England footballer Rio Ferdinand hopes his personal plea might help find the killers of a young player who was shot dead as he looked forward to joining Pompey.
The Manchester United star is the best friend of the elder brother of 18-year-old murder victim Rio McFarlane, who was the innocent victim of a drive-by gangland shooting in Peckham, south London, last September.
Ferdinand has released a video on YouTube urging people to help police break through a wall of silence surrounding the tragedy, in which the teenager was killed by a bullet intended for someone else.
He said: ‘People need to be brave and tell police who murdered him. It’s not grassing someone up, it’s giving a family justice.’
It is believed that as many as a dozen people witnessed the murder but refused to make statements to police because of fears of reprisals.
Rio’s brother Anthony, 31, said: ‘ He had nothing to do with gangs.
‘I grew up with Rio Ferdinand and he contacted me straight away after it happened. He came straight round the family home, he saw my parents, my grandmother.’
Rio McFarlane, who was studying sports science at Haberdashers’ Aske’s Knights Academy in Bromley, had trials with Arsenal and Blackpool and most recently Cambridge United reserves.
Rio McFarlane’s father said: ‘He had his whole life ahead of him. He was a good boy and had no connections to gangs. He was just about to sign for Portsmouth. He was going places with football, going places with college.’
Rio was studying sports science at Haberdashers’ Aske’s Knights Academy in Bromley, He had previously had trials with Arsenal, Blackpool and Cambridge United.
Other family friends who have pledged their support include former Pompey star Nigel Quashie, now with MK Dons.