Page last updated at 12:08 GMT, Tuesday, 7 July 2009 13:08 UK

Gang members cleared over murder

Ben Hitchcock
Ben Hitchcock died on the way to the hospital

Two gang members have been cleared of murdering a 16-year-old boy during street clashes in south London.

Ben Hitchcock, from Penge, south-east London, was stabbed in the back after he and friends tried to gatecrash a party in Beckenham in June 2007.

Mitchell Elliot, 19, of Woolwich, south London, and Andre Lawrence-Bennett, 18, of Catford, south London, were found not guilty of murder at the Old Bailey.

Tunji Ololu, 18, was cleared of murder on the judge's direction.

A fourth defendant will be tried separately.

'Willing to fight'

Mr Ololu, Mr Elliot and Mr Lawrence-Bennett had all denied stabbing Ben outside the party.

Jurors heard that Ben stood out as he was dressed in white and was the only white boy involved in the disturbances involving 60 youths armed with knives, sticks and other weapons.

The court was told Ben was seen fighting with two rivals before being surrounded by others and beaten.

"He was beaten to the ground but was able after a time to get up - still willing to fight, it seems, despite the beating he had received," prosecutor Edward Brown told the court.

"It was then that he was lunged at and 'punched'. The attacker was seen to throw the knife away into greenery before running off.

"Ben Hitchcock was heard pleading with his attackers as he retreated: 'What have I done - why are you doing this to me?"'

After he collapsed on to the pavement with his shirt red with blood, his friends tried to help him.

He died in the ambulance as he was being taken to hospital.

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