|Suspect(s):||Daniel Preddie, Ricky Preddie|
In November 2000, just three months after his family had moved to England from Nigeria, ten-year-old Damilola Taylor was discovered bleeding to death in the stairwell of a block of flats in Peckham, south-east London. The artery in Damilola’s left thigh had been severed by a shard of glass.
After various experts had given their opinions on what might have happened, the Metropolitan Police concluded that Damilola had fallen on a broken bottle after being attacked. The investigation that ensued, which was given the name Operation Seale, involved more than 120 police officers and resulted in four suspects being arrested and charged with murder.
The defence’s argument was that Damilola hadn’t been attacked at all but had simply fallen on a broken bottle and bled out. In support of this case, there was no forensic evidence to incriminate the suspects. And when the four youths went on trial at the Old Bailey in January 2002, the prosecution relied heavily upon the testimony of a girl – known as Witness Bromley – who claimed to have witnessed the attack. When she was exposed as lying, however, the case collapsed and two of the accused were acquitted on the direction of the judge, while the remaining two were deemed ‘not guilty’ by the jury.
Fast forward a year later and the police ordered a review of the evidence using new forensic techniques. This is when Professor Angela Gallop and her team became involved in the case. “There had been other suspects apart from the four who had gone on trial, so one of the first things we decided to do was examine all of the suspect’s clothing, in case something had been missed at the time.
Professor Gallop selected Ros Hammond to lead the re-investigation. Ros was supported by April Robson along with other examiners, and by Tiernan Coyle who was one of the textile fibre experts at the time.
Careful re-examination of clothing from the original suspects – the Preddie brothers – revealed critical blood and textile fibres linked to Damilola. Almost immediately the team discovered a nine-millimetre blood stain on the back of a trainer belonging to Danny Preddie. Nine millimetres is quite a large stain in forensics terms, but what made it even more noteworthy was the textile fibre embedded in it. Testing revealed that the fibre located on the trainer matched the fibres from the jumper Damilola was wearing on the day of his death – and the fact it was embedded in the blood on the trainer means that it must have been transferred when the blood was wet – further implicating Danny Preddie.
There were also traces of blood in the ribbing on the cuff of Ricky Preddie’s sweatshirt. The traces were so small that they were not visible to the naked eye against the dark background of the sweatshirt fabric, but were discovered using a presumptive test for blood - the Kastle-Meyer (KM) test. When we conducted DNA profiling on both the sample from the trainer and the sample from the sweatshirt, we found they matched Damilola’s DNA.
In 2005, nineteen-year-old Hassan Jihad and the two Preddie brothers were charged with manslaughter and assault.
The position of the defence in the re-trial was the same as it had been in the first trial, and a trauma expert gave evidence to argue that Damilola hadn’t been attacked and had instead fallen on the shard of glass that severed the artery in his leg. In the end, the jury found Jihad not guilty of the charges brought against him, but were unable to reach a verdict in relation to the two brothers.
A few days later, the CPS announced their intention to retry Danny and Ricky Preddie for Damilola’s murder, who were apparently well-known to the police for their involvement in a series of robberies. In August 2006, both brothers were found guilty of manslaughter and were sentenced to eight years imprisonment in youth custody. The forensic evidence had proved central to their conviction, and to the formal exoneration of the four youths who had originally been put on trial.
Professor Angela Gallop and the team are currently working on a number of high profile cold case investigations. To find out more about our services visit our forensic services page or call 01235 774870.