A teenager who hacked a 14-year-old schoolboy to death with a machete in a ‘senseless and merciless’ attack has been jailed for at least 19 years.
Marques Walker, 17, became the first child murderer to be sentenced on television when he was handed a life term for killing Jermaine Cools in Croydon, south London, on November 18, 2021.
The Old Bailey heard he had a history of carrying deadly weapons and was on bail at the time for having a Zombie knife six weeks earlier.
Judge Sarah Munro KC said: ‘This is yet another case involving the senseless murder of a young teenager committed for no reason that any mature adult could fathom.
‘Tragically, since that date and to this day there have been many further murders of young teenagers and nothing seems to deter the likes of you from going on to the streets of London and elsewhere armed with lethal weapons easily acquired on the internet, intent upon serious violence with no thought for the victims, their innocent loved ones, nor for the consequences for themselves.’
Jermaine’s mum Lorraine Dudek lamented the ‘missed opportunity’ to deal with Walker’s habitual knife-carrying, saying it could have saved her son’s life.
She said: ‘Had it been addressed earlier he would not have had the opportunity to go out to kill.
‘Young males get caught with a knife; the knife gets confiscated. Within an hour they get another one from Snapchat or social media.
‘Stop and search has its place and it’s very, very good for removing weapons but the follow-up has to be there.
‘When Jermaine got stopped and searched, I was happy about it. Some parents complain about their children being stopped and searched – that could be the deterrent that stops them.’
Ms Dudek added: ‘People don’t realise it can just be anyone’s child.’
Walker pleaded guilty to murder, possessing a knife and causing grievous bodily harm to a fellow inmate while in youth detention after the killing.
The victim in that case almost died after being punched to the ground and repeatedly stamped on by Walker and four others.
He was heard to shout ‘finish him off’ and ‘this is how you put mans to sleep’ during the onslaught, which left the other boy with serious brain injuries requiring long-term care.
The court heard Walker and a friend were out on November 18 armed with knives and ‘clearly geared up for serious violence’.
They got into a scuffle with Jermaine and his two older brothers outside a chicken shop near West Croydon railway station.
Chilling CCTV footage played in court showed Walker calmly walking towards Jermaine and drawing a machete from his coat as the younger boy fell to the floor.
Judge Munro said: ‘From that moment he was trapped on the ground, utterly defenceless, and you chose him as your target.
‘You drew your knife, ran towards Jermaine and stabbed him mercilessly no less than seven times in his chest, abdomen and shoulder as he tried hopelessly to avoid the blows by rolling around on the pavement.
‘He didn’t stand a chance. He must have been terrified and in agony.
‘You intended to kill Jermaine and you achieved your desire.’
Remorseless, Walker later wrote about the murder in rap lyrics saying: ‘Even if that youth was a civillian I would still rewind and chef up (stab) his back.’
Jermaine, who had previously confided in his parents that he was worried about knife crime, was driven by a passer-by to the Mayday Hospital where he died from an ‘unsurvivable’ wound to the chest which pierced a lung.
Police identified the defendant from CCTV footage, but he went to ground, sleeping on the sofas of friends for nearly six weeks.
On December 27, 2021, he was found at an address hiding behind a bed and initially gave a false name to officers.
The court was told the defendant had previously been caught carrying three large knives.
A Rambo-style blade was seized at his school and at the time of the murder he was on bail for possessing a Zombie knife six weeks earlier.
Jermaine’s parents described their son as a ‘beautiful’ child and a ‘bright light in the world’ who was just interested in music and cars.
Ms Dudek said: ‘He had become aware that knife crime is massive. A lot of teenagers live with the threat of knife crime.
‘It was at the forefront of his mind. He became aware of the fact Croydon has the highest amount of knife crime in London – that’s where his mind was in.’
Ms Dudek suggested that tackling knife crime started at home and said she had always told Jermaine never to carry a blade.
She said: ‘For me, Jermaine was the closest person to me, he was the best child ever.
‘We do not live any more. We just exist. When they took his life, they took ours. We just exist now. We exist in pain.’
Ms Dudek thanked the people who came to her son’s aid, saying: ‘I’m very grateful to them because without them my son would have died in the street.’
She added: ‘All these gang members. All his friends and family that protected him have my son’s blood on their hands. I will never forgive the defendant.’
Jermaine’s father Julius Cools said: ‘I just feel I have not got justice yet. Everyone that was involved should get justice.’
Referring to Walker, he said: ‘Your devilish actions that night took Jermaine from us. You stabbed him so many times, if it was one or two wounds maybe Jermaine would have survived but you kept stabbing him.
‘I want justice for my son. The one that pushed my son, pushed him down for someone to stab him, should get the same justice.’
Superintendent Richard Vandenbergh, of Scotland Yard, said: ‘It was a horrific event that should never have happened. He was the very youngest that year to have lost their life to knife crime.
‘Jermaine’s family have spoken out about knife crime, and I hope that their courage in speaking out may stop some other family losing a child to this evil crime.
‘This youth was able to obtain knife after knife. Anyone seeing the pictures of those weapons police seized from him in the months leading up to the killing of Jermaine should be concerned that weapons like this seem so readily available to young men.’
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