Killed over a game of football - boy who fled a vicious civil war for the sanctuary of life in Britain

  • From: "Muslim News" <editor@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
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  • Date: Thu, 14 Mar 2002 08:54:41 -0000

Source:  Independent

Kayser Osman loved football. Every weekend he would be found on the
Astroturf pitch near his home in one of London's most deprived estates,
wearing a Manchester United shirt and trying to emulate his hero, David
Beckham. 

Shortly before 6pm on Tuesday, the 15-year-old Somali's passion for a
kickabout cost him his life when he was stabbed to death in an argument
over a game of football. 

The tall teenager had left the home of his aunt in Harlesden, north-west
London, at 5.50pm to go to a youth club less than half a mile away where
he was to meet friends. 

There he had expected to play snooker or football on a recreation ground
covered in graffiti, some of it glorifying the victims of the shootings
between rival Yardie drug gangs for which the area has become notorious.


It was a journey that Kayser, whose family had escaped the warlords of
Mogadishu to come to Britain in 1989, would never complete as he fell,
stabbed in the chest and leg, on to a muddy scrap of grass next to a
pile of binliners and a discarded door just 50 yards from his
destination. 

As mourners gathered at the Victorian semi-detached house where Kayser
lived with his mother, two sisters and three brothers, aged from 11 to
18, a family friend said their hopes of exchanging life in one of
Africa's most brutal civil wars for a peaceful one in the West had been
dashed. 

Abdul Kadir Ali said: "The family believes Britain is not a safe place
any more. They see no prevention of crime, they find anarchy and chaos
are commonplace.'' 

Abu, 18, a schoolfriend of Kayser, added: "He was just a lad who enjoyed
football. He supported Man U and modelled himself on David Beckham. Why
kill someone over a game? Kayser wasn't even that brilliant at it.'' 

Scotland Yard confirmed that it was looking for a gang of up to nine
youths, believed to be black, with whom Kayser had been seen arguing on
the Church End estate, one of a series of 1970s housing developments
that have become a breeding ground for crime and violence linked to the
crack and heroin trade. 

Residents reported having heard raised voices for several minutes as the
teenager's attackers gathered around him, ignoring the attempts of at
least one passer-by to intervene. One of the assailants, dressed in a
trademark hooded top, brandished a stick before apparently threatening
to return with a knife. 

But this was no dust-up between gun-toting rival gangsters willing to
murder to protect their share of a lucrative drugs trade. It was not
even a random assault by a group of violent strangers. 

Rather, it seems to have been an argument over nothing more important
than a football match, which turned to murder because, in the concrete
maze of Church End, rows are now settled with knives. 

Detective Superintendent Lewis Benjamin, the officer leading the
investigation, said: "We are looking for a group of between three and
nine men who were in an altercation with Kayser. Early indications show
it was about a football match. 

"I believe we are talking about some sort of conflict between boys who
are known to each other. It is likely only one person was responsible
for the stabbing, so we appeal to those in this group to come forward.''


There were suggestions last night that Kayser, who was due to sit his
GCSEs this summer at Willesden High School, may have fallen victim to
bad blood between Somalis and Caribbeans, mainly Jamaican, picking on
"asylum-seekers''. 

Abu, who also attended Willesden High, where Kayser was yesterday
remembered as a "quiet, well-mannered student'', said: "There is a lot
of friction between us Somalians and Jamaicans. The Jamaicans taunt us
for being what we are, new arrivals to this country. They call you
'scum' and 'asylum boys' and 'parasites'.'' 

Meanwhile, the full paraphernalia of a murder hunt descended on Taylors
Lane, the winding street that cuts through the Church End estate. It was
here that Kayser's body was found by a resident at about 6pm, within
yards of the Acorn Club – which, ironically, was set up by a crime
prevention charity to protect young people from falling victim to, or
indulging in, illegal behaviour. 

Michael Corner, 33, whose home overlooks the spot where the teenager's
body was found, described how police and paramedics fought to save him. 

He said: "One officer had stripped down to his shirt and was pumping,
pumping away to keep him alive. Then paramedics started operating –
about 20 officers took out their torches, shining them down to give them
some light.'' 

But within hours, the ambulance crews had been replaced by police
forensic teams, who spent yesterday combing the crime scene as they
upended communal rubbish bins and brought in a drain-clearing lorry in
their search for the murder weapon. 

Just a few yards away, in the wrecked stairwells and flats with barred
windows and doors, Church End residents spoke of what they see as the
deeper malaise that lies behind the murder of a schoolboy. 

Parts of the estate have already been transformed by a £23m regeneration
scheme, but – like the North Peckham estate in south London where
Damilola Taylor was murdered in November 2000 – much remains blighted by
deprivation. 

Syringes can be found in several dark corners, testament to an
ever-present drugs problem. Since 1999, there have been seven
drug-related murders in Church End and two neighbouring estates,
Stonebridge and St Raphael's. 

Although last year crime fell by 2.2 per cent in Brent, the borough
which includes Harlesden, violent assaults and robbery increased by 5.8
per cent. 

Sarah Knightly, 29, the Osmans' next-door neighbour, said: "I literally
won't go out at night. The only place I feel safe after dark is behind
the locked doors of my home.'' 

Graham Kingston, 39, who lives 100 yards from the Acorn Club, added:
"I'm shocked but not surprised. Just over the road, some guy got shot in
the head getting out of his car a few months back. Violence is a way of
life here now – it's the only answer people have.'' 

Friends of Kayser said it was a culture that the teenager had become
used to. Taunting from youths on Church End was not something, it
appears, that he was prepared to put up with. One classmate, who asked
not to be named, said: "He was a tough lad – you have to stand up for
yourself round here. He had been in a lot of fights, he had been in
trouble with the police.'' 

Scotland Yard declined to comment on whether Kayser had had a criminal
record. 

Meanwhile, as his family made preparations for the funeral, others
highlighted the positive aspects in Kayser's life. His cousin, Mohammoud
Osman, 13, said: "He was really popular. He loved football and he loved
listening to music – he wrote rap and R'n'B, his dream was to be a
musician. 

"I don't know who killed him, but I know I just want the police to find
the people who did it,'' he said. 

Somalis in Britain 

The murder of Kayser Osman comes after recent claims by the National
Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children that Somalis have
become the most victimised community 
in Britain. 

The charity has called for the appointment of a children's commissioner
after a spate of 25 child killings in Britain in the year after the
death of 10-year-old Nigerian boy Damilola Taylor. 

NSPCC officers highlighted the case of a 16-year-old Somali boy, Abdul
Kadir Maye, who was stabbed to death in Manor Park, east London, last
December. Two youths, aged 14 and 16, have been charged with the
killing. 

In a separate attack, 12-year-old Abdirizak Hamza was knifed to death at
a "fun festival" in north London. Abdirizak, known as Abdul, was
described as "wholly innocent" by Judge David Paget. He was chased and
knifed six times in the heart and liver last August. 

Last month three teenagers and a 20-year-old student were jailed for
their role in the attack and this week a teenager accused of carrying
out the stabbing was sent to prison indefinitely. 

Jeremy Corbyn MP, who visited the dead boy's family, said: "Abdul's
father disappeared in the war in Somalia and his mother works overseas.
It's bitterly horrible that a boy who had such misfortune in his life
already should be the victim of such a grotesque street crime." 

Somalis are a well-established ethnic minority group in Britain, with
century-old communities in Cardiff and Liverpool. War and famine have
led to waves of new arrivals during the Nineties and 40,000 Somalis now
live in east London. 

 

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