Two friends, one knife, two lives ruined: just one more fatal stabbing

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The Independent Online

It was a love of football that first drew together Tyrell Anderson and Tommy Winston as 10-year-olds.

When not playing for the same school or Sunday league team in north London, the two friends would often be seen kicking a ball around a park, seeking to emulate their heroes at Arsenal FC.

As their teenage years came to end, they appeared to share a bond that would continue into their adult lives. But that close friendship was ripped apart earlier this year over the seemingly trivial matter of a £20 debt.

The fallout from the dispute ended one boy's life, wrecked the other and provided another graphic example of the increasingly prevalent knife culture among young people in Britain.

In a fit of rage Anderson, now aged 19, attacked and stabbed his friend three times in the back, leaving him to die on a pavement outside a hairdressers in Kentish Town, north London.

The combination of the close bond that had existed between the killer and victim, the trivial nature of the boys' dispute and a haunting letter from Anderson to his former pal has left the teenagers' friends and families struggling to find answers.

A week after the killing, as police searched for Mr Winston's killer, Anderson penned a poignant note on the back of a concert flyer and left it amid the cards and flowers laid in tribute at the spot where he had killed his friend.

He wrote: "I'm so sorry to end ur life Tom you was one of my best pals. I didn't mean to please believe me only god know's why this happened."

After leaving the note, the teenager handed himself in to police.

Last Tuesday Anderson had his plea of manslaughter - he claimed he did not intend to cause serious injury - rejected by a jury at the Old Bailey and he was found guilty of murder. He will serve a minimum of 13 years before being considered for parole.

Both boys' families have struggled to reconcile the brutality of the killing with their happy memories of the teenagers' close friendship.

Mr Winston's mother, Dee Roberts, recalls regularly taking her son and his friend - known by everyone as Ty - to play football.

The boys also started going to the same secondary school, Acland Burghley in Camden, which at the time was one of the leading comprehensives in the capital.

Ms Roberts said: "They spent a lot of time together. They played football at mid week and in the Sunday league. I used to pick up Ty - I knew his dad since I was a little girl - we grew up in the same area.

"As the boys got older they used to hang about together on the street, like kids do. There was never any competition between them, they were just such good mates."

Throughout their school days the two friends appeared to share similar experiences and were part of the same group of friendsBut as they got older their ambitions and social circles seem to have shifted.

Mr Winston lived in Kentish Town with his mother, a support worker for special needs children, his father, a roofer, and his 15 year-old sister, Charley. His mother and father split up about three years ago but they all remained on good terms. Anderson lived near by in Camden Road with his father, who was involved in youth work, and his mother.

Both boys used to hang out with their mates, riding mopeds on the Peckwater estate in Kentish Town, one of London's poorest wards.

Mr Winston had jettisoned dreams of becoming a professional footballer after a disappointing trial with Tottenham Hotspur at age 12. After he left school he worked as a telephone engineer. He also had a girlfriend.

Anderson, however, left school seemingly without any plans or a job. He was smoking marijuana and getting into trouble with police. He picked up convictions for cannabis possession and two offences of robbery and attempted robbery on schoolboys aged 13 and 16.

Relations between the friends started to turn sour after Anderson bought a phone for £40 from Mr Winston but paid him with a forged £20 note.

The two argued about it on Christmas Eve last year and Mr Winston decided to retaliate by removing parts of Anderson's scooter and hiding them.

The row came to a head on 3 January when a group of their friends gathered at the Unicorn Pub in Brecknock Road, Camden, to watch Arsenal play on a giant television screen.

During the second half of the game at just after 9pm Anderson ran up to the victim's Ford Fiesta and smashed the front window screen with a hammer.

A fight broke out between the pair and Mr Winston was knocked to the floor.

As a friend helped him up and walked him to his car, Anderson took a kitchen knife out of his pocket and stabbed him in the back three times.

After the murder Anderson went into hiding for a week before he returned to place the written tribute and message of remorse on the pavement. He then gave himself up to the police. He would tell an Old Bailey jury later: "I had been up a couple of nights drinking and smoking cannabis. I had smoked quite a lot. I didn't know how it affected me.

"Perhaps the cannabis I smoked made me paranoid, over paranoid."

The dead teenager's mother said: "No one was more shocked than me when I discovered it was Ty who had stabbed Tommy.

"Our whole family is devastated at losing Tommy. He was a good person who had a lovely girlfriend who I'm sure he would have married and lived happily ever after with. I adored him, I still do."

Back on the Peckwater Estate, where the two youths spent much of the free time, Alan Walter, a resident who knew Mr Winston, and who has campaigned for funding for a youth club, said the death was "a warning to the community" that it could not allow "another generation to grow up hanging out in the streets".

The killer's letter to his dead friend

TO TOMMY

I'm so sorry to end ur life Tom you was one of my best pals. I didnt meen to please believe me only god know's why this happened.

Im in a knightmare & I can't wake from it, I don't know the difference between my dreams and real life anymore Tom. For days now I've been wishing this was all a dream, only until I've jus walked to where it happened and seen all the flowers & pictures that I know it must be real. It must be about 04 OOam knowone is on the road accept for me. Everyone finks Im scum And I am but I know you no I never meant it and thats all that matters in my life now Tom.

Remember all the times we played football together (so many) you was always the best at freekicks you tought me how to take them Beckham style. You would always pick me out from corners and freekicks. Me you & Tanny yous'ed to be the best in the whole borough we all should of made it together.

Tom I can't believe I did it. I thought of 101 different ways to end my life & be with you Tom to tell U face to face how sorry I am but I wasn't man enough to do any of them.

So I'm writing this before I give myself in for good To tell your Family, Phil, D, Whinnie & all the rest that Im sorry to put you through so much pain, I know what its like to loose someone but not in that way you lost Tommy you dont deserve to be goin through this.

Words cannot explain how sorry I am. I no you Hate me & wan't me dead but please believe I never meant to do this, I'm not a murderer even though you think I am & everyone else does I'm not. Everyone who knows me, knows I'm not that kind of person. Tom we were friends for at least seven years Tom. We were exactly like each other at 1 stage in our lives, we liked all the same things two of them was football & the same girls. I love you Tom, I know l'll be joining you soon Tom. To every one who knew & loved Tommy I'm so sorry to end his life I didn't mean to put you through this type of pain. Tommy was one of my BEST pals.