Four stabbing deaths in a fortnight, as concerns raised over rise in knife crime

Damien Gayle
Cressida Dick (centre), the new head of the Metropolitan police, has made tackling gun and knife crime a central main theme of her commissionership. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA

Since we last updated you on the Beyond the Blade project, two weeks ago, four more young people have been stabbed to death. The latest to die, a 17-year-old boy, was attacked in the street in Battersea, south-west London, at about 1.25am on Sunday and died in hospital. The number of young people killed by knives across the country in 2017 now stands at 14.

These most recent knife killings have conformed closely to the stereotype of youth violence. All have occurred in cities, and all the victims have been male and in their late teens. Three of the four have been in London.

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Jordan Wright, 19, from Catford, south-east London, was with a group of friends at a sports field in nearby Blackheath at about 8pm last Wednesday when he was attacked. Off-duty doctors who lived nearby tried to save his life but he was pronounced dead after being taken to hospital.

Matthew Rothery, 18, from Nottingham, was found stabbed in the early hours of Good Friday. Nathan Towsey, 20, has been charged with his murder.

Abdullahi Tarabi, 19, who was stabbed in Northolt, west London, a fortnight ago, was mourned by young men who laid flowers and poured brandy on the ground near where he fell. A 16-year-old and a 17-year-old, neither of whom can be named, have been charged with murder.

The news currently is dominated by the snap general election. But violent crime – and knife crime in particular – remains high on the agenda. New figures from the Metropolitan police show steep increases in gun and knife crime in London in the last year; Cressida Dick, the new Met police commissioner, has said that they will “mark out [her] commissionership”.

“I’m not sure that we can be certain it’s a trend,” she told Radio 4’s Today programme. “But if it is that gun crime and knife crime is going up then that’s of huge concern to me and it will mark out my commissionership, trying to bear down on violence in general and those two crimes in particular.”

Speaking later to reporters at a south London police station, Dick said she wanted “more outrage” across the capital about the fact that many young people feel it necessary to carry knives. She also in effect rejected the notion that the reason might be because they felt police could not protect them. “The root problems behind why people might be carrying knives go way beyond the police service,” she said. “I think this will be one of the themes of my commissionership. I won’t have the police service as the place where all of society’s ills are laid out and blamed on us.”

There have been several developments in the cases we have covered so far. Leeds crown court on Wednesday held a pre-trial hearing for the 15-year-old girl accused of murdering Katie Rough, seven, from York, who was the first youngster killed with a knife in 2017. The teenager, who cannot be identified, was not present for the 40-minute hearing. The full trial is due to begin in July.

In Dinnington, the Yorkshire town where Leonne Weeks, 16, was stabbed to death in January, thousands of residents have signed a petition calling for a police station that was closed 12 months ago to be reopened. The death of Weeks, and that of 47-year-old Steven Fretwell in nearby Laughton a month earlier, has shocked the local community. Tim Wells, who started the petition, told local paper the Star that the lack of police presence had made some residents too afraid to go out at night.

At the Guardian, we continue to look into the deaths, as well as the wider issues. Some police forces appear to have got to grips with knife crime, and we will be looking at their successes. We will also be talking to those whose job it is to save the lives of stabbing victims, and exploring possible factors behind the recent rise in violent crime in London.

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