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Diasporian News Wed, 10 Sep 2008

Murder trial begins at the Old Bailey in London

The trial of the teenagers accused of the murder of Nass Isa Osawe begun on Monday 8th September at the Old Bailey (Central Criminal Court) in London. Nass, whose mother is of Ghanaian origin, was the youngest of 5 children. He was a young man just beginning to make his way in the world and had never been in any kind of trouble. He was taken away from his family and friends by a needless and senseless act of violence.

Nass Osawe was murdered six days short of his 17th birthday. Nass was the 27th teenager to be murdered in London last year. He was stabbed to death in broad daylight around 2:30 pm near Angel Underground station on 27th December 2007. He died at the scene, after an altercation with youths at a bus stop on Upper Street. His friend sustained stab wounds.

What triggered the attack? For many teenagers in London, just walking on the wrong side of the street is a dangerous decision, and one that could prove fatal. Our children are not safe anymore on the streets. Some have been stabbed very close to their own doorstep. The young Ghanaians who have been brutally murdered over the past 21 months include Stephen Boachie (aged 17) and Freddy Moody Boateng (aged 18). Many more have been assaulted or wounded. 24 young people have been murdered in London this year.

According to an internal police report, ‘Postcode gangs’ rule in the boroughs of Hackney and Islington, where groups of disaffected youths will defend their territories with knives, and sometimes guns, in increasingly violent turf wars which police are struggling to contain. Those who are not members of a gang are sometimes victimised.

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There are at least 22 identified gangs in Hackney, which has a large proportion of Ghanaians, other Africans and Caribbean families living in the borough. Some members are as young as 10 and some wear upper body armour. It does not matter what race or religion you are, no one is immune from the violence. Hackney suffers from 'the highest rates of increase of gun and knife crime in London'. This has resulted in 'terrible acts of gratuitous violence', it says, and demonstrates the 'serious implication of district code warfare'.

With often limited job prospects restricting socio-economic mobility, joining a gang confers an instant status on its members. Many gang members have developed a warped sense of reality. 'Some of them think they are in a film; they find it difficult to differentiate between reality and fantasy.'

According to his grieving family, Nass was a 'kind, loving and principled son and sensitive brother, with a great sense of humour'. He was not a member of a gang. He was a very talented artist and was studying A-level Art at St Charles Catholic Sixth Form College, where he was deemed an exceptional student and was expected to go on to university. Nass's favourite type of art was animation and he loved drawing and watching cartoons and playing computer games. His ambition was to become a graphic designer working in the computer games industry’. These are desperate times in London and our thoughts are with the victims’ families.

Source: Maame Ama Djaba.