Our son's death should mean a future for others, says Damilola's father

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The Independent Online

Richard Taylor blames problems in British society for the knife murder of his "dear and extraordinary" son Damilola. Tomorrow he will attend a special event with ministers and senior police marking the fifth anniversary of the 10-year-old's killing in Peckham, south-east London.

In a poignant statement to The Independent on Sunday, the civil servant from Nigeria spoke of the huge "grief" the family has endured and its desire for a positive outcome from the tragedy.

Mr Taylor, who learned of his son's death in a phone call, said: "Now, more than ever, we want our son's death to mean life, opportunity and hope for downtrodden and underprivileged youth in Britain and Nigeria."

He wants his son's name to live on through the work of the Damilola Taylor Trust, set up to honour his life and help disadvantaged young people from inner-city areas to achieve academic success. His hope is that the trust will become one of the leading organisations dedicated to the welfare of troubled children.

"Damilola lost his life because of enormous problems in our society," said Mr Taylor, who lives in London with his wife Gloria and surviving son Baba Tunde and daughter Gbemi. "Our son wanted to become a doctor. He was a leader and we are sure he would have been extraordinary. We are told Britain is the fourth richest nation in the world. Shouldn't this translate into a successful society, at the very least for our children?"

The killing of the popular and happy child, who was remembered as passionate about football by his friends at the Oliver Goldsmith School, shocked the nation especially when the main suspects were also children. Damilola was found bleeding to death in a stairwell at a block of flats on 27 November 2000. The boy, whose name meant "gift from God", had been attacked on his way home from a computer club at Peckham library and stabbed in the thigh with a broken bottle. Police believe that may have been done to intimidate him in an attempted robbery.

His mother Gloria, who used to work for one of Nigeria's biggest banks, had brought him and the rest of the family to Britain only four months before his death to seek treatment for Gbemi's epilepsy.

In 2002, four teenagers, including two brothers, were charged with the murder, but they were acquitted after a trial in which the evidence of a 14-year-old girl, who claimed she saw the killing, was rejected as unreliable. Two were found not guilty by the judge and the other two by the jury.

In an attempt to bring Damilola's killers to justice, police mounted extensive forensic operations and used the latest DNA techniques to gather new evidence. In January they said three teenagers had been charged with murder. They will face trial at the Old Bailey in January 2006. Hassan Jihad, aged 19, from Peckham and two youths aged 16 and 17, also from south London, who cannot be named for legal reasons, were charged.

The cabinet minister Harriet Harman and Deputy Assistant Commissioner Brian Paddick from the Metropolitan Police will be among those at the event tomorrow in London. There will also be a gospel concert in Peckham to celebrate Damilola's life.

The North Peckham estate where he died has been knocked down and replaced by Southwark Council with 2,500 new homes .