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Thursday, 25 April, 2002, 15:27 GMT 16:27 UK
A trial of high emotion
Richard and Gloria Taylor
The Taylors kept their emotions to themselves
The BBC's Reeta Chakrabati has been covering the Damilola Taylor murder trial. Here she reflects on some of the abiding memories from the Old Bailey and a case that sparked strong emotions both in and out of the courtroom.

The atmosphere in court on Thursday morning as everybody assembled for the verdict was not surprisingly extremely tense.

We were into the 14th week of this trial, the jury had been out for 14 hours, everybody was on tenterhooks.

Damilola's parents, Richard and Gloria, were quite composed and expressionless - they must have been bracing themselves for the worst.

When the verdict was delivered they remained stony-faced.

Mr Taylor looked down at the floor, with his arms folded. His wife looked straight ahead - there was hardly a flicker of emotion.

Tears of relief

By contrast, the two young defendants had looked very tense and anxious when they came into court.

One of them had red eyes even before the verdict was read out.

On hearing they were acquitted, both of them and their mother began weeping with relief.
Damilola Taylor
Damilola Taylor - described as a boy with big dreams

One of the brothers - sitting next to his mother - gave her a hug.

This has been a very emotional, turbulent rollercoaster of a trial since it began at the end of January.

One of the overriding memories of these dramatic few months is undoubtedly the evidence of the key prosecution witness - a girl of 14.

She spent several emotion-charged days in the witness box, being cross-examined by four different sets of defence barristers.

Turbulent scenes

She clashed repeatedly with them - twice storming out of court - before her testimony was finally declared unreliable by the judge.

Although she was in court physically, she was hidden behind a screen - only visible in the flesh to the judge, jury and the barristers questioning her.

To the rest of the court she was obscured and we only saw her face as it was relayed to us on a TV monitor.

The contrast between the detached nature of the set-up - and the often stormy clashes that went on behind the screen - will remain one of the most powerful images from the courtroom.

Special court set-up

Her evidence dominated the first half of the trial - after that the crown's case was made up of a succession of teenage witnesses from young offenders' institutions.

Given the youth of both the defendants and the witnesses, the court had been set up in such a way as to create a less-intimidating environment.

Nobody wore wigs or gowns, the two brothers were permitted to sit with their legal teams and family members in the well of the court, not in the dock.

Journalists were actually placed in the dock to listen to proceedings, and very few members of the public were allowed into court.

But the style of the defence lawyers offered no concessions to the fact that many of the witnesses in this trial were under 18.

The defence lawyers were tenacious. They were convinced the police had got it wrong - that Damilola had not been murdered and his death had been a tragic accident.

Their questioning of the various witnesses was very tough, very thorough, sometimes quite abrasive.

Painful evidence

But despite the times of high tension, few will forget the very calm and composed manner in which the parents of Damilola Taylor conducted themselves throughout.

As with the delivery of Thursday's verdict, the Taylors - who are clearly very private people - sat through the proceedings showing very little emotion.

This despite the fact that some of the evidence given in the trial - relating to the death of a bright and carefree 10-year-old - was painful for all to hear.

Find out more about the Damilola Taylor murder trial

Not guilty verdict

The fallout

BACKGROUND

PANORAMA SPECIAL

AUDIO VIDEO

TALKING POINT

CBBC NEWS
Links to more England stories are at the foot of the page.


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