Welcome!

By registering with us, you'll be able to discuss, share and private message with other members of our community.

  1. Welcome to the 12ozProphet Forum...
    You are currently logged out and viewing our forum as a guest which only allows limited access to our discussions, photos and other forum features. If you are a 12ozProphet Member please login to get the full experience.

    If you are not a 12ozProphet Member, please take a moment to register to gain full access to our website and all of its features. As a 12ozProphet Member you will be able to post comments, start discussions, communicate privately with other members and access members-only content. Registration is fast, simple and free, so join today and be a part of the largest and longest running Graffiti, Art, Style & Culture forum online.

    Please note, if you are a 12ozProphet Member and are locked out of your account, you can recover your account using the 'lost password' link in the login form. If you no longer have access to the email you registered with, please email us at [email protected] and we'll help you recover your account. Welcome to the 12ozProphet Forum (and don't forget to follow @12ozprophet in Instagram)!

Death by Graf

Discussion in 'Third Rail' started by Fabo 2, Jul 2, 2002.

  1. Fabo 2

    Fabo 2 Guest

    This is one of the saddest things I have ever read.
    I know it' a long article but it's worth reading.






    The phoney graffiti war and the killing that shocked an estate

    To residents they were mindless hieroglyphics, to the youths who drew them the tags were a matter of pride. When one was defaced it ended in manslaughter

    Emma Brockes
    Wednesday September 5, 2001
    The Guardian

    Bugsy was first through the door, blood-stained and panting. It was a Sunday afternoon in July, when the only thing to do on the Casterbridge estate was to sit out the heat until sunset.
    From the 13th floor, north London looked like a canopy of green pierced by steeples. "St John's Wood," residents would say, cocking a chin at the view as if at a particularly hard joke enacted on them by higher authorities.
    To Ivan Cardona, slumped buddha-like on the sofa, it looked as if Bugsy, a Staffordshire bull terrier, had been fighting with another dog. Of the two Cardona brothers, 21-year-old Ivan was widely reckoned to be the troublemaker. Ione was soft, holding open doors for mothers with pushchairs, running errands for shopkeepers, folding his lanky frame into knots when addressed by an adult. The dog, people sniggered, was more likely to get into trouble than Ione was. But when the 15-year-old rolled into the flat that afternoon, there was blood on him too.
    "I said, 'what happened?'" says Ivan. "He said, 'I fell down the stairs'. I said: 'Don't give me that. What happened?' He said nothing happened. I said: 'Who is it?' He said: 'That kid. Devon.'" Ivan ran from the flat, plunged 13 flights down and attached himself to the fringes of a gathering crowd.
    Whatever had happened that afternoon, he was confident he could talk his brother's way out of it. Within minutes of reaching the street, however, it became clear the time for diplomacy had passed. "Someone pointed me out to the police as Ione's brother," says Ivan. "I couldn't lie. I took them back to the flat."
    As Ione was taken to Kentish Town police station, Suzan Allen, working at a newsagents in south London, received a phone call informing her that her 18-year-old son Devon had been taken to hospital, stabbed twice in the heart. There was a pain in her chest she could not account for. A religious woman, she thought it might be coming from Devon. "It was GBH at first," says Ivan. "Then, late that night, the kid died and the police said, 'we're calling in the murder squad'."
    Devon Allen died a year ago. It is five months since Ione (pronounced "Yonny") Cardona was sentenced to six years detention for his manslaughter. In many ways, it was an unremarkable case. Last year in London 170 people were murdered; 6,000 were attacked with an offensive weapon. The Metropolitan police confiscated knives, guns and assorted weapons from a further 5,000, almost a third of them people under 18. So when Devon Allen was stabbed to death outside a laundrette in Swiss Cottage, it scarcely rated a mention in the press.
    Unlike Damilola Taylor, De von Allen was of an age when being stabbed to death did not particularly distinguish him.
    There was, however, one aspect of the case that stood out. After his arrest, Ione put in a claim of self-defence and said he had been maliciously provoked. It was the manner of this provocation that startled the police. In mitigation, the teenager told them: "I saw my work had been lined through. I took it as an insult because it dented my pride." The "work" he referred to was graffiti.
    The first, and possibly biggest, problem this conferred on the authorities was a conceptual one. If Devon had died over graffiti, then graffiti signified a far deeper estrangement in its young practitioners than had previously been thought.
    "Two young lives have been ruined over the most trivial of causes," said Detective Inspector Martin Ford, the investigating officer. He struggled with Ione's line of defence. "It was a dispute that would usually end with no more than a black eye."
    What had happened, the police wondered, to promote the status of graffiti on the estate from an idle recreation into something more fundamental? To persuade Ione that the boy who obliterated his graffiti - or tag - obliterated more or less everything of value about him?
    Residents of the Casterbridge estate had a good idea. Over the last five years, something in the alchemy of the place had changed. It had never been an easy spot to grow up in, one of three deprived estates nestling among some of London's wealthiest neighbourhoods. To the east are the luxury flats of Swiss Cottage; St John's Wood is to the south and Hampstead, where 10% of households have an income of more than £100,000 a year, is to the north. On the Casterbridge estate, more than half of families are on housing benefit. Depending on their ages, their children walk to school past a Ferrari dealership, the Saatchi gallery or a shop selling grand pianos.
    This is where Ione was born, the second son of Colombian immigrants. When he was 12, Devon moved in two blocks away. The boys were similar in temperament, with strict parents and an inclination for quietness. They were nice boys, polite to their elders. Residents of the estate collapsed at the news of what happened to them and said: "Responsibility lies with all of us."
    Us, in this case, had a large constituency, reaching back to the mid-1960s and the architects of two 19-storey tower blocks connected by a footbridge. Of the three estates in Swiss Cottage, the Casterbridge has the meanest accommodation and is designed, the only high rise, on social housing principles now widely discredited. "The flats only have two bedrooms, so siblings have to share," says Kristyan Robinson, a member of the management committee. "It is not ideal for a family with two big, adolescent boys. There is nowhere for their energy to go."
    This did not matter much when Ione was little. His parents worked long hours as cleaners and brought him up to be grateful for what he had. "We kept ourselves to ourselves," says Olga Cardona, Ione's mother. "We are a good family, good manners. We did not interfere with other people. If we had known Ione was carrying a knife, Jesus to God we would have killed him. His father would have killed him."
    When Ione was small, he went on a family holiday to New York. The graffiti there enthralled him. "When we got back, he'd pester me to bring him pens from school," says Ivan. "He loved drawing." The one GCSE Ione passed was in art.
    In court, his defence team characterised him as a boy of "exceptionally low intelligence", barely conscious of his own actions, but this is not an image his family cares to recognise. Ione, they say, was ambitious. His favourite catchphrase was, "speculate to accumulate", and he would run around repeating it, to his brother's amusement, vowing one day to be rich. One Halloween, Ione dressed up as a ghoul and hit the pubs at closing time, correctly anticipating that the punters would give more generously if they were drunk. He was right: one erroneously gave him a £50 note instead of a £5.
    As he got older, however, the limitations of the Casterbridge estate became harder to ignore. The place was disintegrating. The youth club shut; the basketball nets fell into disrepair and were dismantled; boys ranged about the estates, feared and ignored. In response, the council offered to repaint the stairwells and put up a trellis on some grass behind the tower.
    In 1995, as Ione was entering his teens, his brother's headmaster, Philip Lawrence, was stabbed to death outside the gates of his own school, St George's in Maida Vale. The culprits were teenage gang members. A year later Ione started secondary school. Less well built than his brother, he resolved on a policy of unobtrusiveness. "You wouldn't have noticed him," says George Benham, headmaster of Cardinal Hinsley high school. "He rarely led. He was self-effacing. He would tag on and follow. He had a very small personality. He was an underachiever, but he was never in serious trouble at school."
    Average kid

    "Ione was a quiet boy," says a shop owner on the estate. "They said in court that he was slow, but he wasn't slow. He was an average kid. Maybe he didn't do so well at school, but there are other kinds of intelligence. If I was on my own on the till, I would send him out to buy me chips and one for himself. He was trustworthy."
    "I thought I'd be the first one to get into serious trouble," says Ivan, who now works as a security guard. "Everyone did. When Ione was arrested, the first thing people said was, 'Don't you mean Ivan?'" But Ivan had enjoyed certain privileges that his brother had not. When the older boy was a teenager, most of the families on the estate knew each other. There was no shortage of supervision.
    "About four years ago, a lot of the old families moved out," says Ivan. "The crackheads moved in. Now kids stand in the foyer, urinating on the floor, tagging and spitting. I'll say to them, 'fuck off outside, you're making a mess'. And they'll say, 'Ivan, where is there to go? There's nothing to do'." The less attention they got, the more the boys misbehaved; the more they misbehaved, the less they were tolerated.
    "It's like, people see you coming and they cross the street," says Lee, an 18-year-old gang member from the Hilgrove crew, scuffing his trainers and assuming a hurt, bent-headed pose. "You walk around feeling self-conscious." But you do trash the place with graffiti? Lee shrugs. "We don't mean anything by it. It's just something to do with your mates. You tag up a wall and it's like, 'here I am'."
    Two blocks away, Devon was pursuing a very different life. A tall boy, slim and self-assured, he was born in Trinidad, the fourth of six children to a mother whose chief ambition was to bring her family to Britain. Too late for the older children, Suzan Allen thought if she could get Devon and his brother Akil into the country, they might enjoy a better start in life. In 1997 when he was 15, Devon moved to London, to the Hilgrove estate in Swiss Cottage. His mother thought it a more suitable environment for a studious teenager than the £25 a week room she rented in Brixton on cleaner's wages. Devon was billeted with his Uncle Brian in a ground floor flat.
    By the standards of the area, the Hilgrove is a superior estate. It went up in the post-war flush of the 1950s, a low-rise complex interspersed with green spaces. "It was quite lah-di-da," says Buddy Whitman, housing manager for the Casterbridge estate and a former caretaker at the Hilgrove estate. "It always had a set-apart feel. There was a selective renting policy, the tenants used to be older, working-class Jewish people, a cut above the Irish on the Camden estates. That feeling of superiority washed over to the younger generation, which is more ethnically mixed. There's a tension between the white, semi-affluent older residents and the younger of mixed lineage. The older people were grounded in work; the younger have been brought up in the context of 25 years of unemployment."
    In the late 1990s, a half-hearted gang culture grew up around the Casterbridge estate, the Hilgrove and a third local estate, the Rowley Way. "Gang rather overstates it," says Lee Dempster, an officer on the investigating team. "There were only three people in one and four in another. They called themselves the Rowley Way crew and the Hilgrove crew." Ione was part of the former; he went around with Bugsy, who looked mean but was, say the neighbours, as soppy as hell.
    Devon was part of the latter. Their main recreation was graffiti and in 1999, a phoney war broke out, fought via the medium of competitive tagging. Ione and Devon's graffiti pseudonyms were, respectively, Blast and Mr Reach and they surfaced as far afield as Camden, two miles away.
    One in particular stands out: in round-handed script, "Mr Reach", sprayed on a wall on the Rowley Way estate. A line of red paint has been drawn through it and the paint has run, collecting in stalks and baubles down the brickwork. In graffiti parlance, Mr Reach has been lined out and its author insulted.
    To most residents of the estate, the graffiti was intimidating - a set of mindless hieroglyphics that made them feel uneasy. But to a few perceptive adults, the tagging looked curiously innocent. It didn't seek to shock. There were no swear words, unless coyly disguised in acronym, like FTS ("Fuck the System"). It had more to do with recognition than rebellion: most of the tags eschewed daredevil placements on trains and the top of tower blocks, to appear at eye level. The point, it seemed, was to get them seen. Ione, cramped at home, invisible at school, amplified his presence by scrawling his name all over north London. "We don't do it on the posh houses, because they paint over them right away," says Dean, 14, a former member of the Rowley Way crew. "If you tag on the council, it stays up for months." When Devon lined-out Ione's tag, the insult remained on show to mock him each time he passed. It is still there now.
    More often than not, Devon was not around to be evened with. With his mother living in south London, he cut a marginal figure on the estates. Graffiti was a minor distraction, the one self-indulgence of a life on-track. "In Trinidad, you have opportunities if you have money," says Suzan Allen. "It's like that. I had my children, one, two, three. Then I came to Britain so the fourth and fifth could have a chance." Devon seized it with both hands: within a year of joining Quintin Kynaston secondary school, he was captain of the running team, had higher education in sight and was holding down a part-time job washing dishes in a restaurant in Hampstead.
    "My aims for the future are to go on to study A-levels in maths, sciences and computing," he wrote in a personal statement commissioned by the school. "After that I hope to go to university to do more maths and business studies and computing course." At the time of his death, he had half-completed an IT course at South Thames College.
    "He was a bright lad," says John Greaves, Devon's tutor. "He was always keen to complete his assignments - working quietly but purposefully. He was a committed and enthusiastic student with a promising future ahead of him."
    "He had never used a computer before," says Mrs Allen proudly. "He came over here and he just took off."
    Stabbed

    On the morning of his death, Devon visited his mother in Brixton to give her £50 saved from his washing up job. He asked her to send it to his siblings in Trinidad. Returning home, he ran into Ione outside an arcade of shops on the Rowley Way estate. Ione was arguing with another boy. His attention shifted to Devon, with whom he had a dispute over graffiti. The two began arguing and Devon knocked Ione to the ground; Ione recovered and stabbed him twice with a vegetable knife. It penetrated 8.5cm into Devon's heart. Ione ran to the flat. Devon dragged himself to a phone box and called for help before collapsing.
    Both boys' mothers maintain their sons acted in self-defence. Mrs Allen will not countenance that Devon was involved in graffiti. He died, she says, protecting the other boy from attack. Mrs Cardona says: "God give us strength to get over this. It breaks our hearts." Of Devon, she says: "That poor poor boy. We feel very sorry for the other family. But it was a fight. It could just as easily have been Ione who died."
    Passing sentence, Judge Ann Goddard told Ione: "'Devon Allen lost [his life] because you took a knife out with you. I do not accept it was just to scare him. You wanted to fight."
    Ivan Cardona says: "You can't take someone's life away and not to be punished. There are consequences. You have to live with that and he knows it."
    "I am strong," says Suzan Allen, "because I know Devon was a good boy. I don't hate Ione. I want him to feel the love that Devon had. I love Ione." She looks for things to be grateful for. "Devon died the week that little girl Sarah Payne went missing. I thought, at least I knew; at least I didn't have to wait while they found a sock here, a sock there."
    Devon's friends shuffle at mention of him and look embarrassed. "That is over, man," they say angrily. "Devon is over." They exude a sense of collective guilt. "Why didn't you walk away when you saw someone you didn't like?" the police asked Ione. He replied that he did not want the other boys to think he was scared.
    To members of the management committee, the onus is now on the local authorities to address the lack of space, physical and cultural, for youth on the estates.
    There are bureaucratic problems to resolve. The estates sit on the borders of three councils, Westminster, Camden and Brent. "There are separate authorities for police, education, health," says Father Andrew Cain of St Mary's parish church. "No one ever gets a full picture of what is going on."
    "There's a huge amount of devolved feeling," says Buddy Whitman. "It makes it easy for people to defer responsibility. They'll say, it's not our problem, it's the kids on Rowley Way. Unfortunately, while the authorities observe boundaries, the kids don't." Provision of resources is difficult. A youth club built on the Hilgrove estate would be expected to cater for teenagers two streets away on the Casterbridge. But there is no guarantee they would be welcome.
    And so things go on as before. Appalled by the crime, older residents give teenagers an even wider berth than they used to; youth initiatives fail for want of adult volunteers to run them. The boys retreat further into sullen machismo. "The reaction of the adults is, get these kids off our estates," says Father Andrew. "But they live on the estates. The authorities have to understand that youth provision is no longer about having a tatty room with a table tennis kit. They need to feel they are being invested in, that they have something to feel proud of."
    Change

    "They haven't been allowed to grieve or be angry or anything," says Kristyan Robinson. "The only way they can express themselves is through these crappy tags."
    There have, however, been small indications of change. After Devon's death, five or six boys went to the church, lit a candle and said a prayer. And in the last six months an anti-vandalism forum has been set up, a well-meaning body which solicits opinions from the boys on how to make the place better.
    "A lot of them just want to be listened to," says Mike Stuart, chairman. Their requests are touchingly modest: some rubbish bins on the estate would be nice, they say; and somewhere to play football. Since the forum's inauguration, the level of graffiti has been marginally reduced.
    Suzan Allen gets on with it. She quit her job at the newsagents after the customers, thinking themselves kind, kept reminding her of what a nice boy Devon had been. "I have to keep living for my other children, although it is sometimes hard. When I have a bad day, I stand in the middle of my room and cry." She wants to scatter her son's ashes in Trinidad. On returning to Britain, she would like to get out of London for a while and has thought, whimsically, of heading south to Devon. "It sounds like a good place, doesn't it?"
    Meanwhile, the Cardona family, frightened of reprisals, have moved from the estate.
    After Devon's death, the gang system broke down and boys from the two sides hang out together now, wreaking petty havoc. "It's like being dissatisfied with something and making it worse rather than better," says Buddy Whitman. "From the perspective of a comfortable background, it's easy to say, 'by messing up the estate, it's only yourselves you are hurting.' But they are not in a position to understand."
    Stuck for alternatives, they tag and spit and smoke dope. If you stand in the foyer of the Casterbridge estate, you can hear them clambering on the balcony above. "You monkey brain!" one yells. "What did you do that for? What did you do that for?" Gobs of spit rain down. The air smells sweet. Someone on the estate is cooking bacon.
     
  2. cmeup

    cmeup Veteran Member

    Joined: Apr 17, 2001 Messages: 9,485 Likes Received: 1
    what a good fucking story....

    hard to understand kinda but ill as fuck... good read.

    i liked this part about IONE:

    "Ione, they say, was ambitious. His favourite catchphrase was, "speculate to accumulate", and he would run around repeating it, to his brother's amusement, vowing one day to be rich."

    that was cool...

    sad that the kid died over graffiti... but thats tha way it is sometimes...

    tease :eek:
     
  3. SPFlatty

    SPFlatty Guest

    is there an fts in every city?

    yeah, the story is sad, but that shit happens. it shouldn't, but some bitches don't know how to fight so they get a knife or a gun or some shit.
     
  4. melt

    melt Guest

    sad story.
     
  5. Fabo 2

    Fabo 2 Guest

    What's sad is that Ione was a completely unknown writer. Neither of them were particulary big.
     
  6. moonstrahl

    moonstrahl Junior Member

    Joined: Jun 5, 2002 Messages: 194 Likes Received: 0
    Uhmm... I think that the shit is sad, but come on guys, that is not how shit goes. It is called battling. You don't stab eachother, you try to outdo eachother. This concept is not that hard. The fucking geeks who invented graff were getting there fights out on the streets without bloodshed to begin with. Fucking Hell! Graffiti was an alternative to fighting, why is it so damn natural to have violence attached to it?!!
     
  7. Dr. Dazzle

    Dr. Dazzle Veteran Member

    Joined: Nov 19, 2001 Messages: 8,147 Likes Received: 3
    Same reply from another thread....

     
  8. catwash

    catwash Guest

    males, ego's and competition! it's bound to attract violence, unfotunately
     
  9. zen

    zen New Jack

    Joined: Sep 20, 2001 Messages: 0 Likes Received: 0
    umm didnt writers used to shoot each other?
     
Top