Death of Damilola Taylor
Death of Damilola Taylor Date 27 November 2000 Location Peckham, London, England, UK
Damilola Taylor (7 December 1989 – 27 November 2000) was a ten-year-old Nigerian schoolboy who died in the United Kingdom. Several young boys were cleared of murder charges after a lengthy trial, and later two brothers were convicted of manslaughter.
Oluwadamilola Taylor was born in Lagos, Nigeria, to Richard and Gloria Taylor (died 8 April 2008). He attended Wisdom Montessori School, Ikosi, Ketu, Lagos, before he travelled to the United Kingdom in August 2000 with his family to allow his sister Gbemi to seek treatment for epilepsy. Damilola, with his family, moved into the North Peckham estate and he began to attend the local school. Taylor 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 'fuck 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."
On 27 November 2000, Taylor set off from Peckham Library at 4:51pm to make his way home. He was 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 Taylor his fatal wounds. The theory accepted by the Metropolitan Police is that he was attacked and fell on a broken bottle, later bleeding to death. He died 10 days before his 11th birthday.
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 14-year-old girl, was unreliable; the jury found the other two not guilty. As well as questioning the reliability of the young 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.
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 Taylor's death. In 2005, fresh arrests were made, this time on charges of manslaughter. The arrested were Hassan Jihad, 19 and two brothers aged 17 and 16 who could not be named due to their age.
On 23 January 2006, 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 manslaughter and assault before the start of their imminent trial.
The trial commenced on 24 January 2006. On 29 March, the jury retired to consider its verdict. The jury was unable to reach a verdict on the charges of manslaughter against the two brothers, so they were set free, but with the possibility of a retrial on those charges. On 6 April the Crown Prosecution Service announced that the two would be re-tried.
Retrial for manslaughter
On 9 August 2006, Ricky Gavin Preddie (born 1987, Lambeth, London) and Danny Charles Preddie (born 1988, Lambeth), after a 33 day retrial, were convicted of the manslaughter of Damilola Taylor. After allowing time for reports, sentencing took place on 9 October 2006. Both defendants were very well known to police, being involved in multiple robberies.
In reaching their verdict the jury of six men and six women accepted 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).
During the retrial, it was noted that, while the police did follow procedure collecting evidence, lapses occurred in the prosecution.
On 9 October 2006, an Old Bailey judge sentenced the Preddie brothers to eight years in youth custody for manslaughter.
Although it was widely reported in the media that Taylor'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 Taylor. In addition, the weapon used had not been carried to the scene of the crime, but was found lying on the ground.
Both brothers were set to be paroled in 2010 after serving half of their sentence. Ricky was released on 8 September 2010, subject to probation supervision, and subject to recall to custody if he breached the conditions or if his behaviour indicated that it was no longer safe to allow him to remain in the community. Ricky was recalled on 13 March 2011 because he was seen in Peckham, and associating with gang members, both contrary to his parole conditions. Danny was released in 2011.
The Damilola Taylor Trust was set up by Taylor's parents in his memory, and quotes his writing shortly before his death: “I will travel far and wide to choose my destiny and remould the world, I know it is my destiny to defend the world, which I hope to achieve during my lifetime”
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