Teenager 'subjected to racist tirade' before his throat was slashed

The friends of a 17-year-old boy stabbed to death in a London street at the weekend have described how his attacker launched into a drunken racist rant moments before lashing out.

Nilanthan Murddi died after his throat was slashed during the attack, which happened in Croydon, south London, in the early hours of Saturday.

The teenager, who was of Sri Lankan Tamil origin, had been chatting with a small group of friends when a minicab pulled up beside them at some traffic lights. The passenger, a white man, was having a drunken argument with the driver and shouted abuse at the group before being driven away. He then returned on foot to carry out the attack.

Amir Butt, 23, a friend of the victim who witnessed his murder, said: "A minicab pulled up and there was a guy in the back who was really drunk who started shouting: 'You fucking Paki.'

"Our friends were there and said: 'Look mate, we don't want any problems, just go away because you're being racist.' Then the same guy came back and walked towards Nilanthan and threw a punch. He must have had a blade in his hand because he ended up with a slashed throat."

The victim, known to his friends as Nilo, died shortly after ambulance crews and police arrived on the scene. He is the 23rd teenager to be murdered in London this year and the 17th to be fatally stabbed.

Abi Uthayakumar, 17, another witness, said: "It was a little blade, but blood just went everywhere. I took my shirt off to help and it was soaked right through."

The victim's sister, Santhiya, 18, said that her parents were "destroyed" by the death of their only son, and were too upset to speak.

Nilanthan's mother had been at her sick mother's bedside in India when she heard the news, and flew home immediately to join her husband. The family have lived in Britain for more than 20 years.

Santhiya, who is a waitress at the family's restaurant in nearby Purley, said: "Words can't express how I feel right now. My brother is gone but every day, every second we will be thinking of him. He was energetic, always giving a helping hand whenever it was needed. My father cannot accept his only son is dead. He keeps repeating the words 'he's gone' over and over again."

Nilanthan had studied for A-levels at Langley Park School for Boys in Beckenham but recently left to work alongside his sister as a waiter in the family restaurant. Yesterday, pupils at the school joined the hundreds of others posting messages of condolence on a dedicated memorial page on the social networking website Facebook.

One of the messages read: "RIP Nilz. I'll never forget your cheeky attitude, always cracking jokes with everyone. My heart goes out to your family – may God keep them strong and help them through this tough time. Hopefully justice will be served to the animal that took you away."

Mike Selva, a councillor in Croydon, appealed for calm yesterday amid concerns that the murder might provoke revenge attacks in the area, which has a large Tamil community. He said: "I am very concerned about community reactions because of the different races involved. It is very shocking."

* A 30-year-old man was arrested today in connection with the murder at an address in Sydenham, south London.