One mother ran across a park to be with her son as he lay dying on the ground, blood pouring from his chest. Another had to explain to her distraught granddaughter that Daddy would never come home; and had to watch a brutal video of her beloved son in his final moments, writhing in agony outside a pub.
Police in the UK recorded 248 murders involving a knife or sharp instrument in the 12 months to September 2020, according to the Ben Kinsella Trust. Most of the victims were young men, with London recording vastly more murders than any other town or city.
And each victim leaves behind a distraught family – including, in most cases, a grieving mother. Today, London's Metropolitan Police has launched a new campaign, in which mothers affected by knife violence beg members of the public to contact the Crimestoppers charity if they have any information that might prevent violence. All calls are anonymous, Crimestoppers say.
Here, three mothers tell their stories.
‘My son told me he wouldn’t make his 21st birthday’
Lorraine Jones, a church minister, was unpacking shopping at her home in Brixton on 25th Feb 2014, when two young people knocked on her door and told her that her 20-year-old son, Dwayne Simpson, had been stabbed in a nearby park. She ran to the park, where she found Dwayne lying on the ground, his chest open, surrounded by paramedics.
“He got one jab wound – it was a sword that went right through my son's heart,” she remembers now.
Dwayne was a “caring, soft-hearted” child who loved dancing and drama. But he was left devastated by his parents’ divorce, and started skipping school. At 15, he was caught acting as a look-out boy for some older boys during a robbery, and was sentenced to two years in prison.
After getting out, he told his mother there were no options for young men on the Angell Town estate, where they lived. He set up a boxing club, where he was a mentor to about 30 young men from difficult backgrounds. But still, he was frightened by the violence, and told his mother he didn’t expect to see his 21st birthday.
His dark prediction proved correct later that year, when Dwayne was driving along Brixton Road and noticed an attacker chasing a friend of his. He stopped the car and intervened; the attacker stabbed Dwayne once through his chest. He died in King’s College Hospital two days later.
“You might think that it can never happen to you,” Lorraine says. “I've been serving my community since the age of 16, I was doing all the right things and I didn't think this could happen to me.”
Attacker Rio Julienne-Clarke later received 12 years in prison for manslaughter.
"Everyone needs to be conscious and just make that call [to Crimestoppers Anonymous]. You're not just protecting yourself – you're protecting our society from this wall of violence.”
‘My son was murdered in a revenge attack on the wrong man’
Jean Foster’s son, Christopher, was enjoying a drink with a friend outside a pub one Friday evening in 2013. A group of seven men approached the pub on Borough High Street, central London, their faces covered by scarves. They were looking for revenge against a different man who they believed had attacked one of their cousins a few months earlier. They mistakenly identified Christopher, 34, a single father to a four-year-old girl. In single file, the seven men approached Christopher from behind, before one plunged a 14-inch blade into his back.
CCTV from the pub captured Christopher’s final moments as he writhed on the ground “in agony”, says Jean (pictured at the top of this article), who later had to watch the video so she could give permission for it to be used in a BBC documentary. “They just ran on as if he was nothing. Well, my son is something. My son was an angel, working hard as a single parent contributing to life. I brought him up to be accountable for his actions, and he was."
Paramedics took him to the Royal London Hospital, where he died a few hours later. Within 10 days, Jean was in court fighting for custody of her granddaughter (which was granted).
Knifeman Aytach Lisani pleaded guilty to murder, and was sentenced to a minimum of 23 years. Another three men were convicted of conspiracy to cause grievous bodily harm (GBH), and each received between six years and seven and a half years.
“Can you imagine telling a four-year-old that … she’s lost the only parent in her life? I can assure you the screams from her when I told her were horrendous. She still has a picture of him up on the window now, at 11 years old. She is living the sentence.”
‘My son was the perfect teenager’
Becky Beston remembers her son, Archie, as “forever 19” – his age when he was attacked by a habitual knife carrier while walking to his car with another teenager in Kingston, southwest London, in the early hours of Feb 29 last year. The former youth footballer died in hospital six days later.
She was always close with her son; they holidayed in Ibiza, and even worked together at a Marks & Spencers.
“He [was] the most perfect teenager you could have ever asked for," Beston says. "I never had one day's worth of trouble with my son. We never worried about [Archie being stabbed], because it wasn't part of our world. He didn't hang around in places that any of this sort of thing happened. And he had his wits about him.”
Tyrone Bryan, 20, was jailed for 19 years for manslaughter. He was also sentenced to three years for GBH for stabbing the other teenager Archie was with; and 18 months for possessing an offensive weapon. His accomplice, Finlay Ahwan, was convicted of GBH and dangerous driving.
It emerged after the trial that a murder charge against Ahwan was discontinued in July 2019, after he was accused of stabbing a 22-year-old to death in a brawl on a nearby estate.
Beston now urges members of the public to contact Crimestoppers if they have information that might prevent violence, and wants tougher sentences for those caught carrying knives. "We're coming out of the coronavirus pandemic, [but] this pandemic of knife crime in London is rife. And we need to stop it. We need zero tolerance."
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