The parents of a man knifed to death by a 15-year-old boy with a violent criminal past have demanded an inquiry into the failings of the tagging system after it emerged that his killer breached a curfew six days before the fatal attack.
The teenager, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had been due to be brought before a court after breaking the night-time curfew but authorities said they did not have time to arrange a hearing before he murdered Steven Grisales, 21, in August last year.
The 15-year-old was yesterday detained for a minimum of ten and a half years for fatally stabbing the aspiring architect after he confronted a gang of three who had been hurling conkers at him. The killer responded by plunging a knife into Mr Grisales’ chest and then fled the scene.
Mr Grisales’ parents told The Independent that they felt let down by the system and demanded answers about why the teenager – described by sources close to the case as a “serial curfew breaker” – was free to kill their son. The killer was tagged for a year after being convicted of burglary and theft from a home a month before he stabbed Mr Grisales. The youngster – who gave a clenched fist salute to his family and supporters in the public gallery when he was detained yesterday – had a history of violence and street robberies which dated back to when he was aged 13.
Mr Grisales’ mother, Jasmid, said: “It’s really unfair that they are growing up believing they are gods. The police do their job – they take them in - but they just have to let them go.”
Seated beneath a large picture of their smiling son at their home in Enfield, north London, before yesterday’s hearing, Andres Grisales, the dead man’s father, said: “We want an inquiry. They are spending so much money with these private companies to do this. We asked them why they didn’t do anything.”
The court heard yesterday that he had removed the tag from his leg and had been “absent” from curfew from two days before the killing. The young man’s defence team denied that the tag had been removed, but authorities painted a picture of confusion and problems in communication between the courts, the tagging company and the council that was supposed to enforce any breaches. Serco, one of the companies which last year was paid more than £50m by the Government to administer the scheme, is understood to have passed on details of the serious breach when the boy was out of his home for more than four hours until 1am on 26 August.
A team from Enfield Council said it did not have time to arrange a court hearing because it was a Bank Holiday weekend. Six days after the start of the breach, the blameless Mr Grisales was killed as he returned home during the day after shopping for his grandmother. The killer had not been under curfew at the time of the stabbing.
Mr Grisales, who spent most of his life in Britain, had just returned to the country from Argentina less than a month before he was fatally stabbed. The talented 21-year-old had secured a scholarship at Westminster University to study architecture.
His family, who emigrated from Colombia two decades ago, said that the placid Mr Grisales preferred to sit at home with this three young brothers and sisters to watch videos than to go out. “He’s been family oriented ever since he was a kid,” said Andres Grisales. “He never had a problem with anyone, never had any fights, he had no trouble with the authorities. Even though he was 21, he always asked permission to go out.”
Mrs Grisales first learned of the attack on her son when she was called by a police officer who told her that paramedics were treating her son. Even though he had two lengthy periods of surgery, his parents assumed that their robust rugby-playing son would survive.
His organs were donated to three women, all mothers in their 40s, the family later learned. “When he was very young, he said that if anything happens to me I will be a donor,” said Mrs Grisales. “He is no longer here but there are some parts of him that are still working. At least we had the comfort that he was helping other people.”
Mr Grisales said that the death of his son – described in court as an “outstanding human being” had devastated the family. “The only thing that remains is emptiness,” he said.
Electronic errors: Tags and trouble
Problems with tagging reported by the probation officers' union Napo included:
* A violent offender in Warwickshire due to be tagged for eight weeks, but the device was still not fitted seven weeks later.
* A curfew area did not cover a balcony - leading to a breach every time a London offender went to have a cigarette.
* The signal from the tags cut out while offenders in South Yorkshire were in the bath.
* An offender tricked staff into tagging his false leg after wrapping it in a bandage.
* Two men were convicted after the stepfather of an offender convinced operators that he was the person who should be tagged.