Family of knife victim Jermaine Cools call for automatic jail term for anyone caught with a blade
The parents of 14-year-old schoolboy say they face a lifetime “existing in pain” as his knife attacker became the first child murderer to be sentenced on television.
Jermaine Cools was rushed to hospital after being stabbed near West Croydonstation in November 2021 but died from his injuries. He was the youngest victim in a record year for teen murders in the capital.
Marques Walker, then 16, was captured on CCTV walking towards Jermaine and stabbing him seven times as he lay defenceless on the ground.
A judge last week lifted legal restrictions on naming Walker in the public interest despite his young age, and on Tuesday his sentencing, where he was jailed for life to serve a minimum of 19 years at the Old Bailey, was broadcast. Judge Sarah Munro KC said she wanted the case to act as a “deterrent”.
Jermaine’s parents Lorraine Dudek and Julius Cools supported the move, saying: “Our family home used to be filled with love, laughter and happiness. It is now just a sad and empty house filled with suffering.
“Jermaine’s bedroom remains untouched and ready for him to come home just as he was supposed to on the night. We don’t live any more, we just exist in pain. When he took Jermaine, he took our lives.”
Jermaine died in a street fight outside a chicken shop near West Croydon train station in south London at about 6.40pm on November 18, 2021.
He was the youngest stab murder victim in London that year, when a post-war record 30 teenagers were killed.
Drill rapper Walker was on court bail for carrying a large zombie knife on a bus six weeks before Jermaine’s death, the Old Bailey heard.
It was the third time he’d been arrested for possessing blades in public, including turning up at school with a fearsome 10-inch Rambo knife in 2020 and having two large weapons in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire the following year.
While on remand at HMP Feltham, a guard found rap lyrics in which Walker mocked Jermaine’s mother Ms Dudek and boasted of leaving the teenager “deceased” and “spleeching”, meaning unable to speak.
He wrote: “We had mummzy grieving. I had mandem looking at his wounds like s*** den I think I’m bleeding.”
Ms Dudek and Mr Cools on Tuesday described their son as “the best child ever”, a “normal teen who wasn’t in a gang”, liked playing computer games and had ambitions of owning a car garage.
The anti-knife campaigners back greater police stop-and-search and called for an automatic jail term for anyone caught with a blade.
Ms Dudek, 36, who works in retail for H&M, said: “A lot of this starts from the home because I trained my child not to walk with a weapon. I never wanted him to be responsible for ending someone’s life. I instilled it into him.”
She added: “As a parent, when Jermaine got stopped and searched, I was never upset. I was happy about it because it reiterated what I told him.”
Ms Dudek slammed inadequate sentencing for juveniles like Walker who no longer fear the courts or police. The youth received a non-custodial sentence for his first knife offence, while the second was dropped.
She said: “It’s something that is increasingly being seen. Young males being caught with knives released back on to the streets to kill somebody. It’s literally like they get caught with a knife, the knife gets confiscated, within an hour they’ve located another knife on Snapchat or social media.”
Mr Cools, 49, a restaurant owner, added: “If that boy had gone to prison, he would never have killed my son.”
Describing his turmoil, he told reporters: “Jermaine was a kid with his whole life ahead of him. I wish it was me, not him.”
Ms Dudek said his bedroom was”now a place where we go and sit to be surrounded by his possessions, smell his scent and think about our happy memories of him.”
Last week Judge Sarah Munro KC lifted legal restrictions on naming Walker despite his young age in the public interest following a successful legal challenge by the media.
During the killing, Walker was seen to repeatedly lunge at Jermaine with a knife, while the victim rolled on the ground frantically trying to avoid being stabbed.
The defendant fled the scene and was captured on CCTV running through the streets of Croydon still carrying the murder weapon.
Two members of the public approached Jermaine, who was bleeding profusely, and helped him into a car which took him to Croydon University Hospital.
Ms Dudek says she is “very grateful” to the pair as others on the night stood around and didn’t help the youngster, revealing: “Without them, my son would have died in the street.”
But Mr Cools does not believe he has seen full justice because people who took part in the fight or later assisted Walker are still at large with “blood on their hands”.
A special post-mortem found Jermaine suffered seven stab wounds to his body – a fatal one to his chest pierced a lung.
Walker went on the run for six weeks from his home in Jennifer Road, Bromley and sofa-surfed with friends.
He was finally arrested when officers looking for another fugitive went to an address and found Walker hiding behind a bed. He gave false name. But on way to the police station, Walker admitted who he was.
On the night of Jermaine’s murder, the killer carried out an iPad Google search for “stabbing London Road Croydon”.
It emerged on Tuesday that while in jail, Walker and others knocked a fellow inmate unconscious by raining kicks to his head and stamped on him during an exercise yard brawl.
Walker was heard to say, “Finish him off” before being pulled away by prison officers last July.
As he was taken back to his cell, Walker glorified in the attack adding: “That’s how you beat someone up”.
Subsequently, the victim required life-saving surgery for a brain injury and Walker who pleaded guilty to Jermaine’s murder also admitted causing grievous bodily harm to the prisoner.
Superintendent Richard Vandenbergh, who led the murder investigation, said it is possible Walker got hold of his weapons online, adding: “He is someone who doesn’t think of the consequences or value life. Walker’s one violent individual.
“He was able to obtain knife after knife.
“Anyone seeing the pictures of those police seized from him in the months leading up to the killing of Jermaine should be concerned that weapons like this seem so readily available to young men.
“These zombie knives are only manufactured to maim and kill.
“It was a horrific event that should never have happened.
“Jermaine was the youngest person to lose their life that year as a result of knife crime. We cannot ignore the fact that children are dying on the streets of London.”