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Second acquittal over boy's murder

Damilola was attacked on his way back from a school computer class  

LONDON, England -- A judge has ordered the acquittal of a second teenager charged with murdering 10-year-old Damilola Taylor, whose stabbing at a London housing estate shocked many Britons.

The 15-year-old boy was formally cleared of charges of murder, manslaughter, and assault with intent to rob, on the directions of the judge at London's historic Old Bailey court.

Exactly one month ago, Judge Anthony Hooper directed a 17-year-old youth to be cleared of similar charges after throwing out the evidence of a 14-year-old girl who claimed she had witnessed the killing.

Two brothers, both aged 16, remain charged with Damilola's death at the North Peckham estate, south London. They deny involvement.

Damilola, ten, died in November 2000. Prosecutors said the group set upon him, allegedly slashing his thigh with a broken bottle and jamming a marble into his throat.

The acquitted youth -- 13 at the time of the attack -- was charged in June last year, after the girl, codenamed Bromley by police, named him as being with three other boys who surrounded and attacked Damilola.

The boy looked stunned when he heard he would be freed on Thursday.

He had looked disappointed when he was not acquitted with the first boy last month following the collapse of Bromley's evidence, the Press Association reported.

But the court had still to hear from a youth from the secure unit who had contacted police during Bromley's testimony to claim the acquitted boy had "confessed" to him while on remand there.

The 16-year-old claimed the boy told him during a playground game: "I done it -- I was there. It was a joke that went wrong."

But a few days later, he said the boy told him: "I am not going to get done for it. There is video evidence to show I was not there."

Damilola's parents, Richard and Gloria Taylor, sat stone-faced in the back of the court.

The judge told the jury he had considered the case against the boy and had decided "as a matter of law" that the only proper verdict was not guilty. He will give his reasons later.

The jury was sent away until next Wednesday, when the defence in the case of the two brothers is due to begin.

Outside court the boy's solicitor Sean Longley read a statement saying: "My client is relieved that justice has been done and he is exonerated of involvement in this terrible and tragic incident."

Damilola's killing was front-page news in Britain, and prompted soul-searching on topics ranging from the deprivation of inner cities to school bullying.


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