An ordinary 14-year-old who turned into a killer

By Arifa Akbar 
Published: 17 December 2005

She appeared to be an ordinary 14-year-old girl
experiencing the growing pains of adolescence who did
little to draw attention to herself on the grim south
London estate she frequented. 

Known as a likeable tomboy, she played football with
the boys, excelled in French lessons and wrote long
passages in her diary about her intense crush on a
19-year-old lad in the neighbourhood.

Yet one Friday night in October last year, a couple of
weeks before her 15th birthday, she was to become a
central figure in one of the most shocking crimes of
recent times, which led to the sadistic killing of a

David Morley, 38, a barman sitting on a bench along
the South Bank, central London, was beaten to death in
a perverse gang killing, in which the teenage girl,
who cannot be identified for legal reasons, kicked his
head "like a football" and filmed the savage attack on
her mobile phone.

Rejected by her alcoholic mother at the age of seven,
she spent a lonely, ruptured childhood shunting
between relatives' homes until she was taken into
foster care in May last year.

Her unravelling appears to have been triggered by her
friendship with a group of older male youths on the
Ethelred housing estate in Kennington, south London,
which began a year before the death of Mr Morley. The
sudden transformation was noticed by neighbours who
said she would look "spaced out", appeared to be
smoking cannabis and was increasingly scruffy in

The posse of four youths were this week convicted of
Mr Morley's manslaughter and face a lengthy jail
sentence. They were described at the Old Bailey as
inflicting random violence on strangers for thrills,
triggered by code words and recorded on mobile phones
to replay for their pleasure.

When the aunt with whom she was staying on the estate
in Kennington fell seriously ill last May, she had
been put into a foster home in South Norwood, despite
attempts by social services to keep her in her family

The months leading up to the killing in October were
settled, according to an independent review by Barnet
social services. She was doing better at school, was
not in trouble with the police and showed no signs of
criminal aggression, although she was occasionally
rude to teachers at her school in south London and
complained of the tedium of lessons in her diary.

She played football with local boys every Saturday
near St Thomas' Hospital, and was one of the few white
girls who had bridged the divide between the black and
white communities on the estate. Yet those who knew
her felt something was wrong.

A resident said: "She would go into the youth centre
on the estate, where mostly black children go. She'd
pop her head round the door, buy sweets and talk to
Reece Sargeant (another convicted gang member). She
was always polite. But then suddenly, I would say
hello to her and she wouldn't answer back. It was if
she hadn't heard me. She looked completely spaced

She developed a crush on Barry Lee, an older boy who
was acquitted at the Old Bailey, writing of him fondly
in her diary and drawing love hearts by his name, but
her feelings remained unrequited.

A source said her first serious boyfriend was a black
17-year-old gang member on the estate who often
initiated the violence in their "happy slap" sprees by
punching strangers in the face. She spoke in a "south
London Caribbean" accent to mimic the boys and was
keen to fit in, according to Mr Hamlyn.

At one point, her foster parents asked social workers
what to do if she asked to spend the night out at a
friend's house, which suggests that she may have been
doing "all-niters" by this stage, in which the gang
went on sprees of violent attacks overnight.

Her appearances at court in the past year have been
largely unaccompanied by family members. Her sister
was still in Ireland, her mother is said still to have
addiction problems, and her foster family, who were
"incredibly distressed" by the news, have distanced
themselves from her to protect their two children.

On the day of the crime, she changed out of her school
uniform, took the bus from South Norwood back to her
aunt's flat on the estate and went on a "happy slap"
spree that would change her life forever. In the early
hours of Saturday morning, she sat and drank Panda
Pops at Lee's home and then ambled home.

Little did she know that on her 15th birthday, she
would be making the first of her many appearances at
the Old Bailey. 


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