Throughout February, we’re telling the story of the 21 teenagers who were murdered in 2023. Our campaign, The 21, seeks to remember every victim as a young person with a family and their whole life ahead of them. We want to change the culture of kids carrying knives and becoming involved in violence.

This January marked seven years since a beloved son was stabbed to death as he left school to go home.

Quamari Serunkuma Barnes was only 15 when he stepped out of the gates of Capital City Academy, in Doyle Gardens, Willesden, on January 23, 2017, for what would be the last time.

He was chased and stabbed three times by another boy his own age in front of dozens of terrified schoolchildren.

Lillian Serunkuma, his mother, and his father Paul Barnes, were thrown into grief. Their "wise" son, who loved and cared for his nephews and nieces, who was incredibly popular and fun, was now gone.

His mother believes that in the years since, little has been done to address the cause of killings among young people. She speaks of services being cut, but despite countless discussions and much good will, almost no firm actions.

Even so, she is still prepared to keep trying.

"As a mum it's very disheartening sometimes when you realise you're still having to read about parents going through the exact same thing you've gone through and there's still no resolution as such," said Lillian.

"For me, this is why I'm always open to talking about it, as much as can be said on the subject, even if it means I have to come out of my comfort zone, I always will."

Romford Recorder: Quamari Serunkuma Barnes loved music, particularly Bob Marley, before his untimely deathQuamari Serunkuma Barnes loved music, particularly Bob Marley, before his untimely death (Image: Lillian Serunkuma)

Unlike many young people who are stabbed or killed, Quamari was not a gang member or linked to any illegal behaviour.

Lillian continues to be grateful for the support the family received from the community and the understanding they received from the media about this.

She said: "We lived in an area that obviously was affected but at the same time who we are as a family and the morals that we stand for, I was just glad the media picked up on that.

"They knew he was not a member of a gang, he was not someone who went out there or did anything bad.

"At the same time, losing a child, whether your child is in involved in gang activities or not, it's still the same pain."

While Quamari did not fit the stereotype of the victim, her son's killer was under local authority care and "red flags" pointing to a problem were ignored. 

She admits she still wonders how he could be on the radar but not properly monitored, but says she has never sought simply to hold people to blame.

She added: "If we counteract failings with arguments it doesn't fix the problem, so working with them to understand where the failings were was always at the top of my priority list.

"I'm thankful I'm not a reactive person. Time shows you a lot of things you didn't see in the beginning."

"It's sad we're still having this conversation how many years down the line.

"I meet parents who lost kids 15 years ago, 20 years ago and we're still having the same conversations about safeguarding young people."

Lillian believes the solution is education - how children are taught, whether it touches their cultural background or raises their self esteem.

Despite a lot of talk, she does not believe that the police or community have a handle on youth homicide, with services that need investment instead getting the opposite.

"I do believe everyone has good intentions and there's a lot of discussion around the subject," she said.

"At the beginning I went to a lot of meetings, consulted with a lot of different youth organisations, sat on panel hearings, spoke to the Mayor, deputy Mayor.

Romford Recorder: Quamari Serunkuma Barnes was a shining star in his family - and the community's - eyesQuamari Serunkuma Barnes was a shining star in his family - and the community's - eyes (Image: Lillian Serunkuma)

"It's a bit sad to think that something that affects predominately young people in London is discussed but never actioned. There's never a lot implemented, especially with a lot of services cut for young people, it almost seems like it feeds into each other."

Nonetheless, she continues to speak at police functions, and also works to build the liaison between victims' families and the police.

She also believes there should be better education and better psychological and trauma training for police officers.

"I'm very much invested in building that trust between the police and the community," she added.

"When we're dealing with a lot of pain and we've lost someone, we have to rely on that service, and improving that service is important to me."

"When an incident happens a lot of people are affected. The services that go around that are non-existent.

Any work Lillian does now is based around policy and procedure, as she says "just talking about it doesn't get anything done".

She believes that by intervening in the right places, young people can be diverted away from crime and bad choices.

She added: "Celebrate the good young people are doing in the community while not forgetting the ones who need additional help. 

"Children are not born evil. It's based on the environmental things that happen to them. 

"If you can make a difference in their environment that's a little bit of a way of dealing with the problem."