A 14-year-old boy died in an “horrific” targeted attack when three men rammed a car into his moped then stabbed him multiple times.
Jayden Moodie was murdered on Tuesday in an area of east London notorious for drug dealing and blighted by so-called county lines gangs that are known to exploit children.
Chief Superintendent Richard Tucker told reporters he could not sleep for thinking about what had happened to such a young boy.
He said of the boy’s age: “I think that will strike a chord with so many people and so many parents across the UK.”
The teenager, who lived in the area with his mother, was knocked off the moped by a black Mercedes B Class at around 6.30pm on Tuesday in Bickley Road, Leyton, and then stabbed several times by three attackers as he lay unconscious in the road.
The car was found on Wednesday in the Carlisle Road area of Leyton, a few hundred metres away, and remains there for forensic examination.
Detective Chief Inspector Chris Soole from the Homicide and Major Crime Command, who is leading the investigation, said: “We are treating the recovery of the car as a significant development in our enquiries, which are still very much in their early stages.
“Jayden’s family are being fully supported and kept updated by our team. This is a truly heartbreaking time for them and we are doing everything we can to find out who was responsible for Jayden’s death.”
Mr Tucker said it was too early to ascertain a motive or say whether an incident a few streets away from the crime scene on Wednesday when a man was slashed across the face was linked.
He said: “The overriding factor is he’s 14 years old. A lot of people are saying ‘young man’ – he’s not. He’s a boy. He’s 14.
“It’s shocking, it’s an appalling event and this will have affected huge numbers of our young people and we’ve got additional officers in the area, and at schools, to actually reassure people that they are safe in east London.
“Whatever the reasons for his death, he was 14 years old and I would urge anyone who has any information to come forward and assist us to catch the people who did this horrific, horrific offence.”
A section 60 order was put in place to allow officers to search anyone in the vicinity of the scene for weapons.
Jayden’s godmother Zoe Grant, who lives in Nottingham, paid tribute to the 14-year-old by saying: “He was full of life, fun loving and a ray of sunshine. He was a beautiful boy, so intelligent, had everything to live for.
“He went to London and then this happens – it’s just so unfair.
“He was very dearly loved by everybody.
“Jayden was a good kid. 14 is no life – it’s not fair.”
A family friend, who gave his name as Solomon, said the schoolboy, a talented boxer, was a “wonderful” and “loving” child.
Describing himself as Jayden’s “acting grandfather”, he said the system was “really letting down the youth”.
“They don’t come on the streets because they want to – they don’t have a choice,” he said.
“They need to be given a chance to breathe like everyone else in the world.”
Mechanic Anthony Anderson described the boy as “a very nice guy” whom he had tried to persuade to go to school and stay off the street.
He said: “As an older person I just tried to give him fatherly advice, not only him but all the young guys – when I saw them I always tried to give them some fatherly advice at times.”
He added: “He would listen to you, you could sit and talk to him and he would listen.”
In 2018, around a fifth (17%) of homicide victims in London were teenagers, most of whom were stabbed. The youngest were aged 15.
The borough where Jayden died, Waltham Forest, has has been blighted by gang crime, with the local authority ploughing £3 million over the next four years into a prevention programme.
Police patrols were stepped up in the wake of the murder.
Detective Chief Inspector Larry Smith said: “Everything that we have learned about this attack so far indicates it was targeted and intent on lethal force from the outset.
“We are doing everything we can to catch those who carried out this cowardly attack and bring them to justice.”
The leader of Waltham Forest Council, Clare Coghill, called for those with information to come forward, warning that “to stay silent is to support murderers”.
She said: “The death of a child is a loss that no parent or family should ever have to face. Our thoughts are with all of the victim’s family and friends at this difficult time.
“This is a tragedy that will be felt right across our borough in all our communities. These senseless acts of violence must end.
“The murder of a 14-year-old boy is an appalling act and we must come together as a community to bring those responsible to justice.
“There will be members of our community who know, or suspect that they know, what happened to this child. You need to come forward; to stay silent is to support murderers.”