Was Damilola Taylor's Murder an Anti-Gay Hate Crime?
Bishop's inquiry a cover-up: homophobic bullying ignored.
LONDON - The Damilola Taylor inquiry was flawed, according to the gay human rights group OutRage! The inquiry said nothing about the homophobic abuse suffered by 11-year-old Damilola shortly before his murder in November 2000.
At the time, Damilola's mother told the Independent newspaper that Damilola had been the victim of an assault a few days before the fatal attack. His assailants accused of being gay. Other newspapers including The Guardian and The Telegraph, as well as BBC News, reported that Damilola suffered homophobic bullying and taunts of "gay boy".
But the media coverage of the trial and the subsequent inquiry into the failed prosecution - led by the Bishop of Birmingham, John Sentamu - blanked out these crucial facts and failed to even consider any possible links between the anti-gay bullying of Damilola and his subsequent murder.
"If Damilola had been bullied because of his race, racism would have become a major focus in the police investigation and the Bishop's inquiry - as it was in the Stephen Lawrence case, which resulted in demands for action against institutional racism", said Peter Tatchell of OutRage!
"But because Damilola's bullying was homophobic - not racist - it was ignored by everyone. There has been no condemnation of the institutional homophobia of the police, school and church. Their prejudice swept under the carpet the anti-gay victimisation suffered by Damilola - and by thousands of other young people".
"Whether Damilola was gay, or merely perceived to be gay, is not the issue. Shortly before his murder, he was subjected to homophobic taunts and bullying. Perhaps his killers were also motivated by homophobic hatred? We don't know. But we do know that this possibility was never properly investigated, either by the police or by Bishop Sentamu's inquiry".
"Why was Damilola's murder not treated as a possible hate-crime and why will no one acknowledge the atmosphere of homophobia that surrounded Damilola's last days?", asked Tatchell.
Brett Lock of OutRage! says this silence is indicative of society's failure to come to terms with the reality of gay children and the suffering caused by anti-gay bullying.
"This silence is evidence that the public is unwilling to confront the reality of gay children as well as the abuse faced by children who are either gay or perceived to be gay", said Lock.
OutRage! says social denial and prejudice renders gay children invisible. People are willing to accept the existence of gay adults because they believe sexual orientation is a purely behavioural issue and only an active (same)sex-life is "proof" of a person's sexuality.
"Since most experts agree that sexual orientation is set either before birth or in early life, gay children must exist", said Lock. "Most gay people, when asked when they first knew they were gay, will tell you that they felt 'different' ever since they could remember."
"While society seems ready to address the concerns of gay adults, heterosexual parents seem to be in denial that tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of them will have gay children".
"The needs of gay children are completely ignored, and when one of them dies, as Damilola did - perhaps because he was either gay or perceived to be gay - the police, church, media and government rush around trying to find other reasons and excuses," added Peter Tatchell.
The Damilola Taylor case has been projected as primarily a race and immigration issue. There are serious problems about how the police handle crimes in the black community and how immigrants are treated. These are very important questions, but this should not mean that the obvious is ignored: Damilola had been bullied shortly before his murder because, in the words of his tormentors, he was a "gay boy".
"With regard to irregularities in the prosecution, Bishop Sentamu's investigation claimed to be seeking the truth, but how can the whole truth emerge when there is no honesty?", queried Brett Lock.
Police Quizzed over Damilola Taylor Case
Sir John Stevens faces questions on "flawed investigation"
Damilola Taylor murder inquiry ignored evidence of possible homophobic motive
Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir John Stevens, is facing accusations that "the police departed from standard murder investigation procedures and ignored crucial evidence that may link Damilola Taylor's murder to the homophobic taunts and bullying that he suffered in the days prior to his fatal stabbing".
The accusations are being made by the gay human rights group, OutRage!.
In a letter to the Police Commissioner, Peter Tatchell of OutRage! asks 16 questions which throw doubt on the thoroughness of the police investigation.
"Why, given the homophobic bullying suffered by Damilola, was a possible homophobic motive for his murder apparently ignored by police officers?", Tatchell's letter asks Sir John Stevens (copy below).
"Whether Damilola was gay, or merely perceived to be gay, is not the issue. Shortly before his murder, he was subjected to homophobic taunts and bullying. Perhaps his killers were also motivated by homophobic hatred? We don't know. But it certainly appears that this possibility was not adequately investigated by the police", says Tatchell in his letter.
Commenting on his correspondence with Sir John Stevens, Tatchell said:
"It is standard police procedure that all possible leads, evidence, suspects and motives are investigated thoroughly. These procedures were apparently not followed by officers investigating Damilola Taylor's murder. They dismissed homophobic suspects and motives without investigating them fully".
"To establish the truth, I have written to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner requesting information about crucial facets of the police investigation", he said.
Mr Tatchell has written a similar letter to the Bishop of Birmingham, John Sentamu, asking the same questions. The Bishop recently headed an inquiry into the police handling of the Damilola Taylor murder investigation.
Mr Tatchell has criticised the Bishop's inquiry as "inadequate and neglectful".
"I want to know why the Bishop's inquiry ignored the homophobic bullying of Damilola and why it failed to even consider the possibility that Damilola's murder may have been linked to this bullying".
"Although his inquiry was charged with examining the way the police and prosecution handled the case, the Bishop did not mention, let alone criticise, the way the authorities neglected the potentially vital material fact that Damilola had been subjected to homophobic abuse and assaults", said Tatchell.
Sir John Stevens
Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police
22 December 2002
Dear Sir John Stevens,
Damilola Taylor Murder Investigation
Damilola Taylor suffered homophobic abuse in the days before his murder in November 2000.
Soon after he was killed, Damilola's mother and father told the media that Damilola had been the victim of an assault a few days before the fatal attack. His assailants accused him of being gay. The Guardian and The Telegraph, as well as BBC News, reported that Damilola had suffered homophobic bullying and taunts of "gay boy" (see press excerpts attached).
It seems not unreasonable to consider that there may - I emphasise may - have been a link between the anti-gay bullying of Damilola and his eventual murder a few days later.
I would like to request answers to each of the following questions:
What steps were taken by the Metropolitan Police to investigate the homophobic abuse and violence inflicted on Damilola Taylor shortly before his murder?
Did police officers interview:
(a) Damilola's parents about their statements that he had been subjected to homophobic taunts and bullying? If not, why not?
(b) Damilola's teachers and fellow pupils with regard to this taunting and bullying? If not, why not?
(c) Damilola's murder suspects (including those charged with his murder), concerning the issue of homophobic taunts and bullying. If not, why not?
(a) Did the Metropolitan Police consider the possibility that there might be a connection between the homophobic bullying of Damilola Taylor and his subsequent murder?
If this possibility was not considered, why not?
(a) Were the perpetrators of this homophobic bullying identified by the Metropolitan Police?
(b) If they were not identified, why not?
(c) If they were identified, what are their names?
(a) Were the homophobic bullies interviewed by the police in connection with Damilola's murder?
(b) If they were not interviewed, why not?
(c) If they were interviewed, were they eliminated as murder suspects?
(d) If they were eliminated as murder suspects, why were they eliminated?
(a) Was Damilola Taylor's murder ever treated by the Metropolitan Police as a possible homophobic hate crime?
(b) If it was never treated as a possible homophobic hate crime, why not?
(c) If it was considered a possible homophobic hate crime, why was this possibility eventually discounted?
Many people are bound to conclude that if Damilola Taylor had been bullied because of his race, racism would have become a major focus in the police investigation - as it was in the Stephen Lawrence case, which resulted in demands for action against institutional racism in the police service.
Why, then, given the homophobic bullying suffered by Damilola, was a possible homophobic motive for his murder apparently ignored by police officers?
Whether Damilola was gay, or merely perceived to be gay, is not the issue. Shortly before his murder, he was subjected to homophobic taunts and bullying. Perhaps his killers were also motivated by homophobic hatred? We don't know. But it certainly appears that this possibility was not adequately investigated by the police.
I would be grateful if you would respond to each of the above queries, point by point.
Yours with appreciation,
OutRage! - The lesbian and gay human rights campaign
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