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Friends remember Damilola Taylor 10 years after killing

Damilola Taylor
Image caption Damilola Taylor died just 10 days short of his 11th birthday

Richard and Gloria Taylor uprooted their young family from Lagos to London in August 2000 to seek better healthcare for their daughter who suffered from a severe form of epilepsy.

But on 27 November that year their 10-year-old son Damilola was stabbed on his way home from school in Peckham by youths armed with a broken bottle.

He bled to death in a stairwell.

On the 10th anniversary of his death, Mr Taylor recalls the moment he received the news of his son's shocking killing.

"The day I got the call was a Tuesday.

"From the other end it was my son's voice, Tunde, saying 'Dami went to school yesterday and he didn't come back home.'

"I said, 'he didn't come back home? What happened?'

"He said that he died and at that point I collapsed. It was a real shock because I didn't expect death.

"All I expected was he was beaten up by his classmates. I never knew that there were young people of his age after killing him."

Brothers Danny and Rickie Preddie, of Peckham, were convicted in 2006 of the manslaughter of Damilola. Both received eight-year jail sentences.

The circumstances around Damilola's death brought the issue of youth violence on inner city estates to the forefront of the nation's consciousness.

However, for Samuel Eubuomwan, 20, who was in the same class as Damilola at Oliver Goldsmith Primary School in Camberwell, the incident left a deeply personal memory.

"I remember running up the stairs because I was running late for class, and then running into the classroom and everyone was just quiet," he recalls.

Shocked and confused

"Someone told me how Damilola died.

"I remember being absolutely shocked and confused. I just didn't assume it to be real… I just didn't think that could ever happen."

Mr Eubuomwan remembers Damilola as "really bubbly and really outgoing" and said the death had affected him deeply.

For many years afterwards he replayed the events of Damilola's killing over and over again in an attempt to make sense of what had happened.

Image caption Samuel Eubuomwan was a friend of Damilola's at primary school

In the process, Mr Eubuomwan developed a dark fascination with death.

"Damilola's death made me see the world in a different way.

"It did make me wonder about death… I wanted to know how it works, what it involved and Damilola's death replayed in my mind and I guess that it played a significant role in the person I am today."

Mr Eubuomwan believes that his preoccupation with death has even had an influence on his chosen career of medicine.

Damilola had also dreamt of being a doctor to help cure his sister's epilepsy.

'Opportunity and hope'

Cisco Augusto, now 18, was a couple of years below Damilola Taylor at their primary school.

He still remembers Damilola coming to his rescue on one occasion when some boys were bullying him.

The youth volunteer and A-level student said he had struggled to come to terms with Damilola's death.

In the aftermath of the killing, Mr Augusto's life would change dramatically. His father left the family home and his behaviour deteriorated.

"I turned into a person that I didn't really like in the sense that I always misbehaved continuously in school… I got excluded in the first week of year seven and then I got arrested in year eight."

In his own words, the teenager had chosen "the wrong path".

Damilola's death also focused political minds.

Image caption Cisco Augusto recalls Damilola protecting him from bullies at school

The Damilola Taylor Trust was set up on the first anniversary of his death to give "life, opportunity and hope" to Britain's "downtrodden and underprivileged youth".

And there was an investment of £290m in Peckham to help rebuild the area.

The tower block where Damilola was killed was torn down and 2,000 new homes built.

Southwark Council's youth offending services also introduced one of the UK's first early intervention teams.

Despite these efforts, youth unemployment and take up of education and training opportunities in Southwark remains among the worst in London.

Knife crime and youth violence is perhaps an even bigger problem now than in 2000.

The latest figures show that 10 young people in Peckham have been killed in the past three years.

Mr Taylor said: "There was sincerity in the minds of those politicians that were giving out statements and promising to look into the area.

"The main issues have not been addressed up to today because there is still violence going on, there is still stabbing and shootings going on in Peckham."

Damilola's Friends is on Monday 29 November, 7.30pm, on BBC One in the London region only.

The programme will also be available on BBC iPlayer.

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