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Wednesday, 30 January, 2002, 21:43 GMT
Damilola 'victim of deliberate violence'
Damilola Taylor on his final journey
Damilola's last journey was caught on CCTV
Damilola Taylor was the victim of a "deliberate and controlled" act of violence, the Old Bailey has heard on the first day of the trial of four youths accused of killing him.

A gang of robbers stabbed him with a broken bottle and then did nothing as he cried out for help and subsequently bled to death in a stairwell, prosecuting counsel Mark Dennis alleged.

Damilola Taylor's parents Richard and Gloria arrive at the Old Bailey
Damilola's parents, Richard and Gloria Taylor, arrive at court
It was, he said, "an assault prompted by the motive of robbery, but culminating in an act of gratuitous violence born of cruelty and bullying".

The 10 year-old was allegedly attacked on his way home from an after-school computer class in Peckham, south London, on 27 November 2000.

Two 16-year-olds, a 17-year-old and a 14-year-old - who cannot be named for legal reasons - have pleaded not guilty to murder, assault with intent to rob and manslaughter.

The jury of jury of seven men and five women, sworn in earlier on Wednesday, were told that events leading up to Damilola's death - but not the alleged stabbing - had been witnessed by a 13-year-old girl.

She allegedly recognised three of the attackers, had seen the other in the area and would give evidence later, Mr Dennis said.

Vulnerable target

He described how the young girl found herself wrestling with her conscience.

Not only had she done nothing to help Damilola but one of the defendants was her friend.

It was almost a month after Damilola's death that she finally called police and told them what she had seen, he told the court.

Mr Dennis went on to describe how Damilola was allegedly accosted by a group of youths shortly after 1630GMT.

They were possibly part of a larger group of boys "loitering in the area waiting, it would appear, for a young vulnerable victim to rob".

Walking alone in a quiet side street, Damilola Taylor was "an irresistible target" with his distinctive silver jacket probably initially attracting the four boys' attention, said Mr Dennis.

Events escalated to a higher level of aggression and violence

Mark Dennis
But, he continued, it was unlikely that Damilola, "surrounded and trapped", had any valuables for them to take.

"It may well be for that reason Damilola was not simply left to go on his way and events escalated to a higher level of aggression and violence," Mr Dennis said.

The defendants, as juveniles, listened to the case being made against them from the well of the court, next to their legal representatives and parents or guardians, rather than from the dock.

That was being used for the 10 reporters allowed in court, with a further 53 journalists watching via a live camera link.

'Deadly weapon'

Mr Dennis described how, the prosecution alleges, one of the boys accosting Damilola had fetched a beer bottle discarded nearby.

"He broke the bottle and handed it across to one of his accomplices.

"Within moments - in which what can only have been a deliberate and controlled act of violence - Damilola was stabbed in the left thigh, just above the knee, as he remained trapped and helpless, surrounded by the four boys.

"The stabbing caused a deep and gaping wound which, having severed a major artery and vein in the leg, caused immediate and profuse bleeding.

"The response of the four boys was simply to run away, leaving Damilola laying on the pavement crying out for help."

Help too late

Damilola staggered to the stairwell of a nearby block of flats but collapsed on the third floor.

By the time he was found and taken to hospital, it was too late and he was pronounced dead within an hour of the alleged attack.

Mr Dennis also told the jury that some of the defendants allegedly spoke about the crime whilst being held in a young offenders institution.

One said they did it "for a laugh", it is claimed, another that Damilola "was getting mouthy" and another that they were going to get away with it because police had no forensic evidence.

The case - expected to last for three months - continues.

The BBC's Reeta Chakrabarti
"Resuscitation failed because he had a marble in his mouth"
The BBC's Stephen Cape
"We heard that the defendants boasted about their exploits"
See also:

30 Jan 02 | England
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