THE THREE teenagers convicted over the ‘senseless’ knife murder of schoolboy Babacar Diagne in Coventry have been jailed for life.
The boys – two aged 16 and one 17 – were given the sentences at Leamington Crown Court yesterday (17 Dec).
They must serve a minimum of 16 years before they can be considered for release.
West Midlands Police appealed to the trial judge to lift the restrictions preventing juvenile defendants from being named, arguing it was in the public interest for people to know their identities.
However, the application was turned down and they still cannot be named.
The jury heard how the offenders ganged up on Babacar – who they’d never met or even spoken to before – on grassland off Petitor Crescent, Wood End, on the evening of February 5.
They stabbed him almost 20 times before leaving him to die in the park.
One of the killers, aged just 15 at the time, instigated the killing and was considered the ringleader.
He spotted Babacar – who was not known in the area – with friends in Riley Square and traded glances as he circled menacingly on his bike.
As Babacar cycled off with friends he rounded up the two co-defendants – who were 15 and 17 at the time – and went looking for them armed with at least two knives.
Witnesses thought Babacar was being punched until seeing one of the attackers holding a bloodied knife; he threatened others before all three rode away.
West Midlands Police detectives spent hundreds of hours trawling through CCTV to plot the movement of the offenders before and after the murder.
It was dark and some of the footage was grainy. But they analysed video in great detail, even noting the number and position of their bike reflectors, to show it was the same group across each of the clips.
And they seized CCTV footage showing the ringleader 24 hours before the murder riding a bike identical to the one used on the day of the attack.
Officers found the 17-year-old went to his girlfriend’s home to change his clothes following the stabbing and when arrested was found with injuries to his hands.
The other sent a WhatsApp message to his father pleading for help to flee the country.
It read: “I need to go to Africa…ASAP…like tomorrow if I can.”
Police arrested all three in the days after Babacar’s death and charged them with murder.
Det Ch Insp Scott Griffiths, who led the investigation, said: “There remains no clear motive for the killing. Babacar was simply an unfamiliar face in the community.
“It was a senseless attack that took a life and changed theirs forever.
“It’s totally shocking. These three children murdered a stranger; there was no bad blood between them.
“When the three offenders ran at Babacar there were no words exchanged. Babacar pleaded for them to stop but they continued to attack him as he lay defenceless on the floor.
“My officers have worked tirelessly on the case; it was a significant CCTV challenge to plot the movements of the killers. And I would like to praise the courage of witnesses who came forward to support the enquiry.
“They can be rightly proud that they have helped us secure justice for Babacar’s family.”
Detectives also arrested a girl over the killing. We suspect she made comments to the ringleader that stirred up trouble and may have contributed to the attack – but there was not enough evidence to charge and she was released.
Following the convictions Coventry Police Commander, Ch Supt Mike O’Hara, praised everyone who helped our investigation.
He said: “I really want to express my gratitude to witnesses who provided crucial evidence in the case. They did the right thing to help us send out a message that this senseless violence has to stop.
“The whole of Coventry was shocked by Babacar’s death. Any violent crime is shocking but when the victim is of school age it’s all the more appalling and saddening.
“It’s important the whole community stands together to address the issue of youth violence. It has to stop; too many young lives are being lost and others ruined.”