Described by his mum as a ‘lovely lad’, a 17-year-old killer’s behaviour spiralled out of control from long before being found guilty of the manslaughter of 16-year-old Dylan Holliday on August 5 last year.
The teenager, who cannot be named for legal reasons, grew up in Wellingborough, the same town as his victim, but by the time he was 12 his mum was worried.
She had raised him with help from her mum, his dad was not involved with his son until later, a reunion that would later give the teenager nightmares.
Kettering floods in pictures
East Midlands Railway warns of delays and cancellations at Corby, Kettering and Wellingborough after person hit by train
Flooding hits Kettering homes as heatwave ends with torrential rain
Northamptonshire care home rated inadequate for third consecutive time
Corby man becomes one of first to be convicted under new strangling law
As a boy he had attended a primary school in the town and then transferred to secondary school in 2015 where he initially enjoyed his time, preferring football to academic studies.
His mum was studying at university and although he liked his childminder, he said he found it hard when he saw his mum ‘struggling’.
It was at the age of 11 that he started skipping school, hanging around with a new crowd of older boys and young men in their late teens.
They became his new friend group and ‘looked after’ him, sometimes buying him new clothes, but in return for their friendship they asked him to stash drugs and weapons in his house for them.
Little did he know that his new ‘friends’ were members of the notorious Wellingborough drugs gang ‘The Real Untouchables’ aka TRU. Grooming youngsters to run drugs, hold weapons and deal.
Now mixed up with TRU, in 2016, his involvement meant his home became a target.
That summer, when still only 12, he was attacked in the street – stabbed in his left arm. He didn’t tell his mum or the police or any adult, instead a friend bandaged the wound.
After the stabbing he made the choice to carry a knife ‘for protection’. First of all he took knives from his mum’s kitchen. When she asked where they were, he lied. Later he invested in knives that he kept under his pillow.
Desperate to stop his anti-social behaviour, his mum told him to stay away from the Queensway estate but he ignored her pleas.
By the end of 2017 he admitted he was ‘behaving badly’ and the following year was ‘angry’ when one of his 14-year-old friends was shot by three men in Minerva Way - a boy just one year older than him. But he also admitted later that he was scared of getting shot but he didn’t tell anyone at the time. He said later ‘Even at 13, I knew how wrong it was to carry a knife.’
After begging for help for her son, social services got involved. In March 2018 he was found at home with cannabis and a large knife. He later admitted he was ‘out of control’ and, at the end of her tether, his mum sent him to live with his father.
At first he settled down to life - he thought he was only staying a week - but he was there to keep out of trouble under his dad’s watchful eye.
It only became apparent things hadn’t gone to plan when his mum got a message from a relative saying to come and get him.
The boy had started out going to school and enjoying his time but his father, a heavy cannabis user, didn’t cook for them and would disappear for days on end. Left with no food or drink he resorted to cooking for himself - badly burning his arm.
The neglect and violence continued. His dad beat him, once thrashing him with a belt and another with the flat of a machete that nicked his arm.
He witnessed his father swing the blade at a visitor to their home. The incident left him with flashbacks. Moving in with another relative improved matters briefly until that relationship broke down.
Returning to Wellingborough with good intentions, after three weeks of staying at home, he returned to his old life.
He was receiving death threats from known drug dealers who even approached him and his mum in a school car park when she had to lock the doors and drive off - the dealer shouting this threat - ‘I’m going to f***ing kill you’.
His behaviour became worse with the police becoming involved. In September 2020, the boy stole bikes from two boys, threatening and punching one of them. In November he was caught on CCTV throwing a machete over a fence and pleaded guilty.
A fateful encounter brought him face to face with Dylan, the boy he would later kill, in an alleyway behind a Wellingborough primary school. The future killer denied putting a knife to Dylan’s throat but at the end of the meeting Dylan and his friend’s bikes had been stolen - the same friend who would flee the underpass on the day of Dylan’s death, a drug gang-involved mutual friend of the killer. The bikes were returned after the pair smoked weed and made up.
In January 2021, the killer was walking along a residential street in Wellingborough when someone drove past and fired shots at him - only blanks - that shook him up. He would wake up crying but he wouldn't tell his mum what was going on in his life although she could hear his sobs.
When he was found by social workers with drugs paraphernalia, drugs, money and weapons in his bedroom, his mum couldn’t stand it any longer. In March 2021, he was placed into the care of Northamptonshire Children's Trust and moved into a residential unit out of the county supervised by care workers – but not so closely as he was able to buy a knife in the city he’d moved to.
While there, he formed a good relationship with a social worker who he could talk to and even spoke of plans to resume his education. She had talked to him several times about the dangers of carrying knives but he still went to buy the lethal weapon.
A visit to his nan’s home in Wellingborough on August 5 would change everything.
On August 5, he was driven there accompanied by two carers, a knife he had bought for £25 concealed in the right hand side waistband of his jogging bottoms. He was wearing a hat and a ski mask and wore a coat as it was cold and had been raining.
He spent some time with his nan but at about 5pm he organised to meet a friend, his co-accused. Eventually they made their way from the town centre to the Queensway estate where the killer wanted to buy cannabis. He asked some acquaintances who were smoking crack in some bushes outside Glamis Hall and were pointed in the direction of the underpass - where Dylan Holliday and another two boys were ‘chilling and relaxing’.
Less than 15 minutes later Dylan Holliday lay motionless, without a pulse, in rough ground where he had run to after being stabbed 13 times.
Dylan’s companion had also been stabbed and cycled home - he had a punctured lung.
The killer said when cross-examined: “I feel really bad that someone lost their life. I didn’t know that I had hurt Dylan - I didn’t know something dreadful had happened.”
Parents urged to be aware of county lines grooming signs
Last month, Northants Police sent out a warning to parents how to spot if children as young as 10-years-old are being drawn into drugs gangs working in the county.
Chief Inspector Pete Basham said: “ We really want parents and guardians to make sure they know where their children are and who they’re spending time with, to help prevent them becoming involved in criminal activity.
“We know children as young as 10 are drawn into the world of serious and organised crime, as they are befriended by county lines gang members who ask them to carry and run their drugs.
“We know that young children are groomed into joining gangs with gifts and attention from those high up in the gang hierarchy, however they can quickly become involved in a dangerous world which is then difficult to get out of.
“We’re asking parents to familiarise themselves with the signs to look out for and urge them to contact us if they have any concerns about what they may be involved with.”
A young person who is involved in county lines activity might exhibit some of these signs:
- Persistently going missing from school or home, or being out of area
- Suddenly have access to money, clothes, or mobile phones
- Excessive receipt of phone calls and messages
- Suspicion of self-harm, physical assault, or unexplained injuries
- Significant decline in school performance
- Significant change in emotional wellbeing