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Monday, 15 April, 2002, 20:04 GMT 21:04 UK
Damilola trial 'a mess'
Damilola Taylor
Damilola's death was an accident, the defence claims
Police investigating the death of Peckham schoolboy Damilola Taylor "rounded up the usual suspects" because of pressure to bring charges, a court heard.

The two brothers on trial for the killing were arrested along with other local youths when officers failed to find out what happened to Damilola, Baroness Mallalieu QC told the Old Bailey on Monday.

The boys, aged 16, who cannot be named for legal reasons, have denied murdering the 10-year-old, who bled to death in a stairwell in south London 16 months ago.


Putting it bluntly, this case is a mess

Baroness Mallalieu QC
They also deny charges of manslaughter and assault with intent to rob.

Lady Mallalieu, representing one of the two brothers, told the jury that detectives had arrested the wrong people and set about trying to build a case around them because of pressure to bring charges.

She said: "Putting it quite bluntly, this case is a mess."

'Distinctive appearance'

The prosecution claimed Damilola was deliberately stabbed with a broken bottle while the defence had said the wound could have been caused accidentally.

Lady Mallalieu said nothing had been found to link the boys with Blakes Road - where Damilola was found - or with the boy himself.

None of the witnesses in the area had described the boys' "distinctive" appearance, she said.

And she added that as the death drew more public attention, the Metropolitan Police - criticised for its investigation of the Stephen Lawrence murder - wanted to restore confidence in its ability to keep the streets safe.

'Disgraceful'

"The pressure on the police force must have been enormous," said Lady Mallalieu.

She said that despite being "bullied and intimidated" during "disgraceful" police interviews, her client had not admitted involvement.


We are dealing with boys who regularly bunked off school and got up to no good day after day

Lady Mallalieu
Lady Mallalieu dismissed claims that the brothers had confessed to the killing, to prison officers and inmates at Feltham Young Offenders' institute.

She said: "They were out of their depth. They were 15-year-olds trying to make themselves seem like men. They were unable to judge how they should behave."

Jagged glass

She added: "We are dealing with boys who regularly bunked off school and got up to no good day after day."

When Damilola was found by workmen, one had followed the trail of blood to the jagged edge of glass in the street.

He told police that he thought the "chap" had tripped up and fell on it.

But the pathologist had "got something wrong" and had missed the signs which marked the wound out as a glass injury, said Lady Mallalieu.

The case was adjourned until Tuesday.

Find out more about the Damilola Taylor murder trial

Not guilty verdict

The fallout

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10 Apr 02 | England
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