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Oluwadamilola Taylor[1]
Born December 7, 1989(1989-12-07)
Lagos, Nigeria
Died November 27, 2000 (aged 10)
Dulwich, London, England
Occupation Student

Damilola Taylor (7 December 1989 – 27 November 2000) was a Nigerian schoolboy who was murdered in the UK.

Contents

Early life

Born in Lagos, Nigeria he travelled to the United Kingdom in August 2000 with his family to allow his sister to seek treatment for epilepsy. He moved into the North Peckham estate and began to attend the local school. They thought they were finally safe and Damilola was doing well at school. Teachers were impressed by his ability and his enthusiasm. Mr Parsons said: "He was slowly making friends and settling into the school. He was a boisterous, fun, smiling boy. If I think about him I think of him smiling." But there were signs that the new boy was being bullied. On Friday, three days before his death, he returned home to tell his mother he was being called names and had been beaten up. Mrs Taylor was so concerned that at the first opportunity, on Monday morning, she escorted her son to school to talk to Mr Parsons. She said: "They were calling him names and saying things like 'f*** your mother'. He asked me, 'Mummy, what is the meaning of gay?' These boys were calling him gay and I said, 'Do not listen to them'. I said, 'Go and report it to the school teacher', and when he came home he said he reported it but the teacher did not know who was telling the truth."

Death

On 27 November 2000 Damilola set off from Peckham Library at 4:51pm, on his way home, captured on CCTV as he walked away. On approaching the North Peckham Estate he received a gash to his left thigh. Running to a stairwell, he collapsed and bled to near death in the space of approximately 30 minutes. He was still alive in an ambulance on his way to hospital.

Different forensic scientists have presented different events that could have given Damilola his fatal wounds. The theory accepted by the Metropolitan Police is that Damilola was attacked and stabbed with a broken bottle. The murderers twisted a broken bottle into him.

First trial

In 2002 four youths, including two 16-year-old brothers, went on trial at the Old Bailey for the murder of Damilola. The trial led to all four suspects being acquitted. Two were acquitted on the direction of the judge after he ruled that the prosecution's key witness, a 12-year-old girl, was unreliable; the jury found the other two not guilty. As well as questioning the reliability of the female witness, the defence presented the evidence suggesting that Taylor's wounds were consistent with his falling on a broken bottle and that he had not been the victim of an attack.

New evidence

Despite the setback, police vowed to keep the investigation open. New DNA techniques led to a re-examination of the evidence obtained at the time of the murder. In 2005, fresh arrests were made. The arrested were Hassan Jihad, 19 and two brothers aged 17 and 16 who could not be named due to their age.

Second trial

On 23 January 2006 Hassan Jihad (now 21-years-old) and two brothers (aged 17 and 18), not named for legal reasons, appeared at the Old Bailey to face charges of his murder, manslaughter and assault with intent to rob before the start of their imminent trial.

The trial commenced on 24 January 2006. On 29 March 2006, the jury retired to consider its verdict. On 3 April the jury returned a not guilty verdict on the charges of murder, manslaughter and assault with intent to rob. The next day, the jury returned not guilty verdicts on the charges of murder and assault with intent to rob against the two brothers. The jury was unable to reach a verdict on the charges of manslaughter against the two brothers, so they were found not guilty, but with the possibility of a re-trial on those charges. On 6 April the Crown Prosecution Service announced that the two would be re-tried.

Re-trial for manslaughter

On 9 August 2006, Ricky Gavin Preddie (born 1987, Lambeth, London) and Danny Charles Preddie (born 1988, Lambeth), after a 33 day re-trial, were convicted of the manslaughter of Damilola Taylor. When the verdict was given, Ricky Preddie was dragged away by prison service officers after swearing at the court and saying "You're all going to pay for this". The judge, Mr. Justice Goldring, said "Take him down". After a brief pause, when shouting could still be heard in court, he added "Take him right down". After allowing time for reports, sentencing took place on 9 October 2006.

An inquiry will now be set up to examine how so much forensic evidence was missed on the initial trial by the Forensic Science Service. Following the collapse of the first trial the police officer assigned to review the case decided to have the clothing that had been taken from a number of suspects re-examined by an independent company, Forensic Alliance. It was hoped that advances in forensic science might reveal further evidence. Instead, more careful examination of the clothing revealed two crucial small blood stains that had been overlooked. Justice Goldring was also concerned that Danny Preddie was supposed to be on a 24 hour curfew when the crime took place, and also that the police had not followed standard procedures when collecting evidence.

In reaching their verdict the jury of six men and six women rejected defence arguments that the fatal wound was caused by a fall (as claimed by Alastair Wilson, a consultant at The Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel) and that blood stains had been "planted" on the Preddie brothers' footwear and clothing by police officers.

By the end of this third trial, many worrying aspects of the police investigation had emerged. Whilst the total cost was suggested to have reached £20 million it appeared that there had been some serious lapses in procedure that had hindered the prosecution, combined with shortcomings in the judicial system and misreporting in the press. Media reports highlight the following areas of concern:

1) Before the first trial, Police based most of their case on the witness code named "Bromley", whose evidence eventually proved to lack credibility. Such was their confidence in this witness that most other lines of inquiry were curtailed until after the collapse of the first trial.

2) The arrest of suspects for the second trial and the subsequent collection of evidence did not follow proper procedure. In particular, one arresting officer had previously been tasked with the job of collecting sample clothing and had transported children in his car who were wearing similar clothing. Since he was unable to remember if he had used the same car to transport a suspect to the police station, it was possible that fibre evidence found on the suspect had been acquired from the car.

3) The same officer when questioned in court was able to confirm he had collected a garment so that it could be photographed, but had no further recollection of what he had done with it or where he had taken it.

4) The initial examination of clothing by the forensic science service failed to find blood spots on items worn by two defendants. This evidence was only discovered when a private company, Forensic Alliance, were asked to look again and found the blood spots.

5) At the time of the crime, one defendant had been remanded into custody under 24 hour curfew. Sadly, the place he was remanded to allowed him to leave at any time he wanted because staff were not allowed to prevent him absconding over a low wall.

6) During the post mortem of the victim vital evidence emerged that was withheld from the media in order to test the accuracy of stories told by witnesses. The statement of a key witness was subsequently made invalid when evidence was leaked and reported to the media before it could be heard in court. A subsequent police report was unable to reject the possibility that the story was leaked by a member of the police force.

7) Six months before the trial, two of the defendants had appeared at the Old Bailey charged with a serious sexual offence. The judge felt that because of their age and the seriousness of the offence they would not be able to understand their position, and would not have a fair trial. Because he had no powers to refer the case back down to a lower court they were released.

On 9 October 2006, an Old Bailey judge sentenced the Preddie brothers to eight years in youth custody.

Following the scenes of violence that had occurred after the verdict was given, both brothers appeared in the dock handcuffed.

Although it was widely reported in the media that Damilola's parents were unhappy that the sentences had not been longer, the judge, Mr Justice Goldring, went to some lengths to explain the factors he was forced to take into account. These included the age of the offenders at the time (12 and 13), and the fact that there was no evidence to suggest that there had been a plan to kill Damilola. In addition, the weapon used had not been carried to the scene of the crime, but found lying on the ground.

Both brothers are set to be paroled in 2010 after serving half of their sentence.

Since neither brother has shown any remorse for the crime, it is hard to say when either may actually be released on parole. Should they be released before the end of their sentence, it will be on license, any breach of which will return them to jail to serve the remainder of their sentence. In the event of it being an act of serious violence, they face the possibility of an increased prison sentence.

Probation reports on both brothers state "They pose a high risk of harm to others".[2]

See also

References

External links

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