Blair pays tribute to Damilola on anniversary

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The Independent Online

The parents of murdered schoolboy Damilola Taylor were joined by Tony and Cherie Blair today at the official opening of a youth centre named after the youngster.

In an emotional ceremony on the first anniversary of Damilola's death, the Prime Minister helped Richard and Gloria Taylor to unveil a bronze plaque bearing an image of the youngster and words written by him shortly before his death.

Mr Taylor spoke of his devastation at the loss of his son and Mr Blair described Damilola as "remarkable young boy".

Speaking at the new Damilola Taylor Centre, just yards from where his ten–year–old son died in Peckham, south London, Mr Taylor said: "When Damilola was killed on this day one year ago my life was devastated, I was destroyed.

"I blamed everyone for what happened, myself, my country, this country, everyone.

"But gradually I felt that pain easing and I now realise that things happen in life for no reason, that's how God wants it to happen and there's nothing we can do about it.

"Damilola's death awakened many things in many people.

"It made the authorities sit up and take notice, it forced those who make the laws to face harsh realities – but most of all I believe, it made parents, communities and officials more aware than ever of their responsibilities towards young people."

The plaque unveiled by the Taylors with Mr and Mrs Blair bore the words written

by Damilola on one of his drawings: "I will travel far and wide to choose my destiny and remould the world.

"I know it is my destiny to defend the world which I hope to achieve during my lifetime."

Speaking to an audience of around 100 people inside the youth centre, Mr Blair said: "Damilola Taylor lived briefly and died needlessly but in his short life and in the manner of his death he touched many people's hearts.

"Damilola was obviously a remarkable young boy in his own right. The best memorial for him is to try and help in the re–making of his local community and that's the purpose of today."

Mr Blair said the rebuilding of communities could only take place "on the basis of partnership", including people who have been successful contributing back to their community.

He praised Lord Harris of Peckham who grew up in the area and has contributed £400,000 towards the £700,000 refurbishment of the youth centre.

It was formerly the Warwick Park Centre before being renamed after Damilola today.