7 Aug 2019

Damilola Taylor’s father: killings now ‘regarded as an everyday occurrence’

Social Affairs Editor and Presenter

In an emotional interview, Richard Taylor spoke out about the death of Joel Uhrie, who died in an arson attack on his home in Deptford exactly a year ago.


The father of murdered schoolboy Damilola Taylor has pleaded for information about the killing of a seven-year-old boy, saying that such tragedies are “regarded as an everyday occurrence now”.

In an emotional interview, Richard Taylor spoke out about the death of Joel Uhrie, who died in an arson attack on his home in Deptford exactly a year ago.

Police believe the fire was started when a burning item was pushed through the letterbox.

Speaking to Channel 4 News, Mr Taylor said: “People don’t value life, because of the number of tragedies and stabbings.”

His own son, Damilola, bled to death in Peckham in 2000, when he was just ten year’s old.

But Mr Taylor said there was much more outcry about Damilola’s death nearly twenty years ago.

“The police commissioner was very interested to make sure that they’re getting to the bottom of the tragedy because of [Damilola’s] age,” he said.

“People don’t value life, because of the number of tragedies and stabbings. It is regarded as an everyday occurrence now.”

He joined Joel’s mother, Efe, in appealing for information. He explained that too often cases like this are surrounded by a wall of silence.

“I am very angry. It is the same thing that happened during the Damilola Taylor investigation: the whole community knew about what happened. For the sake of young boy they should please come and give information.”

Joel’s mother, Efe Uhrie, told Channel 4 News: “I am begging for people to speak out. If you know you are scared, find a way to convey the message to me – I will go to the police on your behalf, so you don’t need to be scared anymore.”

“I’m not scared because what can they do more than killing my son?” she said. “Let your conscience bring you out, come forward and come and present yourself so that justice will prevail. He deserves justice.”

Mrs Uhrie described the night of the arson attack on her home: “I said let me jump and I will be a cushion for him for him to jump on.”

But Joel – who was autistic and paralysed by fear – did not.

“I was screaming, ‘my son, my son,’ but it was too late. That guilt will never leave my mind.

“I still put on my alarm to wake up 7.30 because I feel like I need to get him ready to take him to school. So it is just a vicious act done to a family, which is not fair.”

The family’s MP, Labour’s Vicky Foxcroft, told Channel 4 News a Serious Case Review should be carried out by the relevant authorities into claims that the family asked for help before the attack, because of threats of violence made to Joel’s older brother.

“When things like this happen they need to look at what happened,” she said. “Everyone needs to take some form of responsibility, if there are things that went wrong, well let’s go and make sure we learn the lessons and make sure that, that never happens again.”

In response to calls for a Serious Case Review, Lewisham Council said: “Joel’s murder was a tragedy. Those responsible for Joel’s murder must be brought to justice and face the full force of the law. If anyone has any information we urge them to contact the police.

“As part of our public health approach to violent crime, a learning review of this homicide and other serious incidents of violence in Lewisham is underway. The purpose of this work is to understand common themes and help us identify effective strategies for the multi-agency safeguarding partnership to keep our residents safe.”

DCI Mark Wrigley, the officer leading the investigation into Joel’s death, said: “A thorough investigation has been ongoing for a year now, and this is continuing. I remain committed to finding the person or people responsible for killing Joel.

“I do want to remind anyone with information that we are dealing with the death of an innocent seven-year-old child. He should have been able to sleep safely with his mother, but instead he died at a tragically young age due to a callous attack which was doubtless motivated by factors far behind the comprehension of any young child.

“There are people out there who know exactly what went on and who is responsible for Joel’s death. I need them to call me now.”

Anyone with information should call Crimestoppers, completely anonymously on 0800 555 111 or visit Crimestoppers-uk.org.

They can also contact the dedicated incident room on 020 8345 3715.