As part of the ELL series on gangs, Marianna Manson compares rates of knife crime injuries across London, focusing on some of the victims who have died in the ELL area.
East London has some of the highest rates of non-fatal and fatal stab victims, along with Haringey and Lambeth in the North and South respectively – forming what the police call a North/South corridor of gang crime.
Although the majority of violent knife crime has not resulted in murder, the number of fatal attacks across Lewisham, Croydon, Hackney and Tower Hamlets is a startling indicator of how gang crime, unchecked, can affect the community. The pictures below represent a small selection of the young men who have tragically lost their lives over the past decade. East London Lines looks at some of the stories of knife crime victims from the ELL boroughs and explores the human faces behind the stats.
- Shaquille Smith, 14, 30/08/2008, St Thomas’ Place, Hackney.
Died of blood loss in hospital the following morning, after being stabbed in the stomach at around 11pm that night. The altercation was claimed to have been the result of members of youth gang ‘London Fields Boys’ associating Shaquille with one of their rivals.
His sister, 16-year-old Tahira, also suffered knife wounds in the attack but was able to recover in hospital. Their mother, Sandra Maitland, said:
“He had a unique character and common touch that would have both taken him to the top and maintained him in that position. There is so much that can be said about Shaquille but it would take a book to cover his short time he spent on this earth.”
- Marcel Addai, 17, 04/09/2015, St Johns Estate off Pitfield Street, Hoxton.
Pronounced dead at the scene after 15 stab wounds to his chest and back , puncturing his heart and lungs. The prosecution claimed he was a member of the Hoxton Boys gang, and the attack was because of a rivalry with the Fellows Court Gang.
In the following weeks flowers, cards and candles were lain on the estate where the murder took place. His mother wrote in one card, “To my dear Marcel, no one can express the sorrow we feel that you are not here.” One neighbour described him as simply “a good boy who had fallen in with the wrong crowd.”
- Jeremie Malenge, 17, 06/01/2015, Ponsford Street, off Homerton High Street.
Jeremie was reportedly chased through Hackney by a group of youths and pronounced dead at the scene after suffering stab wounds to his chest and a fatal injury to the heart. The attack was caught on CCTV, which shows three youths pinning Jeremie to the ground in a ‘fast and furious’ assault. He had moved with his family to Britain from the Demographic Republic of Congo in 2004. In a statement read in court, his father said, “As Jeremie’s dad I feel that there is a massive hole in my heart since my lovely son was sadly murdered. In my opinion, the way the people killed Jeremie is the same as the atrocities of the innocent people in Somalia, Nigeria and Syria. I brought Jeremie to the UK for a better life, and now he has been murdered on the streets of London.”
- Ajmol Alom, 16, 12/08/2013, Spey Street, near Langdon Park, Canary Wharf.
Ajmol was pronounced dead at the hospital at about 10pm, with the post mortem citing a stab wound to the thigh as the cause. Reports claim that four hooded males assaulted him, an attack which was later claimed by the judge to be ‘very much a joint enterprise.’ Just days after his murder, Ajmol received a string of A*’s in his GCSE results. His mother, Rohima Khaun, had witnessed the attack from the window of their second floor flat. He was a star pupil, who had been selected to represent Tower Hamlets in a conflict resolution project with teenagers in Northern Ireland, and his headmaster, Chris Dunne, said, “On a personal level, this is absolutely devastating news. He was such a kind and gentle young man and will be greatly missed, not just as a pupil but as a young man of outstanding promise.”
- Isschan Nicholls, 18, 13/01/2010, Parnell Road in Bow, near Victoria Park.
Isschan died in hospital two days after the attack, the result of six stab wounds to his lower back and thigh. He and four friends had travelled from their home in the Isle of Dogs with the express purpose of engaging in territorial gang violence, jurors were told.
Friends of Isschan claim that he wasn’t in a gang but “knew a lot of people who were – they would say he was family.” The friend, who wanted to remain anonymous, continued: “They knew him because they liked his music. He was a good person. He was into music, rapping… He was very popular, it’s pretty scary. It’s hard to take in he is gone after all these years. All this crime needs to stop… It’s too much.”
- Joel Adesina, 15, 05/12/2014, Padbury Court, in Bethnal Green in the west of Tower Hamlets.
He died in hospital two days after the attack following serious stab wounds to the abdomen and liver. In another case of what was thought to be a joint enterprise crime, Joel was followed by a group of youths in a car before being stabbed.
Joel was a promising young footballer, whose neighbours described him as an ‘ambitious schoolboy who came from a hardworking family’. Ricky Downes, the manager of Joel’s football club Bardag FC Yellows, said, “To say that myself and the club are devastated is an understatement, we are absolutely in bits. Joel was a wonderful young lad who had the world at his feet. He was a very talented footballer and had ambitions of playing professionally. I think he had a future in the sport and could have played for a living.”
- Kevin Ssali, 14, 15/09/2012, on the 202 through Lee, travelling toward Blackheath.
Collapsed on the street just off the bus after being stabbed on the top deck. CCTV footage captures Kevin’s attacker board the bus and head upstairs, in an assault which lasted just 5 seconds The altercation was thought the be the result of long standing rivalry between two groups of youths. Flowers were laid by his family and friends at the bus stop where the incident took place. A note from his mother called him ‘an angel’ and his father also left a note, thanking people for their various tributes.
- Shaquan Fearon, 17, 03/09/2015, Spalding House Estate, Brockley.
Postmortem stated the cause of death as a stab-wound to the leg, following a fight between him and two suspects who cannot be identified because of their age. They were charged with murder on January 26th of this year, but were discharged after the jury failed to reach a verdict.
Another promising young footballer, Shaquan’s club Hillyfielders FC posted ‘touching tributes’ to him after his death, to raise money for his funeral. The clubs Facebook page said, “We celebrate goals scored, cups won and shields lost. It is therefore with great sadness that we must offer out deepest sympathy to the family and friends of Shaquan Mario Fearon, whose untimely death has shocked us all,” and went on to call him a ‘valued and respected’ member of the team.
- James Hunter, 18, 31/05/2014, Wells Park Road in Sydenham.
Pronounced dead at the scene after a fatal stab wound to his chest; his friend, Ezekiel Andrews, was also injured but was taken to hospital in a stable condition and was able to recover. The altercation was thought to be the result of an ongoing feud between the two boys and five other South East London teenagers. Witnesses claim that James had been simply trying to shield Ezekiel from the attack, and his bravery had cost him his life. Friends paid tribute to him after his death as ‘a popular, funny smart guy who was always smiling.’ A school friend of James at St Matthew Academy in Blackheath said, “We used to joke about with him. He was always someone you could talk to – he was very friendly and we’re all going to miss him.”
- Wesley Sterling, 16, 18/04/2010, near the Croydon Sports Arena in Woodside.
Sterling had been an invited guest at the 16th birthday party in the sports hall. His attacker, a 27 year old man, had armed himself with a knife after he and his gang had tried to gatecrash the party and been refused entry.
Wesley was the sixth teenager to be stabbed in 2010, marking the beginning of the upsurge in youth knife crime which has more or less continued to the current day. A huge crowd of mourners, mostly youths in black hoodies, gathered outside the sports hall in the immediate aftermath of his death, but none would comment on the previous night’s events. Flowers and balloons were also lain at the site.
- Shakilus Townsend, 16, 03/07/2008, Beulah Crescent in Thornton Heath.
Shakilus was lead to his death by his girlfriend after she agreed to act as a ‘honey-trap’ for a member of notorious South London street gang ‘Shine My Nine’, who she had also been seeing. The girl lead Shakilus to a quiet cul-de-sac, where he was beaten with a baseball bat by the gang and died from a stab wound to the chest. An online memorial was set up for Shakilus following his murder, where friends and family can pay tribute to him. Mourners have been regularly posting on the page on the successive anniversaries of his death. One friend wrote, in 2014: “My boy, my certified rider… Still don’t make sense, still can’t believe they all took you. You were so real and special, so young, and had your whole life ahead to shape and become a man.”
- Oliver Kingonzila, 19, 12/09/2008, E Bar in South End, Croydon.
Oliver had already stopped breathing by the time paramedics arrived at the bar immediately following the attack, after suffering eight stab wounds, including three to his head and neck, severing the carotid artery. He had been caught up in a fight between his brother and a rival youth, after tensions rose over a girl they had both been seeing. Oliver had also been a talented footballer, who played for Barnet FC and had a reasonably high professional profile. The clubs manager, Paul Fairclough, said at the time, “he was a talented player and a pleasant, unassuming young man, like a big teddy bear. A real gentle giant apart from when he was on the pitch.” His sister Elodie, 22, added, “Oliver was outgoing, always smiling. He got on well with everybody and had a bright future. He was a lovely, open person.”
Reporting team: Tara Dein, Annie Gouk, Henry Longden, and Marianna Manson
Read the other articles in this series here: