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Last Updated: Friday, 4 August 2006, 13:38 GMT 14:38 UK
How law caught up with child's killer
By Chris Summers
BBC News

A man has been convicted of murdering a seven-year-old, who was shot in the back at her father's home in north-west London. How did police catch up with the killer?

Joel Smith
Joel Smith thought he had got away with the crime

After the shooting of Toni-Ann Byfield and the man she knew as her father, Joel Smith, who was known by the street name of Cocaine or Caine, left London confident that he had got away with the crime.

Richard Horwell, prosecuting, said: "It had been as near to the perfect crime as possible.

"There had been no witnesses, he had been able to escape from the scene without incident, there were no CCTV cameras to capture him entering or leaving. He must have been confident that he had left behind no scientifically detectable trace of his presence."

He went to Nottingham to hide out but a girlfriend there turned him away.

So he drove to Merseyside, where he had relatives and another girlfriend.

It was while in Liverpool that Smith was arrested and later convicted of firearms offences.

Fingertip search
It had been as near to the perfect crime as possible. There had been no witnesses, he had been able to escape from the scene without incident, there were no CCTV cameras to capture him entering or leaving
Richard Horwell
Prosecutor

But no-one made the connection with the Byfield murders.

In September 2005 the BBC programme Crimewatch UK broadcast a fresh appeal about the murders and included key information about the prime suspect.

Detectives had been tipped off about the killer but only knew his street name and the fact he had moved from London to Liverpool.

A cellmate told the Old Bailey how Smith jumped up and switched the TV off when the appeal was shown.

The following day he telephoned his girlfriend, Toni Blackett, from Liverpool's Walton jail and said: "They've got everything. You get me?"

In a conversation, which was taped and later played in court, he told her: "The clock is ticking."

Slowly but surely people came out of the woodwork to give information to the police.

'Notorious crime'

Mr Horwell said: "These murders were in no sense ordinary. These crimes had shocked the nation and we suggest the notoriety was such that the normal barriers which exist between some individuals and the police had collapsed.

"The cause of the notoriety was the young age of one of the victims.

The scene of the crime
He said he had gone to a house in London. He shot a fella and a kid. I think the man was shot in the chest and the kid was shot in the back
Graham Ipswich
Cellmate

"She had been shot in the back by her father's murderer and she was seven years of age - a terrible loss of a young life. It was this element of this tragedy that led - compelled - previous friends or acquaintances of this defendant to eventually come forward and to identify him as the gunman."

Several people, including an ex-girlfriend and several cellmates, came forward and gave the police evidence about how Smith had confessed to them.

Graham Ipswich, a former soldier serving a sentence for affray, said: "He said he had gone to a house in London. He shot a fella and a kid. I think the man was shot in the chest and the kid was shot in the back."

When he gave evidence in court, Smith swaggered into the witness box, his thumbs jammed into his pockets, and tried to bluff away the evidence against him.

Surly and muscular, and speaking in a street patois which seemed out of place, he repeatedly lost his temper under cross examination by Mr Horwell, who unpicked his story piece by piece.

'I left her alive'

He said he had visited the flat earlier that day to purchase cannabis but insisted he had left Byfield and the little girl "very much alive".

He also pointed the finger at a former friend, Tafari Dacas, who is currently serving life in jail for murdering a man at the 2004 Notting Hill Carnival.

Smith said Dacas, a member of the notorious Mus Love Crew, had killed Byfield when he discovered he was having an affair with his girlfriend.

In the league of crimes there's something uniquely dreadful about the murder of a little girl by a grown man
Doug Carnegie
Editor, Crimewatch UK

Smith said he and Dacas were sharing a flat at the time of the Byfield killings.

He said Dacas confessed to the killings to him that night but he said he was bound to silence partly by his criminal "code of honour" and partly because he feared Dacas and his friends in the Mus Love Crew.

Now Smith faces a life sentence with the likelihood that he will never be released.

The editor of Crimewatch UK, Doug Carnegie, said: "In the league of crimes there's something uniquely dreadful about the murder of a little girl by a grown man. Crimewatch was gratified to play a part in getting closer to Toni-Ann's killer."






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