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Thursday, 25 April, 2002, 10:35 GMT 11:35 UK
Damilola: The long quest for justice
UK Prime Minster Tony Blair and wife Cherie meet Damilola's parents Gloria and Richard Taylor
Damilola's death sent shockwaves through the UK
On 27 November 2000 10-year-old Damilola Taylor was found bleeding to death on his way home from school, in south London's North Peckham Estate.

Police immediately launched a murder inquiry after the cause of death was diagnosed as a stab wound to the left leg.

Within two days witnesses had responded to appeals, while police studied CCTV pictures showing Damilola minutes before he was injured.

The Daily Mail newspaper put up a 50,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of Damilola's killers.

Damilola entering a lift
Damilola's last movements, captured on CCTV, were broadcast
Dozens of children were interviewed and more than 40 detectives were put on the case - the biggest murder hunt in London since the Jill Dando investigation.

But despite some early arrests, by 8 December police were already expressing frustration at a "lack of progress".

On 13 December Leeds footballer Rio Ferdinand - who was born and brought up in Peckham and still has family in the area - made a broadcast appeal to young witnesses to come forward.

On 14 December a police swoop arrested 11 youths aged between 12 and 16. Most were bailed within days.

On 23 December police projected a 30ft image of Damilola onto a local Peckham nightclub, in yet another effort to jog witness memories.

'Killers bragging'

On 23 January 2001 police said they knew who Damilola's killer was, but lacked the evidence necessary for an arrest.

The detective leading the investigation, Chief Inspector Trevor Shepherd, told the BBC a "culture of hostility" among estate youths was holding back their inquiry.

Radio 1 DJ, DJ Spoony
Celebrities appealed for young witnesses to come forward
A reconstruction went out on BBC One's Crimewatch programme on 24 January, and Radio 1 garage and R&B DJ, DJ Spoony, made another celebrity appeal to young witnesses.

On 2 February Mrs Taylor said her son's killers were bragging openly about stabbing him.

On 11 March Prince Charles met the grieving couple. More witnesses came forward and suspects were questioned, but still no solid leads were announced.

On 29 May police took their first steps towards a prosecution, presenting a file of evidence to the Crown Prosecution Service.

Four youths aged between 14 and 16 were arrested and charged on 26 June - almost exactly seven months after Damilola died.

Four on trial

The four were remanded into youth custody as proceedings against them continued over the next few months.

The case was still reverberating around Britain.

Pc Carolyn Crooks
Pc Carolyn Crooks came under fire for offering a witness "inducements"
On the anniversary of Damilola's death Prime Minister Tony Blair opened a youth centre named after the schoolboy.

On 30 January 2002 the trial of the four boys - one aged 15, a 17-year-old and two brothers aged 16 - began at the Old Bailey.

All pleaded not guilty to three charges - murder, assault with intent to rob and manslaughter.

The prosecution claimed Damilola was the victim of a gang assault "prompted by robbery, but culminating in an act of gratuitous violence born of cruelty and bullying".

'Disturbed' witness

They introduced as a witness a 14-year-old girl, identified only as Bromley, who said she saw the four smashing a glass beer bottle just before the attack.

However, this young witness soon rocked the Old Bailey courtroom and undermined the prosecution's case.

Court sketch of Gloria and Richard Taylor
Damilola's parents saw two youths walk free
She stormed out of court twice after becoming impatient with a cross-examination.

The court heard she had demanded the newspaper reward, sung "I'm in the money" in a police station, and run up a 4,000 bill in a week while staying at a hotel under a police protection scheme.

The defence said she had changed her story repeatedly, and accused the police of buying the girl gifts in return for evidence.

On 27 February Mr Justice Hooper said the girl was an unreliable witness, and no jury "could be sure she was telling the truth about anything important".

Two walk free

He directed the jury to find one of the youths, the 17-year-old, not guilty of all charges - because the case against him had relied on her evidence.

The court then heard from two officers at Feltham Young Offenders Institute who said two of the remaining boys had admitted killing Damilola while on remand there.

Damilola Taylor
Defence claimed Damilola may have injured himself
Other detainees also said they had heard the brothers talking and "boasting" about the incident.

On 28 March a second defendant, the 15-year-old, walked free after Mr Justice Hooper directed the jury to find him not guilty. The judge did not give his reasons.

Then on 3 and 4 April the defence came up with evidence that Damilola might not have been attacked after all.

A leading trauma expert said Damilola's leg wound was consistent with falling on a broken bottle.

Mobile call records

Pathologist Dr Vesna Djurovic, for the prosecution, insisted Damilola's wounds were consistent with being deliberately stabbed in the thigh in a cutting and twisting motion.

But the defence suggested Damilola may have cut himself while playing with the broken glass.

And they claimed mobile phone records proved the two brothers were too far away at the time to have carried out the alleged attack.

Unless you are sure the defendant did not make that call... you could not convict

Judge Mr Justice Hooper
On 10 April the trial took another twist when one female juror was discharged. Again, reasons were not given.

But as the case came to a close, Mr Justice Hooper told the jury the mobile phone evidence held the key to the truth.

"Unless you are sure the defendant did not make that call, unless you are sure he lent his phone, you could not convict," he said.

The jury retired to consider its verdict on Monday 22 April.

On the morning of Thursday 25 April it returned and acquitted both boys of murder and manslaughter.

They will now walk free.

Find out more about the Damilola Taylor murder trial

Not guilty verdict

The fallout





See also:

25 Apr 02 | England
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