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Friday, 15 February, 2002, 07:14 GMT
Damilola police 'prompted witness'
Sergeant Carolyn Crooks leaves the Old Bailey
Sergeant Crooks was accused of ignoring interview rules
A police officer has been accused of "manufacturing" an eyewitness to the murder of Damilola Taylor because the Met "could not afford to have another unsolved black death".

Defence barrister Courtenay Griffiths QC levelled the accusation at Sergeant Carolyn Crooks during cross examination at the Old Bailey.

Sergeant Crooks conducted hours of interviews with the key prosecution witness - a 14-year-old girl - who is described as the only person to see the events leading to 10-year-old Damilola's death.

Damilola Taylor
Damilola bled to death in a stairwell
Mr Griffiths said pressure to solve the alleged murder had led to Sergeant Crooks being sent in.

He said the Metropolitan Police was conscious of the fallout from the Stephen Lawrence case.

But giving evidence on Thursday, Sergeant Crooks rejected allegations that she had given the witness crucial information.

Damilola died on November 27, 2000, from a thigh injury caused by a broken beer bottle on the North Peckham Estate, south London, where he lived.

Two brothers aged 16, their 17-year-old friend and a 14-year-old youth deny murder, manslaughter and assault with intent to rob.

'Disturbed young girl'

Cross-examining Sergeant Crooks, Mr Griffiths said: "By January 2001, you officers were desperate and I suggest you were sent in to manufacture the eyewitness.

"I am going to suggest that you quite simply took advantage of a disturbed and damaged young girl and turned her into an eyewitness."

Sergeant Crooks denied suggestions she was negligent in not checking the girl's background more closely.


From the day she phoned 999, and named the boys and named the weapon, she has not switched from that

Sergeant Carolyn Crooks
She said she had not known the girl's mother had convictions for selling drugs but added it would not have made any difference to her evidence as an eyewitness.

But Mr Griffiths told Sergeant Crooks the girl's background meant she could be motivated by money.

Asked if she got the impression that the girl was taking the police "for a ride", Sergeant Crooks said: "No."

She said officers "were very grateful" when the girl came forward.

Alarm bells

Sergeant Crooks denied knowing that the teenager had been described as "an attention-seeker and liar" by her school.

Mr Griffiths said the girl, in a police video, had said: "Is that where Damilola was stabbed?" when shown a map.

He asked Sergeant Crooks: "Didn't your ears pick up? Didn't alarm bells start ringing?"

Sergeant Crooks said the girl needed assistance reading the map and if her hands were pointing to any particular area, it was not intentional.

She denied Mr Griffiths' suggestions that she was providing the girl with assistance and crucial information.

"If my fingers went to where Damilola was stabbed, it was not intentional or meant to be a prompt," she said.

Holiday request

And Sgt Crooks denied using the girl's friendship with the 14-year-old defendant as a "carrot" by saying he would be "sorted".

She had passed the girl's request for a holiday in Spain to a senior officer but nothing had come of it.

"It was all quite flippant. I think we knew it was never going to happen," she said.

Sergeant Crooks denied using the 50,000 reward get the girl to admit being at the scene.

When she said the girl was more "guaranteed" to get the money if she had witnessed the crime, she meant if, as she suspected, she was telling the truth.

Baroness Mallalieu, defending the second 16-year-old, accused the officer of breaking Home Office guidelines on interviewing children.

Changing story

Lady Mallalieu asserted the girl appeared to have been told she would have to keep coming back unless she said she was at the murder scene.

But the officer maintained the girl was interviewed so many times because she kept changing her story.

"From the day she phoned 999, and named the boys and named the weapon, she has not switched from that."

The only thing which had not been consistent was where she had got the information from, the officer said.

The hearing was adjourned until Friday.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Reeta Chakrabati
"Sergeant Carolyn Crooks was branded a disgrace to her profession by defence lawyers"
Find out more about the Damilola Taylor murder trial

Not guilty verdict

The fallout

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13 Feb 02 | England
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