Stefan's mum weeps as two teens are found not guilty of son's murder

Your Local Guardian: Beaten to death: Stefan Persaud Beaten to death: Stefan Persaud

Two teenagers have been cleared of battering a 16-year-old schoolboy to death at the Old Bailey today (Friday).

Jason Blair, 18, and Jerome Fantie, 19, were cleared of murder after they were accused of being part of a gang who killed 16-year-old Stanley Technical schoolboy Stefan Persaud in a street war' last February.

Jurors took 29 hours and 20 minutes to clear Blair and Fantie of murder - however the pair face a possible retrial for violent disorder after the jury failed to reach a verdict on the charge.

Stefan Persaud's mother, Sharon Hercules, covered her face and sobbed as the not guilty verdicts were announced.

Yesterday four other youths were found guilty of brutally battering the schoolboy to death with bricks and hammers during a street 'war' and now face life behind bars.

The gang, who called themselves 'Til Death', chased 16-year-old Stefan into a front garden while chanting their battle cry.

Stefan, who was due to do his GCSEs, was then knocked to the ground and had paving slabs dropped on his head as he lay unconscious.

He was taken to hospital and kept alive for more than two weeks before dying from severe head injuries involving more than 30 separate wounds.

The attack had started as a petty row between Stefan's group in Thornton Heath - known as 'Take them out' - and a rival gang in South Norwood.

Youths were heard shouting 'Is it war?' before clashing in the road with punches and kicks.

But when one of the 'Til Death' gang was stabbed, the others wanted revenge and picked Stefan - known by the street name Poetz.

They later claimed on an internet site dedicated to Stefan's memory that the victim 'deserved it' and needed to be taught a lesson.

One message read: 'Poetz only had himself to blame because he's a di*khead.' The jury took 27 hours of deliberation before bringing back verdicts on five of the gang members.

Cousins David Ramsey, and Sean Ramsey, both 18, were found guilty of murder alongside a 17-year-old youth who cannot be named and now face a minimum of 15 years behind bars.

A 16-year-old was convicted of manslaughter.

A second 16-year-old was cleared of all charges.

Stefan's mum Sharon Hercules wept and whispered 'Thank you' as the ringleaders were convicted.

The killers were notorious for terrorising the South Norwood area targeting schoolboys for their jewellery and mobile phones.

Several were banned from hanging around the gates of Edenham High School in Shirley, after the headteacher heard they were intimidating pupils.

It was claimed during the trial Stefan was also a member of a rival gang called 'Dem Twisted Solders.' Stefan, a Year 11 pupil at Stanley Technical High School in South Norwood, was set upon after a confrontation between the two gangs near the Spar supermarket in Davison Road on April 23 last year.

A war of words broke out but soon escalated into a more violent attack and other gang members were called to the scene to join the fight.

Cars were seen circling the gangs shouting 'Muslim, Muslim' before one of the 'Til Death' gang was stabbed and hit over the head.

Stefan was then grabbed as he walked away from the fight and thrown over the fence to be set upon by up to 10 youths armed with hammers, bats and bricks.

The gang were said to have muttered the war cry ''TD, TD'' - standing for 'Til Death' - as they walked towards Stefan.

One of his attackers, the convicted 17 year-old, who was said to be the leader of 'Til Death', was recognised because he was wearing his army cadet combat fatigues.

James Curtis, QC, prosecuting, said: "He was in effect beaten to death while he lay on the ground defenceless.

"It was a prolonged and sustained attack. He was subjected to multiple injuries to his body including to his head from punches, kicks, blows from a hammer or hammer, a brick or bricks and a paving slab.

"He sustained over 30 injuries but the fatal wounds were to his head, causing irreversible brain damage."

Stefan died in hospital on May 10 after being cared for by his mum and dad Les Persaud, his two younger brothers and sister, and step mum Debbie Persaud.

One of his attackers, a 16 year-old youth, later told police Stefan had upset people by trying to convert them to Islam.

But Stefan was not a Muslim and it is believed the defendant was referring to several youths being recruited - or converted - to his gang.

Jerome Fantie, 18, Sean Ramsey, 18, Jason Blair, 18, David Ramsey, 18, a 17-year-old and the two 16-year-olds all denied his murder.

Fantie, of Canal Walk, Croydon; Sean Ramsey, of South Norwood Hill, South Norwood; Jason Blair, of Cobden Road, South Norwood; David Ramsey, of Lockham Farm Avenue, Maidstone, Kent; the 17-year-old, the 16-year-old and the 15-year-old, all of south London; also denied violent disorder.

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