My murdered son's friends avoid me over fears of being called a grass

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


A mum fighting for justice after her teen son was shot dead claims people in her own community avoid her over fears of being called a grass.

Yusuf Sonko was just 18 when he was 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, off Lodge Lane, on the evening of June 2, 2017. Seven years on, his mum Khadija, 46, still waits for justice.

But speaking to the ECHO earlier this week on the same spot her son died, Khadija called on people in her community to come forward with information as to who killed Yusuf and why.

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She told the ECHO: "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."

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.

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 Sonko, who was shot dead on Tagus Street, Toxteth in June 2017
Yusuf Sonko, who was shot dead on Tagus Street, Toxteth in June 2017 -Credit:Merseyside Police / Sonko family

Merseyside Police Detective Chief Inspector Jason Pye said: "Yusuf’s murder caused devastation in Toxteth and this week his mum Khadija Sonko has filmed an emotional appeal for those who know what happened to come forward. So far, eight arrests have been made and our investigation into Yusuf’s death remains open with a £20,000 reward from the charity Crimestoppers still in place until the gunman is found and brought to justice.

"We are urging those of you who haven’t come forward to please do so now. We know there are names of people being spoken about within the community, but we need eye witnesses to get in contact with the investigation team. If you prefer to stay anonymous or are interested in the reward, please contact Crimestoppers.

"We know that the answers lie within our communities and that some have chosen to stay quiet. Help us bring closure to Yusuf’s devastated family and bring his killer to justice. Whether you witnessed the incident, or feel you have evidence that could help with our investigation, now is the time to speak up.

"Similarly, if you saw groups of young males running in the Lodge Lane area just before 8.30pm on the night of Friday 2 June 2017, or saw two males on pedal bikes in the area before or after, please get in touch. Any information passed on to us will be handled with care and sensitivity, and we can put significant measures in place to protect those who want to do the right thing.

"Please help us give Yusuf’s family the answers they deserve after seven long years by reporting any evidence from that night. If you feel you can’t speak to us then please get in touch with Crimestoppers and give your information totally anonymously."

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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