Stabbed teenager 'a victim of gang feud', says friend

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The Independent Online

The mother of a teenager who was stabbed in an apparent gang feud spoke yesterday of how she found him bleeding to death from a single stab wound to his stomach outside their house.

Shaquille Maitland-Smith, 14, an army cadet, and his 16-year-old sister Tahira were attacked by boys on BMX bikes in St Thomas's Place in Hackney, east London, on Saturday evening. He died at the Royal London Hospital on Sunday morning as his mother waited outside the operating theatre.

Residents described seeing a group of about 15 youths on bikes ride up shortly before midnight and attack Shaquille as he sat on a bench in front of his house after walking a friend's dog.

"I called out of the window to remind Shaquille to wash the dishes and that it was getting late," said their mother, Sandra Maitland, 43, a social worker.

"A few minutes later, his sister shouted at me to come outside because the Fields Boys [from the nearby London Fields park] were there. I ran out and they just rushed past me. Shaquille was lying on the floor, he kept saying to stop everyone shouting. I was pressing on his wound, trying to stop the bleeding with a towel."

He remained conscious and was taken to hospital in Whitechapel, where surgeons were initially hopeful the knife had perforated his bowel and not, more dangerously, his liver. Mrs Maitland said she spoke to her son before he went into theatre: "I went up to theatre with him at 2am and stayed the whole time but at 7am they said they couldn't stop the bleeding."

Shaquille was pronounced dead at 8.15am – the 25th teenager to be killed in London so far in 2008; the 20th to be fatally stabbed.

Mrs Maitland added: "Our family is still in shock, it just hasn't sunk in yet. It's like he's still there in hospital and will come home soon." She said he had joined the cadets: "I wanted him to focus on something productive that gave him self-discipline so if he was to face a situation he would back away from confrontation – he's not a fighter."

A friend said Shaquille had been caught in the crossfire of a long-running gang war in Hackney that he had nothing to do with, between a gang from the London Fields area and a group from the E9 postcode of London.

The 20-year-old, who asked not to be named, said: "I have known him all my life. Shaq's a good guy – the class clown. Everyone knew him but for good reasons. He was innocent."

The friend said a violent dispute had rumbled on: "This isn't a feud – it's a war now. This all goes back to the [Notting Hill] Carnival 2006. There was a fight between one of the youngers from London Fields and an older from E9. The olders saw it as a disrespect thing. It's gone from fist fights to knives to guns and back to knives."

Members of the London Fields gang would travel to E9 to attack teenagers simply for being in that area, he said. "When I was younger they tried to come down and shoot us nearly every day, but people like me got older and got tired of it," he said. Shaquille's murder was likely to provoke revenge attacks, he said: "They will do something to every one of them [London Fields] till they find out who stabbed Shaq."

Mrs Maitland said Shaquille was worried about travelling outside his area to see friends because of the threat of attacks from gangs. His sister, known as Titi, is back at home after having a slash wound to her face stitched.The attack happened ess than half a mile away from a tower block where 16-year-old Ahmed Benyermak fell to his death two weeks ago as he tried to flee a gang of youths on bikes.