Another day, another stabbing in London and another teenager who becomes a further statistic to London knife crime figures. Yet inside the world of knife crime, the reality is horrifically shocking and completely heartbreaking and one that no one seems to want to address.
There are now countless families across the capital who have lost their children to this violent pandemic and public health crisis. Families whose lives are torn apart in a brutal act of violence that took literally minutes and yet will live with them eternally. Families who will cease to exist as they do now and become broken and unrepairable.
Three years ago I came across an anti knife crime organisation that dealt with bereaved mums and dads who were desperate to make their voices heard in an uncaring society that turns its head from reality. I vividly remember the day these parents came into my life. I had just finished reporting a council based job in east London when the organiser of these anti knife crime events Lucy, asked me if I wanted to speak with the parents, of course I said yes. Lucy herself, is one of the capital’s most well known anti knife crime campaigners. She is the voice of the many, she is the heart of her community, the person families turn to when they have suffered acts of violence. She is actually one of the most caring and compassionate people who has experienced nothing but hardship herself, yet this has motivated her to be that change for others.
Lucy put me in contact with mothers who had their sons murdered on our streets and so my journey began. I stood outside of a town hall on a July day, and read the emails these mothers had written me. I had no words, but tears that rolled down my face in total sadness.
From that day on wards, I have covered endless anti knife crime events across the capital, including one last Friday 19th of November at City Hall by members of the Croydon community. The event began with a minute silence for 14 year old Jermaine Cools who became another statistic having been stabbed to death on the streets of West Croydon. Please read that again, 14 years old, a child, a school boy.
Lucy put me in touch with Peggy Kato and Suzanne Hedges two mums who lost their sons to knife crime, two mums who made a vast impact in my life and that I am now proud to call my friends.
Peggy Kato from Harold Hill runs All Champion’s Charity, a charity launched in the name of her son Champion Ganda who was murdered on the streets of Newham. He was just 17 years old when he was fatally stabbed. Champion was her eldest son and her heart, he was a young man who loved his mum and was out with his friend when he was killed for no reason what so ever. For people assuming these teenagers are either drug dealers or gang members, most are not and Champion certainly was not.
When she was told by her daughter that Champion had been stabbed and might not make it, Peggy thought it was a nightmare and that of course he would pull through. He had to, he was her eldest. But he didn’t and her life ended that day. She clearly tells you that she did not think the sun would ever rise again and that her life would now be in total darkness.
I have seen Peggy cry endless tears, her pain is unbearable and her heart is broken, yet everyday she fights to stop knife crime and works with many families who have equally experienced her pain. She has become an amazing role model, a inspirational figure across London working with our youth in Champion’s name.
Sue Hedges lost her son Ricky Hayden five years ago when he was stabbed outside of his home in east London. Sue received a phone call in the early hours of the morning to tell her that her son had been stabbed in the leg and arrived to find him in the back of an ambulance. Sadly Ricky lost too much blood and had to have his life support machine turned off, a decision no family ever wants to make.
Since then Sue and her family have had their world shattered and like most other knife crime victims, not received justice thanks to the judicial system.
Sue is a broken lady, everyday she goes out with a smile on her face and helps people in her community as she is a big hearted lady. Yet when she goes home, her heart is broken and her life is now empty. She lives in a nightmare where she hopes to one day wake up and see Ricky in front of her again, but she won’t and her family won’t and that pain will never leave them.
These parents and campaigners are heroes. They fight everyday despite their own pain. Every time they hear of another stabbing, they relive their own heartbreak. They have had to watch their children die on CCTV, they have had to go to court and watch their killers get next to no sentence and receive very little justice. Yet they fight on and on.
Please spare them a thought, do not turn your head away from these horrors they are affecting endless families. Our Government and Mayor do not really care as these crimes do not really impact them and as such they show no caring. But we must as a society. We must come together and help these parents, stand united with them and make our voices heard.
Do not turn your head away from knife crime, support our youth in this battle and remember these parents.
Today, five years ago, Sue buried her son Ricky, let his name, Champion’s name and all the other victims of knife crime be remembered always.