A teenager has been jailed for the murder of a “defenceless” 14-year-old boy.
Marques Walker, 17, can now be identified as the killer of Jermaine Cools, who at the age of 14 was the youngest victim of a fatal knife crime in 2021.
Jermaine was stabbed as he lay on the ground outside a chicken shop in Croydon, south London, on 18 November that year.
Walker was sentenced to life imprisonment today, with a minimum of 19 years behind bars, minus the 497 days he has already spent in custody.
Walker’s sentencing is the first time a juvenile murderer has been handed down their punishment at the Old Bailey on television in England and Wales following a successful legal challenge by the media.
At the time of the killing, Walker, then aged 16, was on bail for carrying a large knife, the Old Bailey was told.
Earlier this year, Walker pleaded guilty to Jermaine’s murder and possessing a knife.
Judge Sarah Munro KC said he had earlier said he was not guilty but later changed his plea.
The impact of “defenceless” Jermaine’s violent death was “immeasurable”, the judge added during Walker’s sentencing.
She said Walker had a large machete hidden under his clothing on the night of the killing.
The judge added he and his group were clearly “geared up” for violence.
Walker stabbed Jermaine “mercilessly” seven times and “intended to kill” his victim, the judge said.
The murderer fled the area and went into hiding for six weeks. Police found him by chance during another search.
Walker’s repeated possession of knives was mentioned a number of times by the judge during his sentencing.
She said in her view, Walker poses a risk to the public.
Ahead of his sentencing, a joint application was made by the PA news agency, The Times, The Sun and The Daily Mail newspapers to lift a court order banning Walker from being identified.
A separate bid was made for permission to film Walker’s sentencing and broadcast the footage on news channels and online.
Outlining her decision to allow proceedings to be filmed, Judge Munro said: “The serious nature and increasing prevalence of knife crime, knife-related homicide and violent crime…; the consequent need for deterrence; the promotion of public confidence that the criminal justice system is addressing the problem; and the proximity of the defendant’s 18th birthday… all outweigh any minimal impact upon the welfare of defendant.”
‘It can be anyone’s child’
Following the sentencing, Jermaine’s mother Lorraine Dudek issued an emotional plea to tackle knife crime, saying: “It can be anyone’s child”.
She also described the failure to deal with Walker’s knife-carrying habit as a “missed opportunity”.
“Had it been addressed earlier he would not have had the opportunity to go out to kill,” she said.
“Young males get caught with a knife, the knife gets confiscated. Within an hour they get another one from Snapchat or social media.”
Ms Dudek continued: “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.”
Jermaine’s father, Julius Cools, described Walker’s 19-year sentence as a “joke” and blamed the “system” for his son’s killing.
“That boy, he killed my son… my son can never come back. And he only get 19 years… that’s a joke”.
He said Jermaine was “everything” and a “happy little boy”, adding, “he didn’t deserve to die like this”.
“I think the police let us down, because that boy should never be out after he was arrested three times with a knife.
“So I blame the system for my son’s killing”.
Jermaine died following a fight involving a number of people on London Road, near West Croydon station.
Walker was caught on CCTV calmly walking towards the fight and drawing a large knife from his coat.
Jermaine appeared to fall over and the youth ran towards him while he was on the ground.
Walker was seen to repeatedly lunge at Jermaine as his victim frantically tried to avoid being stabbed.
Jermaine received multiple stab wounds and the defendant ran off from the scene with the knife.
A member of the public approached Jermaine, who was bleeding heavily, and helped him into a car and drove him to hospital in Croydon, where he later died.
A post-mortem found he had suffered seven stab wounds to his body, with the fatal wound to his chest piercing a lung.