Yinka Bokinni spent the last 20 years feigning not to have known Damilola Taylor. It was just too painful to relive memories of Dami, her friend and neighbour, whom she saw every day in the brief few months he lived on the North Peckham Estate. “I’m 30 now, and ready to go back,” the Capital Xtra DJ announces in this sensitive film. They say you can never go home again, and in her case it’s literal, because in the months after the stabbing death of the 10-year-old, the estate was demolished, and every family relocated by the council. “When he died, we lost so much. Our community, our home — and our friend.”
She has never been able to look at the CCTV footage that tracked Damilola home from Peckham Library on November 27 2000. For the first time, she watches an ancient Panorama programme about the case. “Oh my god — it looks horrible, doesn’t it,” she says of the estate she had remembered with affection. There’s footage of herself, her mother and brother talking about life on the estate. “I felt angry,” says little Yinka, when asked about the killing.
Damilola’s death caused a national outcry about the supposed degeneration of youth (the boys who were convicted of attacking Damilola and leaving him to bleed to death, were only a few years older than their victim), but also about the terrible conditions in the decaying, cockroach-ridden flats. But the hellhole described in the media is nothing like the place Yinka remembers: it had green grass and “hills” — the architects’ gesture towards landscaping. Doubting her own memories, she attempts to put together a realistic picture of what life was like back then.
Rapper Tinyman was the last person to see the boy alive as they attended the afternoon computer club: “If only I’d said, let’s play one more Pokemon game.” Instead the footage captures Damilola skipping home in his silver coat. “I never leave places without saying goodbye to people,” says Tinyman, because they might not be around tomorrow. Rod Jarman, who investigated the case, remembers escorting the Taylor family to the stairwell. He never forgot the bleak scene of the crime. “It was like he was abandoned by society.” Talking to Yinka gives him a sliver of reassurance that Dami had friends and a close community around him, rather than being the solitary boy captured on CCTV.
This is not a whodunnit or a whydunnit; it’s a portrait of the widespread trauma caused by the case, with no focus on the perpetrators beyond an oblique sense they shared in the general deprivation. Yinka is forced to accept a less rosy-tinted view of her childhood environment. Nevertheless, as her sister maintains: “It was our shithole.”
On Channel 4 from October 28 at 9pm
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