Teenagers convicted of christening party killing

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The Independent Online

Four teenagers were convicted at the Old Bailey today of killing a woman as she cradled a baby at the child's christening party.

One, aged 17, was convicted of murder and the other three, aged 15,16 and 17 were cleared of murder but convicted of manslaughter.

They will be sentenced in February after pre-sentence reports.

Two of them were in Britain illegally and now face deportation. All face lengthy jail terms.

The four were members of an armed masked gang of raiders who burst into a christening party at Wood Dene Estate in Peckham, south London on August 27 last year to rob guests.

Mrs Zainab Kalokoh was shot dead. She had fled to Britain from her native war-torn Sierra Leone.

As Mrs Kalokoh, 33, lay dying, the raiders stripped cowering guests of valuables as part of an "audacious" robbery plot, prosecutor Brian Altman had told jurors.

Mrs Kalokoh had come to the UK "in the reasonable expectation that this country would provide her with a peaceful, violence-free life", he said.

"She was tragically wrong. Her life ended in a dilapidated community hall where she and other guests had become targets of this gang of masked and hooded youths."

About 100 people - including young and very young children - were at the party when Mrs Kalokoh was shot in the head.

"They were enjoying themselves, talking and dancing. A murder took place against a background of an audacious plot to rob the partygoers of their valuables and money. They came heavily armed - with loaded guns and intent of extreme violence - and extreme violence is what they did that night," Mr Altman told the court.

"The fact that Mrs Kalokoh was holding the baby girl for whom the christening party was arranged did not prevent her death.

"She was shot as she cradled the baby and the effect caused her to collapse to the floor still with the baby in her arms.

"Although covered in her blood she was mercifully unharmed, but Mrs Kalokoh rapidly died from her fatal wound."

The four were also convicted of robbery and possession of a firearm at the time of committing an offence.