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Wednesday, 27 February, 2002, 15:47 GMT
Youth cleared of Damilola murder
Damilola Taylor
Damilola bled to death in a stairwell in south London
One of the defendants in the Damilola Taylor murder trial has walked free from court after the judge decided the prosecution's key witness was lying.

The 17-year-old youth hugged and kissed his mother after Old Bailey judge Mr Justice Hooper directed the jury to find him not guilty of murder and other charges.

Outside court his solicitor Greg Stewart said: "My client has been separated from his family for the past eight months. The stigma of this trial will remain with him."


There are no winners in this case - unresolved is the terrible loss of a young boy

Greg Stewart - Defence solicitor

The case against the boy collapsed because it relied on identification evidence from the 14-year-old girl, who alleged she had witnessed the killing of 10-year-old Damilola.

Mr Hooper said the witness, now named as 'Bromley', had embellished her story with details from her "fertile imagination" and no jury "could be sure she was telling the truth about anything important".

The prosecution of three other youths charged with murdering Damilola, on a south London housing estate in November 2000, is continuing.

'No winners'

After his client walked free from court Mr Stewart said the judge's decision to throw out the witness's evidence was "exceptional" but "inevitable".

He said: "My client had nothing to do with the events that led to the premature death of Damilola Taylor."

Mr Stewart added: "There are no winners in this case - unresolved is the terrible loss of a young boy."

Announcing his decision to dismiss Bromley's evidence Mr Hooper said: "My conclusion is that no reasonable jury, properly directed, can be sure that (the girl's) account of what she saw in Blakes Road, is reliable."


The highest it could be put is that she could have been in the vicinity at the time

Mr Justice Hooper

He said Bromley's school records "show a tendency to attention seeking and disturbed behaviour" and police interviewers should have been shown them earlier to help them deal with her.

Mr Hooper said Bromley had provided "graphic" but untrue detail when she described seeing Damilola "crawling on his hands and knees" and of hearing him cry "help, help" while his voice was getting weaker.

He said the teenager's description of where the alleged attack took place was contradicted by the evidence and much of the detail she provided was already known to the public.

The judge added that there was no independent support for her account that she saw the incident that led to Damilola's death.

He said: "The highest it could be put is that she could have been in the vicinity at the time."

Mr Hooper also drew attention to Bromley's false claims she had meetings with the defendants, including one on her birthday.

Emotional difficulties

The defence has accused the girl of lying and basing her account of the incident on newspaper reports.

Damilola caught on CCTV
Damilola caught on CCTV shortly before the alleged attack
The jury had also heard claims the witness was motivated by a 50,000 newspaper reward when she came forward with information - a month after 10-year-old Damilola died.

On two occasions the girl, protesting at the vigorous cross-examination from the defence, walked out of court.

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

In June last year, the 17-year-old was arrested along with two boys aged 16 and a 14-year-old. They were all charged with murder, manslaughter and assault with intent to rob.

The boys still on trial also deny the charges.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Reeta Chakrabarti
"The boy hugged his mother with relief"
Find out more about the Damilola Taylor murder trial

Not guilty verdict

The fallout

BACKGROUND

PANORAMA SPECIAL

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See also:

27 Feb 02 | England
27 Feb 02 | England
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