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Police ignored pleas of teens in fear for lives'

PUBLISHED: 18:03 03 June 2009 | UPDATED: 11:27 12 August 2010

STAB VICTIM: Ben Hitchcock

STAB VICTIM: Ben Hitchcock

POLICE ignored pleas from teenagers to escort them home just minutes before they were embroiled in a fatal street battle , a court has heard. Gang members belonging to the Lewisham Boys left a 16th birthday party in Copers Cope Road, Beckenham, on June

POLICE ignored pleas from teenagers to escort them home just minutes before they were embroiled in a fatal "street battle", a court has heard.

Gang members belonging to the Lewisham Boys left a 16th birthday party in Copers Cope Road, Beckenham, on June 23, 2007, after members of rival group, the Penge Boys, tried to gatecrash it.

The Lewisham Boys claim they told officers they "feared for their lives" and asked them to wait until they got a bus home following threats from the Penge Boys, the Old Bailey heard last Friday.

Just minutes later, a fight involving up to 60 youths using bats, bottles, knives and bike chains erupted in Southend Road, Beckenham, resulting in the death of Penge Boy Ben Hitchcock, 16, who suffered a stab wound to the back.

It is alleged Andre Lawrence-Bennett, 18, of Brownhill Road, Catford, dealt the fatal blow with the help of Royston Thomas, 18, of Hazel Grove, Sydenham, Mitchell Elliott, 19, of Howerd Way, Woolwich, and Olatunji Ololu, 18, of Firhill Road, Catford, who are all accused of murder.

Witness Tuesday Mullings, 17, who hosted the party, said: "Everyone was scared because there were known feuds between the two groups. There was potential for trouble but everyone just wanted to get home safely. 'I don't want to lose my life,' I heard a few people say that."

Miss Mullings claimed police officers refused to take the teenagers home, saying they were not a "taxi service" but agreed to wait until they got on a 54 bus back to Lewisham. She said the bus failed to stop because there were so many youths and police drove off.

She added: "The police were very dismissive and quite rude. They just wanted us to clear off.

"When you're scared you're thinking about your own welfare. I had to explain it to the police. I tried to negotiate with the main officer. The police told us to f-off."

Earlier, the court heard how members of the Lewisham Boys had later made chilling phone calls to the Penge Boys boasting about killing the teenager.

Thomas is alleged to have made one, saying: "We've killed one of your boys and I hope your boy is still lying in the bushes half dead. We killed your boy, he's a waste. We stabbed up your white boy." Prosecuting, Edward Brown said an associate of Thomas, Bobby Mehmet, said Thomas "seemed cocky" about the murder.

All four defendants deny murder. The trial continues.

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