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Monday, 26 March 2012

Three gang members guilty of shooting that left five-year-old girl paralysed

16:24 |

Three members of a south London street gang have been convicted of carrying out an attack that left a five-year-old girl paralysed. Thusha Kamaleswaran had been "playing happily" in her uncle's convenience store in March last year when the three masked gang members chased two men, one of whom they thought was a member of a rival gang, into the shop and fired two shots through the open door. Thusha, who had been in the shop in Stockwell with her older brother and younger sister, was hit in the chest by a single bullet that passed through her body. The five-year-old, thought to be the youngest gang victim in the capital, went into cardiac arrest and medics performed emergency surgery at the scene before taking her to King's College hospital, where she had to be revived by doctors after having a second cardiac arrest. She now requires round-the-clock care and will be paralysed for the rest of her life. Roshan Selvakumar, 35, who had been buying groceries in the shop, was also injured in the attack. He was shot in the face during the raid and the bullet remains lodged in his head. Kazeem Kolawole, 19, Anthony McCalla, 19, and Nathaniel Grant, 21, all of south London, were found guilty of causing grievous bodily harm with intent to Thusha and to Selvakumar at the Old Bailey. The three were also found guilty of the attempted murder of one of the two men who ran into the shop, Roshaun Bryan, who denies any involvement in gangs, and having a firearm with intent to endanger life. After the verdicts, junior prosecutor Michelle Nelson told the court Thusha was expected to be discharged from hospital next week. "It will be the first time the family will all be together since the incident," she said. Allison Graham, Thusha's doctor from Stoke Mandeville hospital, said in a statement: "I do not expect now that her condition will improve." Thusha's mother, Sharmila,Kamaleswaran, described the shock of seeing her daughter on a hospital bed. "Seeing Thusha took my heart away." She wept as extracts from her impact statement were read to the court by Nelson. "She says the impact of this incident remains unbearable to the family. She describes how Thusha was before, always happy and smiling. A child hopping around like a rabbit, now paralysed." Kamaleswaran said her daughter's dreams of becoming a singer and dancer had been shattered. During the trial Kamaleswaran broke down as the jury was shown CCTV footage of her daughter playing in the aisle of the shop with her 12-year-old brother and three-year-old sister before the two intended victims rushed in. She is then shown moving towards the front of the store, but as the gunman opens fire she is bundled aside and left in the line of fire. Moments later she is shown slumped on the floor with blood coming from her chest. The court heard that the shooting was the result of an increasingly violent feud between two rival south London gangs – the OC/GAS gang based around Brixton and the ABM gang based in nearby Stockwell. "The events of the evening are not isolated," Edward Brown QC, prosecuting, told the court. "There had been violence between gangs. The GAS gang was involved in an ongoing and violent rivalry with an opposing gang known as ABM. A tit-for-tat escalating in degrees of violence. The three defendants are closely associated with the GAS or OC gang that often congregates in a square in Brixton. "The reality of this shooting may be that, whilst there was an intention to kill the suspected rival gang member, the gunman and his accomplices couldn't have cared less if someone else was shot too," Brown told jurors. Kolawole, McCalla and Grant had met earlier in the evening and tested the gun by firing it at a tree before donning masks and setting off on bikes on their "mission" into the rival gang's territory a few minutes away. Kolawole, McCalla and Grant will be sentenced on 19 April. Grant was previously acquitted of a shooting in which an 18-year-old was gunned down as he walked into a branch of Costcutter in south London. In December 2010 Ashley Bucknor was jailed for life for the shooting of Ryan Bravo, who was caught up in a gang fight between the OC and the Peckham Young Guns. Bucknor was one of a group who pulled up on three mopeds and opened fire on rivals who ran past Bravo to take refuge in the shop in Walworth.

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