Sitting in his home in the quiet, sun-dappled town of Buff Bay, Jamaica, the grief-stricken father of tragic schoolboy Jaden Moodie is still trying to come to terms with his son’s cold-blooded murder.
Julian Moodie was out shopping when the devastating news arrived on Tuesday, via a phone call, just minutes after 14-year-old Jaden was knocked from his moped by a car on an East
‘Then the pictures came through on my phone,’ says 51-year-old Mr Moodie. ‘And then I passed out. I couldn’t believe it.
‘My ex-wife, Jada, called me and said she was cooking Jaden’s dinner when someone called her. She ran out to the street and saw him on the ground.’
Julian Moodie (left) at home in Jamaica with his sister Rosie (right) speaks about the death of his son Jaden Moodie
Mr Moodie is adamant Jaden’s death was a case of mistaken identity, that his son was a ‘helpful and loving person and not violent’, and that there was never any inclination that he was into ‘wrongdoing’.
‘I was on the phone with him the Friday before it happened and I said to him: “All I want you to do is stay out of trouble and make something of your life.”’
But as disturbing evidence grows that Jaden may have been in thrall to drugs gangs in Waltham Forest where he lived, the Mail can reveal Mr Moodie himself has served time in jail for drugs offences.
He was ensnared in an undercover operation by Essex police in 2008, and in February 2009 was jailed for three-and-a-half years at Basildon Crown Court for dealing crack cocaine.
When he appeared in court, the father-of-six’s claim that he had turned to dealing as a way of ‘earning a living’ for his family held little weight with Judge Alice Robinson, who told him: ‘The supply of drugs is a pernicious trade. It causes untold misery not only to those who are addicted to drugs but to the wider public who suffer as a result of the extensive knock-on effect of the offences.’
Fast-forward ten years and there are alarming signs that the judge’s words have come back to haunt Mr Moodie in the most painful way possible.
Jaden Moodie childhood pictures posted online by sister Leah Green, Jaden is said to be two years old in the picture on the right
Yet, possibly equally painful is the Mail’s discovery this week that, right up until the end of his life, Jaden was at a crossroads, torn between the right and the wrong path and unsure which way to turn.
That afternoon, as he zipped around the streets of Waltham Forest on a moped, Jaden had stopped to chat to volunteers on a charity ‘youth bus’.
The bus, which is operated by the Christian charity Worth Unlimited, is driven to Bickley Road, in Leyton, East London, at the same time, and on the same day, each week, offering support, advice and fun activities as well as a safe haven to youngsters in an area deeply afflicted by gang violence and juvenile delinquency.
This wasn’t the first time Jaden had visited, but on Tuesday he decided not to join the others on board for a few video games. Maybe he took offence at the volunteers’ questioning him riding a moped under-age.
Jaden Moodie (centre) pictured in his school uniform at eight-years-old
He claimed to be 16, but clearly didn’t look it. In any case, at 4.30pm, he was on his way again.
Two hours later, Jaden was knocked from his moped and fatally stabbed in the back seven times. He was just 50 metres from the youth bus when he bled to death.
He had obviously been trying to flee the gang of men who caught and killed him, and attempting to reach the sanctuary of the bus. Two youth workers who had previously chatted to him were among the first on the scene, rushing out with a first-aid kit to help a passing police officer desperately trying to save the boy’s life.
According to the charity, the pair have been left too traumatised to speak about what happened after ‘seeing the boy die in front of them’. But their encounter with Jaden during the last few hours of his life illustrates the extent to which this young teenager was at a crossroads in his life.
Jaden Moodie had previously posted pictures of himself holding bundles of cash on social media
Still very much a child, he was teetering on the periphery of the deadly adult world of drugs and county-lines gangs known to exploit young children.
His grieving mother and siblings can only think of the boy they’ve lost, his infectious character and charm. ‘He had a huge heart and would do anything for everyone, especially his family,’ they said.
But on Facebook and Instagram, Jaden liked to describe himself as a ‘driller’ and a ‘trapper’ — gangland patois for ‘gunman’ and ‘drug mule’. He posted photographs of himself waving bundles of £50 and £20 notes and posing on a moped without number plates.
The teenager (pictured above) had also posted pictures of himself on his moped
Most disturbing of all, the Mail has seen a video posted online of Jaden posing with a gun, suggesting that, at the very least, he admired the gangster lifestyle and, quite possibly, had stepped into it.
Just before Christmas, the teenager was expelled from Heathcote School in Chingford, according to fellow pupils because of something his teachers had seen on social media.
None of this, of course, makes his death any less tragic. For these apparently conflicting descriptions of Jaden as both beloved child and as a youngster who had been lured towards a criminal underworld, are, above all, a sign of how complex a problem Britain’s drugs gangs have become.
According to Worth Unlimited’s operations manager, Matt Perry: ‘These gangs are run by older people who target and recruit school-age children with money. It is a grooming process. We are aware of children who have a lot more money than you would expect them to have access to.’
There were signs too that Jaden desperately wanted to stay on the right path. He harboured dreams of becoming a professional boxer and, according to his family, was due to begin training at a boxing academy next month.
Jaden’s parents, Julian and Jada, met in Jamaica in 1999. Jada was pregnant with Jaden’s elder sister when they moved to the UK.
‘The UK was a beautiful place. I thought it would be a better life for everyone,’ Mr Moodie said.
They married in East London in May 2001, and Jaden was born in Leicester in June 2004.
Much of his early life appears to have been spent in the Arnold area of Nottingham with his mother and siblings.
Jaden Moodie (left and right) was killed when he was rammed off his moped and stabbed
After his father had completed his jail sentence in 2010, he had to return to Jamaica because the UK government told him to leave. ‘It didn’t stop me from having a relationship with my kids,’ Mr Moodie says.
They used to speak reguarly online, and Jaden spent the summer with his father in Jamaica in 2016.
On the modern estate where they lived in a new semi-detached house rented via a local housing association, news of Jaden’s death has been met with shock. One neighbour said Jaden used to walk to school with her and her children. ‘There was never any trouble with him,’ she said.
Until he moved with his mother to London six months ago to be closer to family members, Jaden was a student at Redhill Academy in Arnold.
This week, the school held a special assembly to discuss his death with pupils. Youth worker Marcellus Baz, who works at Nottingham School of Boxing, said Jaden ‘seemed like a really respectable, polite young man that had his life mapped out. He wanted to go down the construction, painting and decorating route.
‘He looked like he was going to have a new start in London. I thought he was going to be one of those kids that will be all right.’
In Waltham Forest, Jaden quickly became popular among his contemporaries. According to one friend he was ‘always smiling’, and another: ‘He was really into his music and he was always having fun. I didn’t know him to be involved with anything.’
London’s crime gangs at war: the map above shows the area of London which have been hit most by gang violence
But clearly there were problems. He attended Heathcote School and Science College in Chingford for only a couple of months before he was excluded. The school was rated as ‘good’ by Ofsted last year.
Waltham Forest Borough Council refused to discuss Jaden’s school record this week, but according to fellow pupils, he was expelled — despite being in the top sets for almost everything — because of activities out of school which teachers had spotted on social media.
One of Jaden’s best friends made clear that the young teenager felt pulled between the right path and the wrong one. ‘I would tell him not to do stuff for the elders but he was stubborn.’
The friend saw Jaden just minutes before he died.
‘He was happy, just normal. He was telling me to come with him but I said no. Then 15 minutes later I heard someone had been stabbed on Bickley Road and I knew it was him,’ he told the Mail.
‘I don’t know why he was killed — I don’t think even Jaden would know.’
Local MP Stella Creasy recently drew attention to links between the deaths of children in gang violence and exclusions from school. She has urged the Government to give more support to vulnerable teenagers to help keep them in full-time education and make them less vulnerable to exploitation by gangs.
MP Stella Creasy (pictured above) had previously highlighted the links between the deaths of children in gang violence and exclusions from school
The Waltham Forest area has been blighted for years by rivalry between two gangs, the Beaumont Crew and the Oliver Close Gang — named after estates in the area. A recent academic study into the OCG revealed that gang leaders can earn around £130,000 a year from the sale of drugs. Teenage dealers, known as ‘shotters’ and ‘trappers’, can earn £500 a week, or £26,000 a year, if they can secure 150 regular customers. The younger they are, the easier they are to control and the less likely to be stopped by police.
Police have yet to make any arrests in relation to Jaden’s death. The stolen black Mercedes B Class used to knock him from his moped was found abandoned in Carlisle Road, Leyton — a road regarded as territory belonging to the Oliver Close Gang.
Jaden’s death comes amid an epidemic of murders in London. In 2018, more than 130 people died on the capital’s streets. Around a fifth of the victims were teenagers, most of whom were stabbed.
In Waltham Forest, the local authority has set aside £3 million to spend over the next four years on a gang crime prevention programme.
Up in Nottingham, youth worker Marcellus Baz, who was awarded the British Empire Medal for his work with youngsters, said Jaden’s murder had made him even more determined to carry on helping those from troubled backgrounds find employment and build normal, crime-free lives.
‘To hear what happened to him is devastating,’ he said. ‘We’ve lost a young boy who had his future ahead of him.’
Matt Perry, operations manager at Worth Unlimited, agrees: ‘Whatever happened in Jaden’s life, he was a child. He was a victim of the failure of the system to protect and support him and his family.’
Back in Jamaica, Julian still remembers his son’s last visit in the summer of 2016, and wishes there was something he could have done to protect him.
‘I begged him to stay off the streets, to try to be somebody, because he had all the opportunities his daddy didn’t have, being born in the UK,’ he says. ‘I tried to talk to him. I tried . . .’