Police: 'Preddies were scum of the earth'

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The two killers, Ricky and Danny Preddie, had a string of convictions and a reputation for violence from a young age.

A policeman who worked in the Peckham area of south-east London at the time of the stabbing said: "They were the scum of the earth. Whenever there was a robbery, one or other of the Preddies was involved."

The brothers were brought up by their mother and were prominent members of the Young Peckham Boys street gang which terrorised the North Peckham estate at the time of Damilola's killing. At the time of the stabbing Ricky was being monitored by the Southwark youth offending team; Danny was on bail and supposedly detained at a children's home.

The Preddies and two brothers from the first trial in 2002 appeared at the Old Bailey a few months before Damilola's death, charged with indecent assault. They were accused of assaulting two girls aged 10 and 12 in a park in 1999, but the case was thrown out by the judge because it should have been dealt with by a youth court.

Ricky Preddie, 19, is believed to be the boy who, at the age of 13, stabbed and fatally wounded Damilola with a broken beer bottle. When he was first arrested in 2000 on suspicion of the attack on Damilola he was on bail for theft. He had been given a 12-month supervision order in May that year for going equipped for theft. The previous September he was prosecuted for having a knife which he gave to another youth. In December 2002, he was charged after throwing a bottle at another youth whom he accused of stealing his phone card. He had a history of 24 offences committed on bail by the time he was rearrested last year over Damilola's killing.

Detectives believe the fatal confrontation could have been due to Danny, aged 12 at the time of the killing, wanting to steal Damilola's silver Puffa jacket. He had tried to rob the 10-year-old schoolboy at the same spot a few weeks earlier.

In November 2000 he had five impending prosecutions - three for assault - and was being kept on bail at a children's home two miles from where Damilola was killed. In June 2000, he had attacked a 13-year-old boy's legs with a baseball bat when he said he had no money.

Danny, now 18, was sentenced to three years' detention at Inner London Crown Court in March last year for conspiracy to rob. He was part of a "steaming gang" who went through trains, threatening and robbing passengers. He threatened to cut one victim's face before stealing £5.

A few days later, the gang threatened another victim, who had a knife pushed towards his stomach as his mobile phone and £15 were stolen.