Girl stabbed rival with Afro comb over boy in Battersea, court hears
A row between two teenage girls over boys ended in murder after one plunged an eight-inch steel Afro comb into the other’s head, a court heard today.
Julie Sheriff was stabbed in the head in front of dozens of shocked witnesses with the spiked comb, also known as a pin tail comb, on May 7 last year in Falcon Road, Battersea.
The 16-year-old fell into a coma for more than four months before dying on September 21 from a brain injury suffered in the attack.
The defendant, who cannot be named because she is under 18, was just 15 at the time of the incident and denies murdering Miss Sheriff.
The Old Bailey heard Miss Sheriff had been visiting friends in the Battersea area but lived with her family in Hackney, east London.
In his opening speech Jonathan Turner QC, prosecuting, told the jury: "Just after 6pm on Saturday, May 7, a 16-year-old girl called Julie Sheriff lost her life outside a betting shop near Clapham Junction, she had been stabbed in the head.
"Although Julie did not die until September 21, she never recovered full consciousness and lived in a number of hospitals until her death.
"The person who undoubtedly stabbed her was the defendant, and the weapon used was a pin tail comb, or Afro comb."
The jury was then shown the murder weapon, which is about seven or eight inches in length.
It is split into two parts, a fine-toothed comb and an attached steel spike which can also be fixed into the hair.
The betting shop, William Hill, is located near the Falcon Pub at the junction of Falcon Road and St John’s Hill.
Mr Turner continued: "The attack happened in broad daylight and the area was thronged, with a busy gym and restaurant nearby.
"These two girls had had their fair share of problems in their short lives with family and the authorities.
"Neither was a stranger to violence, although the violence they had experienced was directed at them rather than by them.
"The two girls knew each other and by May 7, they actively disliked each other. There seems to have been a row brewing between them as a result of malicious gossip, allegations Julie was making about a boy or boyfriends on various telephonic sites."
Miss Sheriff was with another girl the defendant knew, Leonie Andrews, just prior to the attack.
The pair walked past the betting shop and waited for a bus at a nearby bus stop.
Precisely at this point, the defendant allegedly alighted from a bus coming from the opposite direction and spotted her rival at the bus stop.
Mr Turner added: "Their meeting that day was completely by chance. When police spoke to Miss Andrews, she said the conversation between the victim and the defendant rapidly turned into a dispute.
"The defendant was much angrier than Julie, according to Miss Andrews."
The argument had reached boiling point when allegedly she aimed an ‘over arm blow’ to Miss Sheriff’s head.
Within seconds of the blow the victim complained of having a headache, before she collapsed and started fitting.
Mr Turner told the jury that she never regained consciousness after that point.
Miss Andrews told police she did not see any weapon being used by the defendant but she did concede that Miss Sheriff had a tail pin comb with her.
However other witness statements contradicted this.
Some people told police that the defendant did take a comb from her bag and used it more than once before calmly walking away.
One witness, Ishmael Abraham, who had just put a bet on a 6pm race, told police he felt Miss Sheriff was scared of her attacker and tried to get her to come into the shop for her own protection.
But the defendant prevented her from doing so and then, according to Mr Abraham, pulled out a comb and stabbed her victim twice.
The first blow was to the collar bone area and the second, more forceful blow, to the side of her head.
Mr Abraham said the blow sounded like the noise it makes "when we kill a goat back home".
Medical evidence suggested Mr Abraham was right as two wounds were found, one in the chest and one in her left temple.
The jury were told that a post-mortem was difficult to perform because of the number of operations Miss Sheriff had on her skull and brain while she was in a coma.
The day after the attack, police found the defendant near her home in south London but she initially gave them a false name to deter them.
When officers continued to quiz her, she told them: "Is it about the fight yesterday? I don’t think I did anything wrong."
In an official statement, submitted by her solicitor at the time of her arrest, she told officers she was defending herself, and that it was Miss Sheriff who had attacked her.
The defendant said she had taken the comb from the other girl and "jabbed" her with it, adding she felt her life was in danger had she not done so.
At the time, the victim was still unconscious in hospital so the defendant was facing a charge of GBH with intent rather than murder.
But after Miss Sheriff’s death on September 21, she was charged with murder and when interviewed again she answered "no comment" to each question.
After her initial arrest on May 8, the defendant’s mobile phone was seized and a message taken from it read: "I was in the junction (Clapham Junction), and I seen some girl I hate with a passion and I think I might have stabbed her."
The Sheriff family moved to Britain in 2006 from Sierra Leone, West Africa - where the victim’s father Raouf was a policeman - to find a better life.
The judge, Recorder Valios, took the rare step of asking members of the court, including barristers, the clerk and himself, to remove their wigs for the duration of the trial.
This step is only taken in cases where the defendant is under 18-years-old.
The trial is expected to last for two to three weeks.