London’s teenage homicide toll could be worst in nearly a decade

·6-min read

The number of violent teenage deaths in London this year could be one of the worst in nearly a decade with two more boys losing their lives in separate stabbings.

So far in the capital in 2021, a total of 21 teenagers have been killed in just over six months, leading to concerns that the grim tally for the whole year will exceed the previous high of 27 in 2017.

This would mean the highest teenage death toll since 2012.

Stabbings graphic
(PA Graphics)

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said he was “heartbroken and appalled” after two boys aged 15 and 16 were killed in separate knife attacks on Monday.

The younger boy died when violence broke out near Woolwich Arsenal station in south-east London just after 5.20pm, while the 16-year-old was found injured in Oval Place in Lambeth shortly before midnight.

Earlier this year, senior police officers expressed concern that violence may rise over the summer months as it did last year when lockdown measures were eased.

The surge in 2020 was put down partly to feuds being played out on social media during coronavirus restrictions, and then spilling out on to the streets.

But this year the number of violent teenage deaths looks set to be far higher than 2020, and potentially the highest in nearly a decade.

Stabbings in London
Police cordoned off a block of shops on Woolwich New Road, Greenwich (PA)

According to figures from City Hall, in 2012 there were nine teenage homicides, 12 in 2013, 13 in 2014, 19 in 2015 and 13 in 2016.

After the peak in 2017, there were 24 such deaths in 2018, 26 in 2019 and 14 in 2020 – although the country was in lockdown for large chunks of that year.

In April this year, police forces across the UK staged a national crackdown on knife crime, deploying knife arches and sniffer dogs in busy areas and encouraging the public to hand in weapons.

At the time, Metropolitan Police Commander Alex Murray told the PA news agency: “We fully expect, as people come back on to the street, and with summer approaching, that people might be tempted to engage in violence, or the ingredients might be there.

“We’ve been spending a lot of the lockdown period preparing and getting ready to suppress as much violence as possible.”

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The latest violence on Monday saw a 16-year-old boy pronounced dead at the scene after being found injured in Oval Place, Lambeth, south London, at around 11.45pm on Monday.

Police officers were at two separate cordons near the scene on Tuesday.

A tarpaulin sheet covered a stairwell at Elworth House, a block of flats just off the main Clapham Road.

Multiple floral tributes and messages were left tied to the railings outside, addressed to “Keane”, and signed by aunts and uncles.

“I’m so sorry you’re gone. We love you so much, rest in perfect peace,” read one, while another said: “Love you with all my heart baby boy, we love you millions.”

“Keano, taken too soon. Sleep tight with the angels,” said another.

Stabbings in London
People arrive to leave flowers in Lambeth, south London (Victoria Jones/PA)

A resident of Elworth House described the incident as “shocking” but “not uncommon”.

“You always have issues here… it’s really bad,” he told PA.

“Unfortunately, as shocking as it is, it’s not uncommon. It’s really sad.”

Another resident, aged 25, said: “I watched that little boy grow up. He was a good boy… he had his own mindset, you know. Bless him.”

A family friend of the victim described him as “nice, friendly, bubbly… a nice character,” and said she had known him all his life.

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In Woolwich, the 15-year-old died after being stabbed in Woolwich New Road shortly after 5.20pm.

Violence erupted in a busy area near Woolwich Arsenal station and pictures on social media showed members of the public holding up sheets to provide privacy as emergency crews tried to save the boy’s life.

Another 15-year-old, who later took himself to hospital suffering from a knife wound, has been arrested on suspicion of murder.

Superintendent Petra Lazar said of the Woolwich incident: “It is shocking and extremely saddening that a teenage boy has lost his life as the result of knife crime.

Stabbings in London
Police at the scene in Oval Place, Lambeth, south London, where a 16-year-old boy died after being stabbed on Monday evening (Victoria Jones/PA)

“My thoughts at this time are with the family of the boy who has died.

“This incident will understandably cause worry and concern to local residents and I would like to reassure them my officers are supporting the murder detectives in every way we can.

“Increased patrols will be carried out in the area over the next few days.”

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Mr Khan said he is in “close contact” with Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick as her officers investigate the stabbings.

He said: “I am heartbroken and appalled by the deaths of two teenagers in our city. Every loss of life leaves a family and a community devastated.

“My thoughts remain with the victims’ family and friends at this extremely difficult time.

“I am determined to do everything in my power to support the police and our communities to put an end to these horrendous crimes and keep our young people safe. This violence has no place in our city. It must stop.

“I am in close contact with the Met Commissioner, and the police are doing everything possible to bring those responsible to justice.”

Commander Alex Murray, the Metropolitan Police’s violence lead, said: “Sadly, London has recently suffered the loss of yet more young lives as a result of senseless violence. The traumatic impact of these crimes on victims’ families, friends, and wider communities remains at the centre of why we do what we do.

“We understand the concern these events will cause, which is why the Met will not stop in our commitment to tackle violence and bring those responsible to justice. We are devoting huge resources into doing everything within our power to minimise violence – it is our priority.”

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