Campaigner Richard Taylor, father of murdered schoolboy Damilola Taylor, dies

Campaigner Richard Taylor, whose son Damilola Taylor was murdered at the age of just 10, has died, his family have announced.

The former Nigerian civil servant dedicated years to improving the lives of disadvantaged children in the wake of his son’s tragic death in November 2000, and set up the Damilola Taylor Trust to campaign against knife crime

Mr Taylor died on Saturday aged 75 following a long illness.

A statement issued on behalf of his family said: “It is with a heavy heart that the family announce the death of our beloved father, grandfather and uncle, Mr Richard Adeyemi Taylor OBE, who sadly passed away in the early hours of Saturday March 23 at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Woolwich, after a prolonged battle with prostate cancer.”

Mr Taylor always said he wanted his son to be remembered as a boy of hope and for his legacy to be a better life and opportunities for underprivileged young people.

Damilola was left bleeding to death in a stairwell in Peckham, south-east London, after he was attacked and slashed with a broken bottle on his way home from a library.

Damilola Taylor
Damilola Taylor had aspirations for a medical career and had said he wanted to change the world (Handout/PA)

After three crown court trials, his two killers, brothers Ricky and Danny Preddie, were finally put behind bars.

Richard Taylor and his late wife Gloria were spurred on to set up a charity in their son’s memory in the face of the tragedy of his death.

Gloria died in 2008 after suffering a heart attack and Richard continued their work in the following years.

They were supported by famous faces including footballer Rio Ferdinand, who grew up in Peckham and backed the family in their charity work.

Star Wars actor John Boyega was a childhood friend of Damilola and he and his sister Grace were among the last people to see the 10-year-old alive before he walked home on the day he was murdered.

Tributes were paid on Saturday to Mr Taylor, who was made OBE in 2011 for his campaigning against violence.

The Damilola Taylor Trust was launched in 2001 after Mr and Mrs Taylor met Charles, who was then the Prince of Wales, with the aim “to provide a legacy of hope and opportunity for disadvantaged and under-privileged young people”.

Death of Richard Taylor
Prime Minister Tony Blair and his wife Cherie, with Richard and Gloria Taylor in 2002 at the Warwick Park Centre in Peckham, which was renamed in memory of Damilola (Sean Dempsey/PA Wire)

The charity UK Youth has supported the trust for many years and was a founding member in 2020 of the Hope Collective, an alliance working to end poverty and discrimination in the most vulnerable communities.

Chief executive Ndidi Okezie said: “Everyone at UK Youth is truly saddened to learn of the passing of Richard. He was an incredible man who made a real difference to so many young people’s lives.

“Richard was a dear friend to me and UK Youth. We were thrilled to work alongside Richard with the Hope Collective, working to establish real change and reduce poverty, violence and discrimination among the UK’s most vulnerable communities, and celebrating young people’s hopes for the future on the Day of Hope, on Damilola’s birthday, December 7, each year.

“We send our heartfelt condolences to Richard’s close family, including his daughters Gbemi and Florence and son Tunde, and friends, Richard will be hugely missed.

“We commit to continuing his and Damilola’s legacy of hope and working with others to improve the lives of young people from the most vulnerable communities.”

Mr Taylor supported a march against knife crime in central London in 2008 that was attended by thousands of young people and was led by the Ben Kinsella Trust, founded by former EastEnders actress Brooke Kinsella, whose 16-year-old brother Ben was stabbed to death in Islington.

She said: “Richard’s courage in the face of unimaginable grief was an inspiration to me.

“After the horrific loss of his son Damilola, he chose to channel his pain into a fight for a safer future. He turned tragedy into a relentless determination to keep other families from experiencing the same heartbreak.

“Richard became a close friend and confidant after Ben’s murder, sharing his strength and unwavering belief in justice.”

Home Secretary James Cleverly posted on X: “Very sad news. I had the chance to work with Richard when I was at City Hall, he was determined and dignified in the face of a huge personal tragedy.

“He will be missed.”

Labour Brent Central MP Dawn Butler posted on X: “My deepest condolences goes out to the family of Richard Taylor he was a great man & a dear friend.

“He always had such kind words of wisdom for me. I will miss him. May he rest in eternal peace and may he be reunited with Damilola in heaven.”