Damilola witness denies cash is motive

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The Independent Online

The main prosecution witness in the Damilola Taylor murder trial sang "I'm in the money" to a teacher accompanying her during police questioning, video evidence shown at the Old Bailey revealed yesterday.

The 14-year-old girl, who returned to the witness stand after a two-day break, admitted that her repeated mention of the reward during the videotaped police interviews, and the changing of her story three times "made it look I am doing it just for the money". But she denied she had told "a string of lies to the police and the court" to get a £50,000 reward.

In one scene from the video seen by the jury yesterday, she said she was talking to the police "to get some money". She was also seen playing a game, called "snake", on her mobile phone while answering a woman police constable.

The girl insisted, however, that she was merely "joking and messing around" when referring to the reward. She added: " I don't want the money anyway, I wouldn't take it if it was offered to me."

The girl's return to court saw the resumption of her verbal sparring with Courtenay Griffiths, QC for one of the four teenagers accused of killing Damilola, although it was more subdued than the heated exchanges earlier in the week.

At one stage Mr Griffiths said: "You can buy an awful lot of trainers for £50,000." She snapped back: "Yes, but I wouldn't end up wearing half of them".

On another occasion, talking about the police videos, he asked: "How many times have you mentioned money now?" She replied: "I have lost count, you tell me."

Mr Griffiths said that, as well wanting the money, the girl wanted to help one of the boys arrested over the murder, known during the case as Boy D.

"There were two things that was motivating you to lie to the police", the QC said. "The first time when you saw [Boy D] was arrested you were worried about him. Secondly, when you found out that money was being offered, you wanted that money ... I am saying to you bluntly that you have told a string of lies to the police and you are still lying because you want that money."

The jury had earlier seen how the girl changed her story after being told by a police officer, PC Caroline Crooks, that she had much more chance of getting the £50,000 reward, offered by a tabloid newspaper, if she said she actually saw the fatal attack on Damilola in south-east London in November 2000.

The girl was also seen boasting to her teacher that she was going on holiday to Spain, paid for by the police.

Questioned by Mr Griffiths the girl said she had told PC Crooks that she and her family always went to Spain for their holidays.

PC Crooks then said that if they wanted a break "she would see what she could do". The girl denied that she would "lie to get to Spain", and added: "I can go there anyway."

The girl admitted she had become close to PC Crooks and they had met and discussed the case outside the police station. Asked by Mr Griffiths if PC Crooks was "trying to get you to lie", the girl replied: "No, to get me to tell the truth."

Two brothers aged 16, and two boys aged 17 and 14, deny murder, manslaughter, and assault with intent to rob. The trial continues on Monday.