Police praise for 15-year-old stabbed to death in fight over mobile phone

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A teenager killed trying to protect his younger brother was praised for his polite maturity last night as detectives said they were hunting up to nine gang members.

Negus McClean, who was due to celebrate his 16th birthday in two weeks, was knifed in the chest and thigh on Sunday evening after stepping in to stop his 14-year-old brother's BlackBerry phone being stolen. He collapsed and died later at the Royal London Hospital.

Speaking at the murder scene yesterday, Detective Chief Inspector Stephen Clayman said Negus died after being chased by "seven, eight or nine" youths on bicycles. He urged witnesses to come forward.

"He was dying protecting his brother. It was a selfless act. He paid with his life," his cousin Noel, 25, said as he left flowers at the spot where the teenager fell in Edmonton, north London.

"It was just a disgusting act of violence. I pray that a change happens. I pray for the guy that did this to my cousin," Noel added.

He explained that Negus was talented musician who had been hoping to embark on a career as a rapper when he left school. "He was such a mature individual, so grown up. He was intelligent, he loved his family and I loved him," Noel added. "His mum was very proud of him. His mum and dad are keeping it together. His brother and sister are keeping strong and needing their faith."

Susan Tranter, the head teacher at Edmonton County School, described her pupil as a "polite young man".

"It is a tragedy that the life of a 15-year-old boy has been lost to knife crime. I urge all the young people of our school to shun the gang-related issues that will have contributed to this untimely death," Dr Tranter said.

Yesterday more than 2,500 people had signed up to a Facebook page set up in his memory.

School friend Leyla Titchmarsh wrote: "This is so totally unfair, I hope you live in heaven with the angels."

Scotland Yard said four suspects, aged 14, 16, 18 and 20, had been arrested. Negus is the fourth teenager to be stabbed to death in the capital this year.