When 10-year-old Damilola Taylor was found bleeding to death with a stab wound, he was rushed to hospital but later died. Police launched a murder investigation and two other children were charged over his death. Were they really capable of killing the schoolboy?
Damilola Taylor was born in Nigeria before moving to the UK with his family in 2000. Although he was a happy, smiley boy, he was picked on by older boys at his school in Peckham, South London.
Just months after moving to the UK, Damilola was walking home from a library. On route he was stabbed in the leg with a broken glass bottle. He tried to walk the rest of the way home but collapsed in a nearby stairwell.
Nobody witnessed the attack. The only sign that something had happened was a trail of blood leading to the stairwell and a broken shard of glass at the start of the trail.
A passerby saw the blood and investigated, finding Damilola bleeding to death. He was rushed to hospital in an ambulance, but it was too late. The schoolboy had died, just days shy of his 11th birthday.
His tragic death shocked the nation, and police launched an investigation. There were theories Damilola had been attacked by a gang and soon several youths were arrested. In 2002, four youngsters went on trial but they were all acquitted.
Despite the setback, police continued to investigate. And new DNA testing techniques revealed traces of Damilola’s blood on the trainers of Danny Preddie, 12, and blood on the sweatshirt cuff of Danny’s brother Ricky, 13. But the boys were just kids themselves. Surely they’d not be capable of such a heinous crime?
Neither of the boys had been original suspects. They were well known to the police though as they’d been involved in numerous robberies. Evidence was re-examined and in 2005 the brothers were arrested and charged with manslaughter.
Though in court, the jury couldn’t reach a verdict on the manslaughter charges so the Preddie brothers were released but with the possibility of a re-trial. Months on the brothers were re-tried. This time they were convicted of the manslaughter of Damilola and they were sentenced to eight years in youth custody.
After serving only half of their sentences, Ricky was released in 2010 and Danny was released in 2011. But even after spending time in custody, it seemed lessons hadn’t been learnt. In the next few years Ricky breached his parole and was recalled several times.
In a Press interview in 2016, Damilola’s father, Richard said: ‘For me, the question of forgiveness is still something I’m still searching my heart for because such a tragedy – what it has done to my life has been so painful. A very indescribable [pain] and such is the situation that even though we have moved on, the question of forgiveness is still not there for me to decide upon.’