Crushing loss fuelled Richard Taylor’s drive to change young people’s lives

Richard Taylor was spurred on by the enormity of his son’s death to campaign for years for positive change for young people.

The loss of 10-year-old Damilola, who was stabbed to death on November 27 2000, led Richard and his late wife Gloria to set up a trust in their young son’s name, aimed at supporting disadvantaged young people.

The couple, who also campaigned against knife crime, endured three crown court trials before Damilola’s killers Danny and Ricky Preddie were finally put behind bars.

A number of famous faces have supported their campaigning over the years, including footballer Rio Ferdinand who grew up in Peckham near where the Taylors lived.

Star Wars actor John Boyega was good friends with Damilola and was one of the last people to see him alive before he began walking home, only to be fatally attacked.

Damilola had moved to the UK from Nigeria with his mother Gloria, brother Tunde and sister Gbemi in the summer of 2000 while Richard stayed working for the Nigerian civil service.

Richard Taylor and Gordon Brown
Richard Taylor meeting then-prime minister Gordon Brown in Downing Street (Peter Macdiarmid/PA)

The family settled in Peckham as they aimed to get medical treatment for Gbemi, who had a severe form of epilepsy.

Damilola had ambitions for a future in the medical profession to carry out research to help his sister, but instead, months after moving to the UK, he was fatally stabbed by two boys aged 12 and 13 while on his way home from the library.

He was found bleeding to death in a stairwell near his home in Peckham, south London, after being stabbed in the leg with a broken beer bottle.

Richard said his son had died due to enormous problems in society, but that he wanted his son’s legacy to be one of hope.

Mr Taylor was appointed as an anti-knife crime envoy under then-prime minister Gordon Brown in 2009 and was made an OBE for his work to stop knife violence.

He also made an appearance at the Baftas in 2017, when he collected an award for a documentary about his son called Damilola, Our Loved Boy.

Gloria and Richard Taylor meet Tony Blair.
Gloria and Richard Taylor meeting Tony Blair (Kirsty Wigglesworth/PA)

Joined by his son Tunde, Mr Taylor dedicated the prize to Damilola and Gloria, and used the occasion to call for an end to knife violence.

In 2020, Damilola’s birthday, December 7, was declared as a day of hope to mark the 20 years since he died.

At this stage Richard Taylor said he would scale back his campaigning work and pass the baton to a younger generation.

His wish remained that Damilola’s legacy would be to offer hope and opportunity to underprivileged young people, and freedom from a life of fear.

His family announced he died on Saturday aged 75 after a prolonged battled with prostate cancer.