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Last Updated: Tuesday, 31 October 2006, 17:44 GMT
Woman 'was murdered holding baby'
Zainab Kalokoh
Zainab Kalokoh was originally from Sierra Leone
A woman who fled war-torn Sierra Leone to find peace in London was shot dead as she cradled her baby niece at a christening party, a trial has heard.

Zainab Kalokoh, 31, collapsed after being shot in the head at the party on the "squalid" Acorn estate in Peckham, south London, on 27 August 2005.

Brian Altman, prosecuting, said: "Although the baby was covered in her blood she was mercifully unharmed."

Four youths, aged between 15 and 17, deny murder and conspiracy to rob.

The trial of the four, who cannot be named for legal reasons, began at the Old Bailey on Tuesday.

Balaclavas

Mr Altman said that after shooting Mrs Kalokoh the gang, who were wearing balaclavas, ordered some of the 100 party guests to lie on the floor while they robbed them of their valuables.

She came here...in the reasonable expectation that this country would provide her with a peaceful, violence-free life
Brian Altman
Prosecutor

He said Mrs Kalokoh, from Stratford, east London, had only recently arrived at the party to celebrate the christening of her niece, Adama Yalie.

He told the jury the four defendants, all of whom lived in Peckham, had heard that several Nigerian men were going to be attending the party and they thought they could make a lot of money by robbing the guests.

Mr Altman said the gang, armed with a sawn-off shotgun, a pistol and several knives, burst into the party through a fire exit shortly after 10pm.

They fired into the ceiling but one shot struck Mrs Kalokoh in the head, fatally wounding her.

He said she fell to the floor, still clutching Adama Yalie, who was "incredibly" unharmed.

War refugee

Mr Altman said Mrs Kalokoh came to the UK to flee her native war-torn Sierra Leone "in the reasonable expectation that this country would provide her with a peaceful, violence-free life".

But he added: "She was tragically wrong. Her life ended in a dilapidated community hall where she and other guests had become targets of this gang of masked and hooded youths."

Mr Altman said a key witness would testify that, when the gang returned to a flat on the estate, there were recriminations between them about the shooting.

He said one of the defendants said they were only supposed to shoot into the ceiling, while another denied having fired the fatal shot but added that if he did it was only "an accident".

The defendants were arrested over the next few days and weeks but, when questioned, each denied having anything to do with the incident, Mr Altman told the jury.

The four - three 17-year-olds and a 15-year-old - have also denied conspiracy to rob and possession of a firearm.




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