Two schoolboys were stabbed to death in just over six hours as London’s horrific wave of teenage knife killings continued unabated.
The first to die was a 15-year-old who witnesses said was knifed by at least five youths near a busy bus stop in Woolwich about 5.20pm on Monday. He was reported by one witness to have tried to use an umbrella to fight off his attackers but died at the scene in Woolwich New Road despite efforts by members of the public and ambulance staff to save him.
At least two knives and what appeared to be the umbrella could be seen lying in the street after police sealed off the crime scene.
The second killing happened just before midnight in Oval Place, Lambeth. Police were called to reports of a stabbing of a 16-year-old boy. Neighbours told how two off-duty “hero” nurses battled in vain to save him after he was found slumped at the top of stairs in a block of flats. The boy’s mother was described by witnesses as “wailing uncontrollably” at the scene. London Mayor Sadiq Khan responded by saying he was “heartbroken and appalled” by the latest killings and was “determined to do everything in my power… to put an end to these horrendous crimes”.
The killings, which follow the fatal stabbing of 16-year-old Camron Smith on his doorstep in Croydon last Thursday, take the number of teenage homicides so far this year to 21 — 19 of whom were stabbed.
The total is already well beyond the 15 teenage killings last year and puts the capital on course to record its worst ever total for a calendar year, topping the current peak of 29 teen homicides in 2008.
Met Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick and other senior officers had previously warned of gang tensions igniting after festering during lockdown, with the surge in violence appearing to bear out these fears, despite intensive police efforts to tackle knife crime. On Tuesday, as two more families mourned the loss of a child, detectives appealed for witnesses to both killings.
In Lambeth, a neighbour, 28, said the schoolboy victim had been found in Elsworth House by a resident on his way to a 24-hour gym. The neighbour said: “The guy was banging on my door shouting. He said a boy had been stabbed and he needed to use my phone. I went out and there was the boy, very young, laying with blood splashed all around him. I rang the police and got some towels to try to help stem the blood. Two nurses who live in the block came out to help when they heard the commotion. They gave him CPR and kept him alive until the paramedics came, but I knew when I saw him he would not live.”
He added: “There was no shouting no fight that I heard. It’s a mystery. We don’t know what led up to it — this block is considered very safe.”
Another neighbour said the boy’s mother “was wailing uncontrollably and begging with the police to get to her son. It was awful to see and was like something out of a horror film”.
Another resident added: “I heard a boy screaming ‘help me, help me’. It was horrible. The next thing I knew there were police everywhere and neighbours trying to save him. It was terrible.”
A string of tributes have been paid to the teenage victim, named locally as Keane.
Cameron Edwards Delaney wrote on Facebook: “Such a funny boy you made everyone happy all the time. I wish when I saw you a few weeks ago I hugged you that bit tighter. I can’t believe you’ve been taken from us so young. Rest in peace Keane I love you so much.”
Meanwhile, in Woolwich, video footage showed one apparent passer-by performing chest compressions on the 15-year-old victim in an attempt to save him. Others later held up sheets to shield paramedics as they also tried to treat him.
Another 15-year-old boy was arrested soon afterwards on suspicion of murder after going to hospital for treatment for a knife wound. Witnesses said the killing came when the victim was attacked by a group of at least five who knifed him before sprinting towards a nearby Tesco, which was evacuated by police.
Detective Chief Inspector Perry Benton, of the Met’s Specialist Crime Command, said: “I’m sure people will have mobile phone footage from the scene and, if they believe it could assist our investigation, I would urge them to pass it on to us.”
Witnesses who are yet to speak with police or anyone with information are asked to call 101 ref 8532/05jul.