Youth acquitted over murder of Damilola Taylor

Click to follow
The Independent Online

One of three youths accused of murdering the schoolboy Damilola Taylor has been cleared by a jury at the Old Bailey.

The prosecution had claimed Hassan Jihad, 20, was involved in the stabbing of the 10-year-old on the North Peckham estate, south-east London, in November 2000. But after three days' deliberation, the jurors found him not guilty of murder, manslaughter and assault with intent to rob.

Mr Jihad was in court wearing a tracksuit to hear the verdict, and soon afterwards left the building without commenting. He is the fifth suspect cleared of the killing. Four other teenagers were acquitted of murder in 2002 when a prosecution witness was discredited as a fantasist.

The jury will today resume deliberations on similar charges for two brothers aged 17 and 18, who cannot be named for legal reasons. Mr Justice Leveson told the seven female and four male jurors he would accept majority verdicts.

Mr Jihad, 14 at the time and living with his aunt in nearby Camberwell, admitted being in Blakes Road, the street where Damilola was found dying, on the day of his death. He was there to see his youth-offending team worker, and claimed he took a different route home, so he did not pass through the scene.

He was charged with murder after a red fibre identical to those of Damilola's school jumper was found on his trousers.

The prosecution said the three defendants were members of a street gang who tried to rob Damilola on his way home from an after-school computer class at Peckham library, resorting to violence when he stood his ground. Prosecutors said he was stabbed once in his left thigh with a broken beer bottle, and died from extensive bleeding as he limped up a stairwell to a block of flats.

The defendants said the boy may have accidentally fallen on the bottle. They denied being involved.

Mr Jihad told the court he could not explain why the fibres matching those on Damilola's sweatshirt were on his trousers. His lawyer said up to 600 similar sweatshirts could have been in circulation in Peckham at the time, and the fibre could have been picked up in many places.

Mr Jihad was visiting a youth-offending team worker because he was under a two-year supervision order passed in June 2000 for robbery and theft. He was on bail for a robbery after being convicted in August that year and was also on bail for three suspected robberies.

In December 2000, weeks after Damilola died, Mr Jihad robbed two teenage boys at knifepoint in a playground and another later the same day. He was also part of a gang who tried to steal a mobile phone from a girl on a bus. The victim was stabbed in the leg.