The racist thugs who murdered Anthony Walker had not intended to go out and kill a black man.
By David Green
BBC News, Liverpool
Cousins Paul Taylor and Michael Barton were instead planning to spend the evening burgling safes from hotels, some as far away as Wales.
Surgeons struggled to remove the axe from Anthony's skull
But as they waited outside the Huyton Park pub, they noticed Anthony, his white girlfriend Louise Thompson and his cousin Marcus Binns standing at a bus stop and began racially abusing them.
It was a case of wrong place, wrong time. But the chain of events which would end with a fatal attack on Anthony with an ice axe had begun.
"I don't think it was Anthony as a person they were attacking. I think it was two black lads they were attacking," said Det Ch Supt Peter Currie, the officer who led the hunt for his killers.
"I think it was spontaneous. I don't think that their plan and intention was to attack or injure anyone. This opportunity has presented itself and they've taken it."
Sensing trouble, Anthony and his friends looked for another bus stop, taking a short-cut through McGoldrick Park.
But as they reached the other side, they were ambushed near the park entrance. Taylor pole-axed Anthony with a single blow while Marcus and Louise ran for help.
"They didn't want confrontation, they wanted to move away," added Mr Currie.
"They did everything right, and unfortunately, in doing the right thing it turned out to be the wrong thing."
Although the axe blow did not kill Anthony immediately, it would have rendered him brain dead, a pathologist told the court.
By the time his mother Gee arrived at his hospital bedside surgeons had still not been able to remove the murder weapon from his head.
The pair were caught on CCTV at Dover as they fled the UK
He died at 0525 BST the next day, by which time Taylor and Barton were already on a ferry from Dover on their way to Amsterdam.
"I think it speaks volumes for a 17 and 20-year-old that they've got the nous and wherewithal to change cars, travel down to the south coast and go abroad," said Mr Currie.
"I know kids of that age and they need a year to plan a trip to Blackpool."
As the police began to hunt Anthony's killers they were faced with two problems.
CCTV footage of the attack was too poor to identify who had been involved and detectives were worried they would not find willing witnesses among Huyton's close-knit community.
But an emotional appeal by Anthony's mother Gee and his sister Dominique persuaded many people to come forward.
And when Barton's own brother - Premiership footballer Joey - called on him to hand himself in, detectives found even more people were prepared to talk.
Anthony's blood had been found in Taylor and Barton's car while witnesses reported seeing Taylor carving swastikas and his nickname 'Chomper' on the sign outside the Huyton Park pub.
Forensic evidence linked the carvings with the very axe he later admitted using to kill Anthony.
The cousins were arrested and the evidence against them was such that, as the trial was due to begin, Taylor changed his plea and admitted murdering Anthony with the axe.
An emotional appeal prompted witnesses to come forward
Barton, meanwhile, decided to change his story, blaming his earlier "lies" to police on Taylor.
He told the court he had never seen the axe before seeing it in Anthony's head, despite telling police he'd found it outside the Huyton Park pub and taken it with him to scare Anthony and Marcus.
When asked how he had given a perfect description of the axe to police, he said he knew what they looked like because he had "seen them on the telly before".
He also denied initiating the racist abuse directed at Anthony's group, claiming it was Taylor who had shouted out and claiming he wasn't outside the pub in the first place.
But the jury did not believe his claims and found him guilty of murder, on the grounds that he had supplied the murder weapon.
Throughout the case police said they were aware of parallels with the Stephen Lawrence inquiry which criticised the Metropolitan Police for failures and accused it of "institutional racism".
"While you have got it at the back of your mind it doesn't distract you," said Mr Currie.
"There were concerns from the family... they were concerned was this going to be investigated robustly?
"I remember one early occasion I sat down with the family and I said 'Have you got faith in us?'
"They weren't sure. I asked what would and they said, 'If you catch who's done it'.
"Later on we sat down in the house after we had been to court and I said to Anthony's sister, 'Have you got faith in us?' and she put her arms around me."