Boy, 14, locked up for six years

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The Independent Online

A 14-year-old boy who killed his promising footballer friend was ordered to be detained for six years today under new tougher guidelines for knife crime.

Michael Ematuwo was 13 when a flick-knife he was waving around to ward off a bully struck his friend, Jahmal Mason-Blair, 17, who was trying to stop a fight.

Jahmal, who had trials with Tottenham Hotspur, Watford and Reading, bled to death as the knife cut an artery in his neck.

Ematuwo, of Hackney, east London, pleaded guilty to manslaughter last month.

Judge Paul Worsley sentenced him at the Old Bailey saying the new guidelines from the Lord Chief Justice came into force today and meant all jail terms had to be a deterrent.

Judge Worsley told Ematuwo: "It was the carrying of a knife which led to the death of Jahmal.

"You have destroyed the life of his family. Jahmal was the bright star in the lives of his family.

"He was a decent, popular boy and a talented footballer. He was a boy who met his death trying to stop violence, not causing it."

The judge said he accepted that Ematuwo had not intended to harm anyone with the knife.

The court was told the defendant was born in Nigeria and had been sent to live with an aunt by his preacher father.

He had been befriended by Jahmal, who played for Borehamwood football club.

Jahmal died "almost instantly" after being stabbed on 23 May this year in Amhurst Road, Hackney, east London.

Richard Whittam QC, prosecuting, said Ematuwo had had his bicycle taken by an older boy.

He had gone with Jahmal to collect it but was attacked with a stick. He took out the flick knife and was waving it around to frighten the other youth.

Mr Whittam said: "Tragically, Jahmal Mason-Blair, the young man who had been trying to stop the fight, was struck with the knife.

"It appears he had his back to the boy when he swung with his arm and the knife struck."

Baroness Mallalieu QC, defending, said the offence had been motivated by fear.

"This is a young man who has lost a friend," she said.

Jahmal's father, Wesley Blair, said his son had gone out that night because he had been late coming home from his job as a bus driver.

He added: "I think about him playing football and never being able to see him playing again."

Jahmal's mother, Tetela Raphael, who has re-married and lives in America, said Jahmal had been due to fly to the US for trials with teams there.

She said in a statement that she collapsed when given the news of his death.