The family of murdered teenager Jaden Moodie has said he “had absolutely no affiliation with gangs”.
The 14-year-old was rammed off a moped, then repeatedly stabbed 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.
Police, who believe the attack was “targeted and intent on lethal force from the outset”, have found the car thought to have been used by the three men who carried out the attack.
Reading a statement to reporters on Thursday, Jaden’s cousin, Leon Green, said he had a keen interest in bikes, loved sports and was due to start at a boxing academy this month.
Stood next to Jaden’s grieving mother Jada Bailey, he said: “His character was infectious and anyone who met him fell in love with his charm.
“He had a huge heart and would do anything for everyone, especially his family. He will be sincerely missed.
“Jaden was a 14-year-old minor who had his whole life ahead of him, which should never have been viciously taken from him.”
Addressing reports that the murder may have been gang related, Mr Green said: “I would like to stress Jaden had recently moved from Nottingham to London and had absolutely no affiliation with gangs.
“Focus needs to be on the fact that he has been brutally murdered in cold blood and deserves a fair chance at justice as much as anyone else in this situation.”
“If there are people in our streets that are capable of killing a 14-year-old child, then no-one is safe, and they need to be caught and brought to justice.”
Chief Superintendent Richard Tucker has said he could not sleep for thinking about what had happened to such a young boy.
Youth worker Marcellus Baz, who is behind a Nottingham-based youth project called Switch Up, said Jaden and his mother had recently moved to London for a “new start”.
Mr Baz, who said he met the youngster on a street known as a “hotspot for antisocial behaviour and knife crime”, told the BBC he “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 said.
“He looked like he was going to have a new start in London and do something amazing.”
The teenager was knocked off the moped he was riding 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 nearby Carlisle Road area of Leyton, a few hundred metres away, and detectives are treating the discover as a “significant development”.
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.
Jaden’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.
“Jaden 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 Jaden’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.”
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 Jaden died, Waltham Forest, 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.