Case: Murdered over a mobile phone: Lyle Tulloch
Lyle Tulloch
Damien Solowabe
Tobi Peters
Status: Solved
Categories: Teenage Victim
Case synopsis:

Promising ballet dancer Damien Solowabe knifed 15-year-old Lyle Tulloch to death at a party after accusing him of stealing his mobile phone.

Solowabe, a pupil at the world famous Rambert dance school, and his friend Tobi Peters stabbed Lyle 12 times and left him to die in a south London stairwell.

The killers then turned their attention to one of the victim’s friends, who managed to escape with his life after jumping from a second-floor balcony.

Lyle, a reformed troublemaker who dreamed of training as a lawyer, was the 12th teenager to be murdered in London in 2008.

His case was among those cited by campaigners as emblematic of a culture blighted by the habitual carrying of knives.

On the night of May 3, 2008, Peters and Solowabe gatecrashed a girl's 15th birthday party at Newall House, on the Rockingham estate in Elephant and Castle.

Solowabe, 17 at the time, initially clashed with Lyle after he saw him dancing with a 16-year-old girlfriend.

The girl later told the Old Bailey: 'Lyle was standing behind me and he had his hands on my hips.

'Damien was a bit annoyed about it.

'He told Lyle to get off me, that I was his girlfriend, and I said to Damien that I wasn't, because I had a boyfriend at that time.'

Shortly afterwards, Solowabe's phone vanished when Lyle's friend borrowed it to send a text message.

Witnesses saw Solowabe put a kitchen knife up his sleeve, before he grabbed Lyle and demanded his phone back.

The victim was heard to cry out and a bystander saw Peters, 16 at the time of the murder, stab Lyle in the leg as he lay on his back on the floor.

Peters then ran back to the party with his knife dripping with blood and shouted: 'Where's the other boy?'

Solowabe charged at Lyle's friend and tried to stab him but missed when the youngster leapt from a balcony to escape.

Lyle suffered 12 knife wounds, with one entering his liver, two passing through his right lung and another entering the right ventricle of his heart.

Paramedics arrived at around 1.45am but by that time he was already dead.

During their trial, both defendants claimed they had nothing to do with the killing, with Peters saying he had left the party before it happened.

Both defendants were convicted of murder, and Judge Peter Rook QC sentenced them both to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 12 years.

Damien SolowabeTobi Peters

Killers: Damien Solowabe (left) and Tobi Peters (right)

The judge told the pair: 'This murder was a vicious attack upon a young man aged just 15 years old at the time.

'Your motive, Damien Solowabe appears to have been your belief that he was involved in the theft of your mobile phone.

'You Tobi Peters joined in the attack. You are both part of the culture of knife crime that blights our cities.

'You have left his family and friends with a sense of irreplaceable loss. During those moments of madness you have also blighted your own lives.'

The court heard that Solowabe was a promising dancer who also acted as a 'young adviser' for the London borough of Southwark, offering help to troubled youngsters and working with partners including the police and community wardens.

Jocelyn Giles a teacher at the Rambert school of ballet and contemporary dance said Solowabe was a talented and dedicated dancer.

He said: 'He was very reliable, there was increasing engagement with Damien and the company.

'There were a number of teachers who worked with Damien who always commented on his commitment and his improvement. He was quiet but very well mannered.’

Tony Lee, the father of Lyle Tulloch (right), said in a victim impact statement: 'It is so difficult for us as a family to express our loss.

'He was one of seven sons and was a wonderful brother to all of them. He was an inquisitive and brave child. He showed intelligence and wit.

Lyle Tullock'He used to relish visiting churches and loved God. Lyle was instrumental in helping the home run smoothly.

'He would help you with anything if it was in his power to do so.

'He had his difficult times and like many teenagers struggled with the establishment trying to find his way.

'He worked through that. He wanted to become a lawyer. His determination was ever present and he was looking forward to the challenge.

'This was all brought to a brutal and abrupt halt. Lyle will never have the chance to fulfil any of his aspirations or any of his hopes.

'He had his life taken away by those who valued their reputation over another life. It is mental torture to us that one who loved life so much has had that taken away by sheer wickedness.’

To add to the tragedy, Lyle's younger brother Marc Tulloch was jailed for ten years in April 2013 for stabbing 15 year-old Junior Nkwelle to death in Brixton, south London.

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