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Britain

New Year stabbings leave four dead as London battles ‘scourge’ of knife violence

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 02 January, 2018, 9:42am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 02 January, 2018, 10:13pm

Four young men were stabbed to death at the turn of the year in London bringing the total number of fatal knife attacks in the capital to 80 in 2017 alone.

The killings – three on New Year’s Eve and a fourth on New Year’s Day – were all unrelated and occurred within a 15-hour period at locations in north, east and south London.

The three deaths on Sunday bring the total number of fatal stabbings in the capital in 2017 to 80, Scotland Yard confirmed. The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, who has struggled to control knife crime during his term so far, said he will “work tirelessly in 2018 and beyond to stamp out this scourge”.

Victims in 2017 included five people stabbed to death in the London Bridge terrorist attack in June, and a police officer stabbed to death in the Westminster terror attack in March.

Last year was already the worst year for deaths of children and teenagers in England and Wales since 2009. As at the end of November, 35 people aged 19 or under in England and Wales had been stabbed to death. It was last higher in 2008 when 42 young people died as a result of an attack with a knife. Two of the victims of the most recent deaths were 18 and 17, while the other two men were both 20.

Last month, Cressida Dick, Britain’s most senior police officer, said extra resources were needed to fight knife crime in the capital, describing her force and all public services as “stretched”.

The first of the most recent spate of attacks was at 11.30am on Sunday when an 18-year-old man was stabbed in Enfield. He died in hospital that evening.

At about 7.30pm, a 20-year-old man was fatally stabbed in West Ham, and at about 10.40pm a 17-year-old boy was stabbed to death in Tulse Hill.

The fourth stabbing happened at 2.30am on Monday, when a 20-year-old man was attacked in Old Street, East London. A second man, aged in his 20s, was taken to hospital with critical stab injuries.

Commander Neil Jerome, of the Met’s territorial policing command, said: “It is heartbreaking that, at a time when so many of us are contemplating what lies ahead in 2018, four families are dealing with the grief of losing a loved one to senseless violence and the callous use of knives as lethal weapons.”

Five men were arrested in connection with the murder in Enfield. There have been no arrests in the other cases.

Alison Cope, whose son Joshua Ribera – a rap artist who performed under the name Depzman – was stabbed to death at the age of 18 four years ago, said the government was not doing enough and was approaching the “epidemic” of knife violence with “token gestures”.

“This will carry on and it will be exactly the same as last year, and the year before,” she said. “We’ll have who knows how many deaths this year.”

Cope, who now campaigns to tackle knife crime, wants more funding and support for programmes that send people affected by knife crime – like herself – into schools and colleges to educate them on the impact.

“The government promotes things that look good to the public – like knife bins, or playing certain type of music in McDonald’s when young people gather, faith-led intervention,” she said. “But they’re all token gestures.

“If you put a poster on a hoarding that says ‘don’t carry a knife’ at no point is a young person who is carrying a weapon going to look at that and think ‘I’m going to change my entire mindset because someone has printed something and put it up there’.”

Cope, whose son was at a memorial tribute at a nightclub in Selly Oak held for a friend who had died a year earlier after being stabbed when he was killed, said you need children to feel something if you want to influence them.

“The only way they’re going to feel is to meet people who have experienced it, lived it, who know what they’re talking about,” she said.

She said her love and thoughts were with the families of those stabbed over New Year’s Eve. “They’re not just headlines. Behind those headlines are mums, dads, grandparents, cousins, sisters, brothers all howling. Police swarming their house, telling them what happens next. Their children in a morgue, in freezers. The next stage will be the arrests, the court process. This is the beginning of a life changed forever.”

Khan launched the high-profile “London needs you alive ” campaign and knife crime strategy after he assumed office as mayor of London in May 2016.

He said: “My thoughts today are with the families of four young men who have tragically been killed in four unrelated stabbings in our city last night.

“The police have today assured me that everything is being done to bring to justice those responsible for these appalling acts of violence. I urge anyone with information to come forward.

“The police were out in force helping people enjoy our city’s fantastic celebrations last night, and I thank them. However, it is horrific that knife crime has claimed another four young lives as the new year begins.

“We will work tirelessly in 2018 and beyond to stamp out this scourge. I want to be absolutely clear – if you use a knife the full force of the law will be brought down on you. You will be caught and prosecuted.”