The boy who became the latest gun crime statistic

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The Independent Online

To his family and friends, Michael Dosunmu was a quiet, industrious schoolboy who spent hours in front of his home computer and enjoyed going to church every Sunday.

As a teenager living in Peckham, he had never been lured into the gang culture that attracted other boys his age in South London. Those who knew him agreed he had a promising future.

But on Tuesday, two days after celebrating his 15th birthday, Michael was shot dead in his bed at his home. Michael's sister was present at the house when two intruders forced their way in and shot him. Although she administered first aid to her brother, he later died of his injuries at Kings College Hospital.

The teenager's father, Rasak, 50, admitted last night he was yet to tell his wife, who is travelling from Nigeria. "All I've told her is that Michael is ill, so she is rushing back to see him,"

Mr Dosunmu described his son as a "kind and easygoing boy". "He never hung around on the street. He was serious about his studies and we had a maths and science tutor come home to teach him twice a week," he said.

Some have observed echoes of the murder of Damilola Taylor, the 10-year-old schoolboy who died in Peckham just months after coming to Britain from Nigeria. Damilola had been coming home from school, days before his 11th birthday in November 2000 when he was attacked. It was later revealed that he had complained about being bullied at school.

Officers have connected the latest murder of Mr Dosunmu with the nearby fatal stabbing of a 21-year-old man days earlier. Four people were yesterday arrested in connection with his death.

Detective Superintendent Gary Richardson, from Operation Trident, which investigates gun crime in Afro-Caribbean communities, said the teenager had gone to bed at about midnight, 50 minutes before he was killed.

Det Supt Richardson believed the suspects had forced entry into the victim's home and that the attack appeared "targeted" but that he could not rule out a case of mistaken identity.

Such was the level of concern over the killing - and the recent spate of young gun crime victims in the area - John Reid, the Home Secretary, held talks with community leaders and police yesterday to discuss ways to tackle gun, knife and gang culture in South London.

Among other recent victims is Javarie Crighton, 21, who was stabbed on a road next to Mr Dosunmu's home, on Saturday, and another teenager, James Andre Smarrt-Ford, aged 16, was shot dead at Streatham Ice Rink in south London, also on Saturday night.

Mr Reid said tougher sentences and more police could help fight violent gang-related crime as well as local organisations.

"Gangs can terrorise communities and destroy lives. It is important we play our part by introducing tougher sentences and increasing police numbers, but it is individuals and organisations based at the frontline that can really make a difference," he said.

Det Supt Richardson added that, while the number of firearms offences had fallen last year, including a 16 per cent decrease in Trident gun crime, greater numbers of younger people were becoming both victims and suspects of such crimes.

"It's alarming, the age of victims is getting younger. The rise of criminality being committed by younger people is a problem that is connected to role models," he said.

Speaking in connection with Mr Smartt-Ford's murder, Mark Bennett, a Labour councillor for Streatham and cabinet member for community safety at Lambeth council, warned that "South London has real issues to face up to in terms of homicide rate."

"We need to look more carefully at how to deal with young people and provide them with enough cultural activity," he said.

The council, he added, were running a gang intervention scheme and a gun crime project was being launched to support vulnerable young people, including those who had been excluded from school and at greatest risk of being influenced by gang culture.

"The whole problem of what young people do for recreation has been an issue for some time. It's come across from residents very strongly. It's part of the problem - provision for young people - there's not enough for them to do," he said.

Residents feared a new phenomenon of "cycle-by" shooting - where youngsters on BMX bikes carry guns. Such incidents are becoming increasingly common and teenagers this week spoke of a gang culture in which older men known as "elders" tended to lure teenagers or "their youngers" into gangs, giving them street names or "tags" and supplying them with weapons.