'Cold-blooded' Toni-Ann killer to serve 40 years

A DRUG dealer who shot dead a young girl after she saw him murder her father was yesterday told he will spend at least 40 years in prison.

Jailing Joel Smith for life, a judge at the Old Bailey recommended he should serve a minimum of 40 years for the murder of seven-year-old Toni-Ann Byfield and 33 years for the murder of the man she knew as her father, Bertram Byfield.

Toni-Ann was shot in the back to silence her after she witnessed Mr Byfield, 41, being gunned down. Smith was the gunman, said the prosecution.

She had been staying with Mr Byfield - also a drug dealer - in a hostel for ex-offenders following a series of blunders by care workers.

The court had heard, Smith, 33, of no fixed address, denied both murders, and might have got away with "the perfect crime" had he not boasted about it.

The killer, who made his living by robbing drug dealers, later bragged: "I blasted a dad and his daughter, a little kid."

But by the time of his trial he was in denial. In court he condemned anyone who shot a child - and tried to blame his former childhood friend Tafari Dacas - who is already serving life for an unconnected murder.

Smith, who was known as Cocaine or Caine, fled London for Liverpool following the shootings in Kensal Green, north London, in September 2003.

He was eventually tracked down two years later while serving a prison sentence in Liverpool. One by one, his former friends and acquaintances turned on him

, appalled by the death of a child in cold blood, the jury was told.

"These murders were in no sense ordinary. These crimes had shocked the nation," said Richard Horwell, prosecuting.

Mr Byfield, who had survived a previous shooting in 2001, was hit twice. A third shot missed and a fourth hit the child.

Toni-Ann was born in Jamaica and lived part of her life with Mr Byfield's ex-partner before arriving in England in 2000.

"She was a bright, fun-loving girl - much loved by those looking after her," said Mr Horwell.

After her death, DNA tests showed that Mr Byfield, who was also known as Tony, was not her natural father, but that was a fact of which neither was aware.

Toni-Ann's mother, Roselyn Richards, 33, sat through the trial.

A 2004 inquiry criticised social workers, immigration officials and other key workers for failings in the case.

But Ms Richards's fury that Toni-Ann was allowed to be with Mr Byfield was followed by the release of a letter showing she had given her permission, describing him as a loving father.

Back to the top of the page