Lawrence family, said: "I am surprised that Chindamo ever sought to appeal in the first place.

"I am very relieved that the Appeal Court judges took the decision they did.

"Anything else would have been devastating for school, family and justice," said Mr Greenway, a former deputy headmaster who lost his Commons seat on May 1.

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