Toni-Ann's killer turned in by friends, court told

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A gunman who shot a seven-year-old girl in the back to eliminate her as a witness was caught because of the public outrage caused by the murder, the Old Bailey was told yesterday.

Toni-Ann Byfield was killed as she apparently tried to run from the room where the man she knew as her father had just been shot dead, the jury heard.

Joel Smith, 32, is accused of murdering Toni-Ann and Bertram Byfield, 41, in Kensal Green, north-west London, in 2003. Mr Smith, who denies the murders, thought he had committed the perfect crime by leaving no witnesses and no clues, it was alleged. But he was captured two years later because his friends and family were so appalled by the crime, Richard Horwell, for the prosecution, said.

Toni-Ann, who was raised in Jamaica before arriving in England in 2000, had been in the care of Birmingham Social Services when she was shot dead. She was placed with a foster family, but while they were on holiday, Toni-Ann was allowed to stay with a girlfriend of Mr Byfield.

The court heard that Mr Byfield was a convicted drug dealer who had continued to deal cocaine up until his death, and had been shot the year before.

On Saturday 13 September 2003, Mr Byfield and Toni-Ann had been out shopping for the girl's new school uniform. They believed they were father and daughter, but post-mortem tests revealed that Toni-Ann was another man's child.

Toni-Ann returned with Mr Byfield to his bedsit in a hostel for ex-offenders late that night. Shortly after midnight, both were shot dead. The prosecution said the killer may have been trying to rob Mr Byfield, or may have gone there to shoot him as part of a £25,000 contract killing.

Mr Smith was a self-confessed gunman and robber of drug dealers, Mr Horwell told the court. "He must have had the intention of either shooting Mr Byfield or robbing him and shot him during the course of the robbery," Mr Horwell said. "The only sensible inference is that Toni-Ann was shot to eliminate her as a witness."

A woman staying on the first floor heard Toni-Ann scream and the sound of a disturbance. "Then four shots - then silence," said Mr Horwell. When police arrived, "father and daughter were dead".

Mr Byfield had been shot twice, once in the side of the body and once through his leg. Another bullet had missed. Toni-Ann had been shot with the last bullet. "It passed through her tiny body and was later recovered from the carpet," Mr Horwell said.

Mr Smith moved to Liverpool, and he was arrested while in prison there for other offences in October last year after calls were made to police.

Mr Horwell told the jury: "He had got away from the scene and would have got away from the crime but for one fact. These murders were in no sense ordinary. These crimes had shocked the nation. We suggest the notoriety was such that the normal barriers which exist between some individuals and the police had collapsed. Some individuals came forward to assist that otherwise would not have done so."

He said that friends or acquaintances of the defendant identified Mr Smith as the gunman. Mr Horwell said Mr Smith told a friend in Liverpool during a telephone conversation: "I have blasted a Yardie and his girl." He also allegedly told his cellmate, Graham Ipswich, a former soldier: "You and me are the same. We've both killed children."

A tape of the telephone conversation and secret recordings made in a cell after his arrest will be introduced as evidence.

The trial continues.