In Hampshire the ending of a recent trial for murder on the 24th of October 2007 has led to the police patrolling the streets to prevent more violence. This trial was sparked by the very real divisions and problems we are covering here.
Aaron Roche 21, was acquitted of the charge of murder for fatally stabbing Dele Little, 15, of
What is generally not highlighted in the coverage was the flashpoint for the situation:
Roche, then 20, had run to the West Totton Centre after hearing that his girlfriend Kayleigh Shinn had been hurt and repeatedly pushed to the floor by youths.Miss Shinn - known as "La" to her friends - had gone to Tesco Express with her 17-year-old friend, who cannot be named for legal reasons, to buy cigarettes just before 9pm on Saturday, February 3 this year. The pair had spent the afternoon drinking WKD,
and Jack Daniels in The Ship pub in Malibu Rumbridge Street, Totton, before making the short journey to the store from a nearby house.
Winchester Crown Court heard how when the girls left the shop they were verbally abused by a gang of up to 15 youths - mainly boys - who had congregated in a nearby circular area known locally as the "bull ring". Jurors heard how 6ft Dele was a "ringleader" in the group who were shouting and swearing and calling both girls "goths" before Miss Shinn was thrown "like a frisbee in the air" on to the ground.
Jurors heard how the 17-year-old girl sent text messages saying "help" and "La's been hurt" and minutes later Roche happened to call her mobile and she told him what was happening. report
Here are more details as described by Shinn’s Teenage friend in court:
The girl told the court yesterday she had gone to the area with 18-year-old Kayleigh Shinn, who she had spent the afternoon drinking with at The Ship pub in
Rumbridge Street, Totton, to buy cigarettes from Tesco Express. As they walked out of the store the girl told Winchester Crown Court how they were verbally abused, sworn at and called "goths".
Miss Shinn was then knocked to the ground before she got herself up, clutching a stick which she was waving at the boys. The girl said she watched as Miss Shinn was "chucked on the floor again with a lot more force" by Dele Little adding "she looked like a frisbee going through the air".
Another witness stated that:
The girl had also been at the centre with friends when the trouble flared between Dele and Kayleigh Shinn. Jurors heard how the girl, who was 14 at the time, remembered Miss Shinn telling Dele "my boyfriend's not going to be happy with you" and shouting "my boyfriend will come down and kill him" but she didn't take what she was saying seriously. Asked about the argument, she said Dele and his friends had been calling Miss Shinn and her 17-year-old friend "emo's" - a way of describing how someone dresses - before the stabbing on the night of Saturday, February 3. "I'm struggling to breathe," the last words of stabbed Dele
Here is another report from from another witness from the Echo:
The girl said she had been with her friends in "the bullring" by the West Totton Centre on the night of Saturday, February 3 when Dele and his mates got into an argument with two girls. She told the court "It was verbal for quite a while but then it got a bit physical" adding that the argument continued for about three minutes.
She said: "The girl (Kayleigh Shinn) started to get really angry and she walked off to get a plank of wood. She was warning him not to say anything else or touch her because she would hit him with it and he said don't me silly. You're not going to do that.' She went to sling the plank of wood to hit Dele and Dele reached out and slung the wood and she hit the floor."
Newspaper reports published at the time of the death of Dele Little in Febuary Teen killed for being a 'Chav' | Metro.co.uk draw a picture, based on talking to Dele’s friends :
Dele and his friends were outside a shopping centre in Totton, Southampton, when the attack happened on Saturday. A friend, who asked not be named, said: 'A girl walked past, shouting and calling us chavs. She tried to hit Dele with a block of wood. Dele pushed her.' The 15-year-old added: 'She came back and started hitting him again. She phoned her boyfriend on her mobile. He turned up and started a fight. Dele was stabbed. There was blood everywhere.'Roche, an ex-public schoolboy, drew on a wide variety of character witnesses in the trial testifying to his good character, which helped balance out the fact he had a large collection of knives at home and that several witnesses testified that he had earlier before the fight threatened to stab Little. In contrast Little’s background involved being in trouble before with the police for fighting, assault, bullying and he was excluded from school. Following Roche's acquittal there were: High visibility police patrols in Totton following murder verdict. Websites were censored due to various threats of vengeance. The trial has also helped spark a campaign to end knife carrying . Obviously an end to use of weapons would make
Yet it seems to me from what happened in Totton another thing is equally clear - that the flashpoint of the original argument was due to the perceived differences between Little’s group and Roche’s girlfriend and her friend and the verbal abuse and aggression that followed. If these minor differences in clothes had been ignored, and both sides had tolerated and respected each other, no fight would have occurred in first place and Dele Little would still be alive and safe with his friends and family. The same is also true of Sophie Lancaster.
Whether it is "chavs" abusing "goths" or vica versa it is equally wrong and as these events prove it can lead to tragedy. In a free country we must respect peoples right to live their own lives they way they choose. After all that is the freedom for which so many in British history have fought and died for. How many more people must die before this can be learned? Rest in Peace Dele Little I hope that no-one else must die before this pointless hatred ends.
More details here search the Echo archives:
Dele Little Trial 1 The Dele Little Trial 2
Dele Little - Online Memorial