Mum stands where her son was murdered with simple message to his killer

Khadija Sonko stands at the same spot where her son Yusuf was killed in June 2017
-Credit: (Image: Iain Watts)


On a mild summer's evening in 2017, Yusuf Sonko collapsed to the ground behind a row of shops just off the bustling Lodge Lane.

The 18-year-old had been struck in the head by a single bullet - one of a number fired indiscriminately towards the group of friends he was standing with on Tagus Street, close to where the Tiber Football Centre pitches now stand. By the time his mum Khadija arrived at the scene, Yusuf had been rushed to hospital with catastrophic and ultimately fatal injuries, but a large pool of blood showed where he had spent his final minutes.

Seven years on, Khadija stands again on the same spot where her son was shot. And seven years on, she's no closer to getting justice for his death. Wearing a white t-shirt with her son's face on and clutching a shawl around her shoulders to fight against the cold, the 46-year-old told the ECHO: "It is very difficult for me to come back here.

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"Every time I pass here I am so upset. I will never forget this spot. Where I am standing now is exactly where Yusuf was shot. After he was shot I rushed here, but he was gone. As soon as I got to the hospital Yusuf's blood would not stop. I touched him, I held him. I cried for him. It's hard to bring that memory back."

Detectives investigating the murder believe two offenders were on bicycles when they approached Yusuf and his friends at around 8.30pm on June 2 2017. Khadija told the ECHO Yusuf approached the men and told them to leave, but before he had barely taken two steps one of the gunmen pulled out a 9mm handgun opening fire and pumping five shots towards the crowd including the one that claimed his life. No one else was hit in the drive-by shooting.

Merseyside Police has relentlessly investigated the case but have been unable to charge anyone in connection with the shooting, despite eight arrests and a £20,000 reward for information. One of the biggest hurdles detectives have been faced with is a lack of community information regarding the fateful seconds before and after Yusuf was killed.

Speaking to the ECHO next to graffitied murals and RIP messages dedicated to her son, Khadija said: "The Toxteth community is around us - they still feel the pain in their heart like we do. They are my community and they have supported me since day one, but to really support me, they need to come forward with information and give me justice.

"I am begging them. No justice, no peace. Yusuf would do anything for anyone, but where are those people now? They are still quiet. I am just asking simply for them to put themselves in my shoes. Sometimes I see Yusuf's friends and they hide from me because they know I will confront them. I ask why haven't they spoken?

"People aren't coming forward because they don't want to be called a grass. People talk about being a grass, but this is different. When you kill it is a different story. This is not snitching - this is murder. How can you live with that? It is selfish. You have to be honest and tell. The police will protect you."

Yusuf Sonko's mother Khadija and brother Ismail stand in the area of Lodge Lane in Toxteth where he was killed in 2017
Yusuf Sonko's mother Khadija and brother Ismail stand in the area of Lodge Lane in Toxteth where he was killed in 2017 -Credit:Iain Watts

Yusuf was due to take his last A-level exam just days after he was shot. He wanted to go and study business studies at university. Remembering her son, Khadija said: "Yusuf was so important to me. I have two other sons who I love very much. But I miss having Yusuf in the house.

"He made me laugh, made me smile. He was so nice, lovely, kind and humble. He was tall and handsome. I know everybody loves their child very much, but where is my son now? In the cemetery. Yusuf's death broke our family. I am no longer with my husband. It doesn't get any easier. How can someone kill a child? I couldn't kill a fly, but they pointed a gun at Yusuf and killed him."

Despite the lack of charges in Yusuf's murder case, a man's name was repeatedly linked to the investigation. In the weeks after the shooting, Merseyside Police circulated images of then 22-year-old Toxteth man Jason Curry who was urged to hand himself in for questioning.

Curry was later arrested by Spanish police in the Costa del Sol in late 2020 in connection with an armed robbery. The ECHO revealed last year Curry was released under investigation before being further arrested on suspicion of firearms and drug charges in the Malaga region. Merseyside Police declined to comment on Curry's current status.

Yusuf's death was one of a number of horrific gun murders in Merseyside in 2017. Despite a rise in gun-related fatalities in 2022, which saw the deaths of schoolgirl Olivia Pratt-Korbel, Ashley Dale and Sam Rimmer in the space of a week and Jacqui Rutter and Elle Edwards by the end of the year, firearms discharges have continually fallen since.

Last year marked the lowest number of firearms discharges on Merseyside since records began, with the number of shootings recorded as 22. But for Khadija, who knows more than anyone the devastation that armed crime can have, said the use of weapons on Merseyside's streets is still too high.

Khadija Sonko stands in the area of Lodge Lane in Toxteth where her 18-year-old son Yusuf Sonko was killed in 2017
Khadija Sonko stands in the area of Lodge Lane in Toxteth where her 18-year-old son Yusuf Sonko was killed in 2017 -Credit:Iain Watts

She told the ECHO: "I always advise young men as a mother, listen, why are you doing this? Stay away from guns, stay away from knives, stay away from trouble. I have lost my son. If I tell them Yusuf's name, they get sad.

"I say Yusuf died, settle down, it's not worth it. I will call them over and tell them go and study, go and do something with your life, settled down and get married. I will never forgive the person who shot Yusuf, but I want to meet them. I want to look them in the eye and ask them why they did it."

A Merseyside Police spokesperson told the ECHO: "Our detectives remain convinced there are people living in L8 and beyond who hold vital information that will help us find anyone responsible for Yusuf’s death. We will review any information you share with us so please contact us immediately if you have anything that could help us bring justice for Yusuf’s family."

Anyone who witnessed the incident, was in the area at the time, or has any information is urged to contact us via 101, our social media desk @MerPolCC on Twitter. Alternatively, to stay completely anonymous and be eligible for a reward, contact independent charity Crimestoppers online at Crimestoppers-uk.org and fill in their simple and secure anonymous online form.

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