Page last updated at 23:11 GMT, Friday, 9 May 2008 00:11 UK

Parents blamed over gang culture

Paul Erhahon (left) and Kodjo Yenga
Paul Erhahon and Kodjo Yenga were both killed by teenage gang members

A senior police officer has called on parents to take more responsibility after 10 teenagers were sentenced over the murder of two schoolboys.

Sixteen-year-old Kodjo Yenga and Paul Erhahon, 14, were stabbed in separate incidents in London last year - both had been set upon by teenage gangs.

Det Supt Matthew Horne said some were only 13 when the crimes took place.

"To their parents I would ask them this: what were your kids doing? Where did you think they were..?" he said.

Paul Erhahon was stabbed in the heart with a sword by teenage gang members who wanted to "earn their spurs", the Old Bailey heard.

Father's tears

Many wore hoods and masks and were armed with baseball bats, knives, swords and a bicycle chain when they carried out their attack near Paul's home in Leytonstone, east London, last April.

Paul's father, also called Paul, wept as he read out a victim impact statement in court.

He said: "People who have been nurtured to live outside the realms of a decent and law-abiding society murdered my son."

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The mother of Kodjo Yenga released a statement after the verdict

Sentencing, Mr Justice Keith described the attacks as "brazen and shocking" but did not trace their actions back to their home lives.

Instead, he said he had been particularly concerned that a number appeared to come from "decent families".

Addressing Paul's attackers, he said: "So what turned you into the would-be killers that you became didn't start at home.

"There is self-evidently a culture among boys of your age to do with the carrying of knives which needs to be changed.

"How that change is to be achieved is for educationalists, sociologists and politicians to decide.

"All that the courts can do is to punish severely lads like you who take the life of another or try to take the life of another, in the callous and unthinking way that the five of you did."

'Cold-blooded children'

The judge sentencing Kodjo's killers echoed Mr Justice Keith's concerns.

Kodjo, a bright student who was expected to go to university, was killed on the other side of London from Paul, a month earlier.

He was chased through the streets of Hammersmith by teenagers armed with knives and bats, and even a bull terrier, shouting "kill him, kill him", in March last year.

All of you come from decent and caring backgrounds which makes the situation all the more worrying
Judge Christopher Moss

Kodjo was left dying in his girlfriend's arms as the gang, some wearing school uniforms, ran away, laughing.

Judge Christopher Moss told his attackers: "You were all part of the gang culture which casts its dreadful influence and leads to the sort of tragedy we have seen here.

"All of you come from decent and caring backgrounds which makes the situation all the more worrying."

Kodjo's mother Ladjua Lesele said she had been left a "broken mother" by the premeditated actions of "these cold-blooded children".

'Honest and decent'

Outside court after both sentences were passed, Det Supt Matthew Horne, from Scotland Yard's murder squad, said parents have to take some responsibility to bring up "honest and decent human beings".

He also warned young people about the culpability attached to carrying knives.

"Kodjo was killed with one stab wound and so was Paul," he said.

"We have heard today that five children in each case have been convicted of the killing of both of these boys, totalling a minimum term of imprisonment of 100 years."

"If you go out on the streets with your friends and you know your friends are carrying a knife and you arm yourself as well then the courts are going to find you guilty as if you had inflicted that fatal blow."

Paul Benfield, 16, and Kevin Adu-Marcet, 15, were given life detention sentences with a minimum term of 13 years for Paul's murder.

Jordan Conn, 15, was also convicted of his murder, and was given life with a minimum term of 11 years.

Nathan Desnoes, 16, and Theo Diah, 19, were both found guilty of manslaughter and given a detention sentence of 12 years and an indeterminate sentence with a minimum term of seven years respectively.

Tirrell Davis, 17, and Brandon Richmond, 14, were ordered to serve a minimum of 15 years for the murder of Kodjo.

Michael Williams, 14, Jamel Bridgeman, 15, and Kurtis Yemoh, 17, were given 10-year custodial sentences for manslaughter.


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