‘I need justice’: mother of boy stabbed to death calls for change in UK law

Jean Morris still watches her front door every afternoon expecting to see “the little cheeky face” of her youngest son, Dea-John Reid, walk through it.

It is more than a year since 14-year-old Dea-John was chased by a group of white men and boys shouting racial slurs and stabbed to death near a park in Birmingham. But her hope that he will open that door again has continued.

“He never came home and up until now I’m still looking for Dea-John to come,” Morris said. “I know that I buried him, I know that Dea-John died but I’m still waiting for him to come home.”

The 15 year old who stabbed him in the chest was cleared of murder but found guilty of manslaughter in May. All the remaining men and boys in the group – George Khan, 38, Michael Shields, 35, a 16 year old and a 15 year old – were acquitted.

For Morris, the verdict has only made it harder to come to terms with his death. “I need justice for my son,” she said. “If that is a manslaughter, what is a murder?”

She believes that the ethnic makeup of the jury led to murder acquittals and the consequent lenient sentence for the killer and is calling for a change in the law to ensure juries better reflect the community they serve.

Despite the fact that only 57% of people in Birmingham are white, 11 of the jurors were white and one was south Asian.

Morris had to watch CCTV of the last 90 minutes of Dea-John’s life at the trial in Birmingham crown court in May. Three white teenagers could be seen getting out of a car and chasing Dea-John in his final moments, before he ran out of breath and stopped, enabling a 15 year old to plunge a knife into his chest.

She feels outraged at the jury’s response to it. “I don’t know what the jury were looking at,” she said, “I just can’t understand it.

“For that jury to sit there and say this is manslaughter. They showed me racism right there.”

A national march for racial justice will begin this Saturday at 1pm in Kingstanding, where he was killed.

Morris says that if the circumstances were reversed – if the boy stabbed to death was white and the attacker black – the verdict “would be different”. If Dea-John had been the one holding the knife, she said, “he would go down for murder”.

Prosecutor Richard Wormald QC told the jury that the group of five had behaved “like a pack chasing down their prey” on the evening of 31 May last year.

Dea-John was chased in a “revenge attack” for an incident earlier in the day. The group he was with was accused of trying to rob an Armani bag from a friend of the killer.

Morris knows that her only chance of appealing against the not-guilty verdict on all those accused of chasing Dea-John is if someone comes forward with fresh evidence.

She wants the public to come forward if they have any more information. She said: “Don’t keep it a secret, say something and don’t let something happen to the next mum like me.”

Throughout the trial, Morris was convinced that all five would be convicted. “I thought they were going down,” she said.

The shock at the verdict was physical. “I felt I would just put my hands on top of my head and keep running, running, running, with no idea where I was going,” she said.

The 15 year old who killed Dea-John, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was sentenced to six-and-a-half years in prison, which means he is likely to be released in just over two years.

As he sentenced him, Mr Justice Johnson said: “If an adult did what you did it would almost certainly be murder and they would be sentenced to life imprisonment.”

The case is in stark contrast to the convictions of four black teenagers from north Manchester earlier this month for conspiracy to cause grievous bodily harm. The young men were each jailed for eight years for taking part in a group chat a few days after the murder of one of their friends.

Commenting on the two verdicts, Bishop Desmond Jaddoo, a community activist representing Dea-John’s family, said: “In the Manchester case, no one lost their life, no one was physically chasing anyone, no one was calling anyone an N-word, black bastard, bang him out. But they all got found guilty. This happened in broad daylight.”

The last time Morris saw her son on the day he died, she promised to comb his hair for him that evening but he never returned home.

His killer’s sentence has only added to her grief. “When I sit down and think about Dea-John, this guy got six-and-a-half years and he’s only going to do two-and-a-half years and come back out.

“[His mother] can see him grow up and even give her grandkids, but when I want to see Dea-John I have to go to the cemetery. This breaks my heart.”

On Saturday, Morris will march for justice for her son wearing purple – his favourite colour. She wants a change to the system in his name.

She said: “I know that justice cannot bring back Dea-John, but at least his name would live on.”