'Damilola fell in my lap. There was blood everywhere'

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The Independent Online

A carpenter wept yesterday as he told the Old Bailey that he had cradled Damilola Taylor in his arms when he found him injured and dying in the stairwell of a council estate in south-east London.

Guillermo Casal pounded his fist on the witness box while recalling that he had screamed for help as he tried to keep the 10-year-old boy alive.

Damilola had managed to haul himself to within 200 yards of home after being stabbed in the leg with a broken bottle, the trial of four teenagers accused of his murder had been told.

Mr Casal told the court that he had noticed Damilola standing on the stairs of the North Peckham Estate, leaning against the wall. "I looked at him. He looked at me. I knew he was hurt ... I ran for him and he fell in my lap. There was blood everywhere," he said.

After studying photographs showing the bloodstained stairwell, debris left by paramedics, and Damilola's discarded jacket and school jumper, Mr Casal slammed the album shut and pushed it away. Blowing out his cheeks, he ran his hand over his head and hit the witness box before apologising. "He was just a little boy,'' he said.

Damilola's brother, Trude, who is 23, attended the court for the first time yesterday, joining his parents, Richard and Gloria, for the second day of the trial, to listen to witnesses talking about the final minutes of the Nigerian-born youngster's life on 27 November 2000.

Mrs Taylor continued to flick through the photographs as Mr Casal gave his evidence, shaking her head and crying. The carpenter, who was based at a building contractor's office on the estate, said he had been returning to the office when he saw what turned out to be bloodin the street.

"When I went along there was another blob and I said, 'That's blood'. I went a bit further and there was a large blob with a footprint in it," the witness said.

He said he had reached the third flight of steps when he saw Damilola standing four or five steps above him. As he ran to him, the boy fell and Mr Casal crouched by his side to speak to him. He told the court: "The first thing he said was 'I'm OK, I'm OK'. That was the only words he said to me.''

Mr Casal said he had told Damilola he wasn't OK, but the boy had started to lapse into semi-consciousness and just groaned. "I kept screaming for help and nobody heard me,'' Mr Casal said.

While cradling Damilola on the stairs he saw three young boys on the street below whom, he said, appeared to have been put off climbing the stairs because of his shouting. He told the police that he remembered looking down at them and saw one "make a gesture with his hand across the top of his leg''.

Mr Casal then left the witness box and walked into the middle of the courtroom to demonstrate the movement to the jury of seven men and five women. He said that the three boys, whom he did not recognise, then walked off, but he did not appreciate the potential significance of the gesture at the time. He also confirmed that he knew two of the defendants, the brothers aged 16 who are known for the trial as Child A and Child B, and said they were not among the group he had seen.

The court was told that Mr Casal then made a 999 call and ran panicking into his employers' office to get help.

His colleague, Phillip Evans, joined him with two other people. Mr Evans said: "[Damilola] was in and out [of consciousness]. His eyes were open when I first got to him.''

As another colleague got instructions from ambulance crew on how to treat the boy, Mr Evans ran back to the office to fetch overalls to keep the boy warm and a pair of scissors, he said. "I started to cut the left trouser leg. That's where all the blood was coming from. As we got to the top of the trouser leg that's when I found the wound on the inside of his left leg."

Police officers arrived soon afterwards to take over, followed swiftly by paramedics. But despite the efforts to save him, Damilola died in hospital within an hour of the attack.

Earlier, the jury had been shown the final pictures of Damilola recorded by closed-circuit television cameras in and around Peckham library in the minutes before he was attacked. In them, Damilola is shown leaving the library for the short walk home. Mrs Taylor, who had been watching the footage on a monitor on a bench in front of her, got up and left the court ,wiping her face with a handkerchief.

The four defendants, one aged 14, two aged 16, and one 17, all deny murder, manslaughter and assault with intent to rob. The trial continues.