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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 August 2006, 13:21 GMT 14:21 UK
Six-year trail which led to conviction
By John Andrew
BBC News

They've been shown time and time again - the CCTV pictures of a happy, smiling schoolboy hopping and skipping near Peckham Library.

Damilola Taylor
Damilola's killers have finally been brought to justice
Within half an hour, he lay dying on the stairwell of a block of flats, stabbed in the thigh with a broken beer bottle.

Rickie Preddie, then 12, and his 11-year-old brother Danny, were the first to be arrested by police.

But it was eventually two different brothers, along with two other youths, who first went on trial for Damilola's murder.

That trial, in 2002, ended in acquittals for all four and followed the dismissal of evidence from a key prosecution witness - a 12-year-old girl known as Witness Bromley, who told the court she had seen Damilola stabbed.

The judge ruled her evidence was inadmissible after she was seen on police tapes bragging about reward money.

New evidence

Following the acquittals, police began a fresh investigation.

They submitted all the evidence, including the clothing and footwear of all those who had been arrested, for examination by a different forensic laboratory.

Their findings, missed by the government-owned Forensic Science Service, were sensational.

Scientists found traces of Damilola's blood on a training shoe worn by Danny Preddie and on the cuff of a shirt belonging to Rickie Preddie.

Furthermore, fibres within the stain found on the trainer were indistinguishable from those in Damilola's trousers.

These fibres had also been cut, and the way they were damaged matched up with similar fibres on the broken beer bottle used to stab the schoolboy.

Prosecutors now decided that, despite the lack of any eye witnesses, they now had a powerful circumstantial case against the two brothers.

Both were charged with murder, the alternative charge of manslaughter, and assault with intent to rob - it was believed they had been trying to get Damilola's silver quilted jacket.

But after a trial lasting 10 weeks, they were cleared of the murder and assault charges earlier this year.

A third defendant, Hassan Jihad, was acquitted of all charges.

Manslaughter charges

Determined to press on, prosecutors decided to retry the two brothers on the unresolved charge of manslaughter.

Both have now been convicted of killing the schoolboy. Neither are strangers to violence.

Getty Images
Rickie Preddie was tried at the Old Bailey

Danny Preddie has a number of convictions for robbery and assault. Six months before the Damilola killing, Danny had hit one mugging victim with a baseball bat.

During another robbery, he had also threatened to cut a train passenger in the face.

A woman worker at the children's home where Danny stayed remembers him as a troublemaker who was aggressive towards staff.

Rickie's offences included robbery and possession of a knife.

Their convictions for Damilola's killing end a six-year battle by his parents Richard and Gloria to get justice for their son.

They sat with quiet dignity through three trials, often having to hear harrowing evidence about their son's injuries.

He had only arrived in Britain a few months before. The family had moved the the UK to seek better treatment for Damilola's older sister Beme, who suffers from epilepsy.

Damilola settled in well at the Oliver Goldsmith Primary School in Peckham. He was not a perfect pupil and could misbehave.

On the day he died, he and some other boys had been asked to leave the library after play fighting around the computers.

'Beaming smile'

But what most people remember him for is his infectious grin. And none more so than Roger Barton, one of the last people to see him alive.

He had been driving through Peckham to pick up his daughter from a nursery and saw a young black boy emerge from behind a group of black youths.

"He leaned forward with this great, big beaming smile," he remembers.

CCTV footage of Damilola Taylor
Damilola's last moments were captured on CCTV

"When I saw the TV pictures of a boy skipping in front of the library I realised it was the boy I'd seen that day, just a few minutes before he was killed."

Since Damilola's death, much of Peckham has been transformed.

The block of flats and stairwell where he died have been demolished to make way for smart, new terraced homes.

But his memory lives on in the refurbished sports centre named after him.

And though gang culture is still alive, a string of initiatives have been launched to tackle youth crime, including the intensive monitoring of individuals and the introduction of the "Karrot" programme in Southwark schools to reward good behaviour.

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