Damilola's parents mark tragic anniversary

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The Independent Online

The pain was still there for all to see, but so too was the progress. In Richard Taylor, father of the murdered schoolboy Damilola, it appeared yesterday as a kind of comfort, a sign that the raw grief of mourning was over and his family was finally beginning to move on positively.

He was with his wife, Gloria, the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, and Dr George Carey, the Archbishop of Canterbury, to mark the first anniversary of his son's death with the dedication of a youth centre in Damilola's memory.

Gone were the tears that caused Mr Taylor to break down last year during a memorial service to Damilola, who was 10 when he was stabbed by a gang of youths and left to die in a dark stairwell on the notorious North Peckham estate in south London. Instead, there was hope.

"When Damilola was killed – on this day one year ago – my life was devastated. I was destroyed," he told a gathering at the newly-named Damilola Taylor Centre on the estate. "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.

"But we are trying to move forward and look to the future. That is why we are here today. My family and I are honoured that this centre will be a lasting memorial to Damilola."

Earlier, at St Luke's Church, just 50 yards from where the child died, Dr Carey conducted a service in his memory attended by Damilola's family, local MPs Harriet Harman and Simon Hughes, but not the Prime Minister, who was busy with war cabinet business.

The multi-millionaire Lord Harris of Peckham was also there, having pledged £400,000 towards improvements on the youth centre and a further £2m to Warwick Park School nearby.

Praising Damilola, Dr Carey asked for communities to do more to protect children. "There are wider challenges for government at both national and local levels," he said.

"Communities that are safe and secure for children and adults alike need to be places of hope. That means places that provide the opportunities to make something of our lives ... Without them, our dreams of a better and safer society will struggle to become a reality."

Meeting Mr and Mrs Taylor for the first time, the Prime Minister and his wife, Cherie, appeared genuinely moved. "Until now, I had only read about Damilola's family," Mr Blair said. "I think in many ways, what Damilola represented is something that will have a lasting legacy. And when you are thinking about what a tragic waste his death was, I hope that the fact of this centre, the support you see and the inspiration it gives the people of the community, it will be a small consolation in the years that lie ahead."

Before going to lunch with the Taylors, Mr and Mrs Blair unveiled a plaque that contained lines from a poem written by the boy. It read: "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."

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