Mother of knife victim Champion Ganda hits out at senseless loss of young black lives to stabbings
PUBLISHED: 07:00 15 December 2017 | UPDATED: 14:15 15 December 2017
Her agony and anger over the loss of young lives is palpable, as the mother of teenage knife victim Champion Ganda speaks to EMMA YOULE in the second of our special series on the far-reaching consequences of knife crime.
Nobody will have thought more about the horrific impact of knife violence and how it can tear lives apart than the mother of Havering teenager Champion Ganda.
Peguy Kato has faced the future without her eldest son since his life was cruelly cut short in a brutal stabbing at the age of only 17.
Champion - described by his mother as “a happy and intelligent boy who was always making jokes” - was knifed 11 times in a shocking daylight attack outside a primary school in Forest Gate in 2013.
The bitter grief of losing a son and brother in such cruel circumstances has penetrated every aspect of the family’s life.
“It changes everything,” said his mum, who lives in Harold Hill. “Everything we do is hard. We are empty and our life is never going to be the same. Even when you have got all your family, you know one person is missing. Every day you see your kids and you think ‘One of them is not here’. You wish you could go back and lock the door, but that is life. He is gone.”
In the years since her son’s killing, Peguy has thought deeply about the causes of knife crime and she is angry over the loss of young lives - and particularly young black lives.
She came to this country in 1998 from her native Congo to escape war and an unsafe political climate in her home country and she speaks with searing honesty about social issues in the UK which she believes have led to young lives becoming cheap.
The grieving mum is angry that her children were taken into care for a short time many years ago after an incident in which she cut her daughter’s hair as a punishment as her own mother had done to her as a child - yet when her son was viciously stabbed to death social workers never once paid a visit to check on the family’s welfare.
She blames social services for removing parents’ power to discipline their children in the way they see fit to set them on the best path in life, and believes that black boys from immigrant families are particularly aware of this.
“After that I felt myself like I’d lost control,” she said of her own encounter with social workers. “Because my daughter she knows that I can’t do anything. Even Champion, he used to take the phone and say ‘We’ll call social services’. The black boys in this country they know they’ve got power with social services. They don’t listen to their parents no more, they’re not even scared of police.”
Champion’s killer, who was aged 17 when he carried out the brutal attack, was jailed for 14 years in March after being cleared of murder but found guilty of manslaughter.
Asked whether she would like to meet her son’s killer, Peguy said: “The only time you can want to meet someone is when the person knows what he’s done. You cannot meet someone who is going to laugh in your face, because they were laughing at me in court.”
She accused the courts of heeding the human rights of offenders who carry out knife crime but not the victims who lose their lives.
And Peguy says prisons should be prisons and not the “holiday homes” she believes they are now “where kids have got a phone, are on YouTube and Facebook, are sending messages to their family anytime they want”.
Only the day before our interview, Champion’s mother came face to face with the reality of another young man dead on the streets of east London.
“Yesterday I went to Upton Park to do my hair and just near Manor Park Station I saw police and they had closed the road,” she said. “I asked why and they said ‘They stabbed some boy’. I’m asking myself why is it like this now. It’s getting so that human life doesn’t have any value.
“What’s Parliament doing? I don’t know if they don’t care because they are black boys who die more, because that’s very wrong. Our kids need to have good life, not be stabbed like animals in the streets.”
The far reaching and devastating impact of Champion’s death hits Peguy at the most mundane times, even in something as simple as preparing a family meal.
“I’m using knives every day to cook for my kids,” she says. “The only time I use it is when I cut chicken or meat, all the rest I use my hands, because I think about my son and the way he has been stabbed. I gave birth to my son. I wanted him to have a good life.”
That love and hope she had for a bright future for her son is now channelled into trying to encourage the wider community to take action to tackle knife violence.
She told the Recorder: “I am willing to go and tell my story to any school and want to help - even one boy, one family.”
If you would like to get in touch with Peguy, contact the Recorder news desk or email firstname.lastname@example.org
FACT FILE: KEY STATISTICS ABOUT KNIFE CRIME
How many teenagers have been killed in London this year?
Police say 24 teenagers have been murdered in London up until November 21 - 18 in stabbings, five in shootings, and one of multiple injuries
Are perpetrators and victims of knife crime in London more likely to be of black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME) groups?
Met Police ethnicity data shows 60 per cent of people charged with a knife crime in 2016-17 were of black, Asian or minority ethnic origin, and 36 per cent were white.
The figures also show 50 percent of victims of knife crime in 2016 were from BAME groups, 47 per cent were of white ethnic origin.
According to Office for National Statistics data, London’s population in 2016 was 59 per cent white and 40 per cent black, Asian or ethnic minority groups.
So statistically, the number of victims and perpetrators of knife crime of BAME ethnic origin is disproportionately high when compared to London population data.
What are habitual knife carriers?
Any individual that has come up at least twice as a suspect for possession of a knife, or a knife injury, in the last two years. This excludes domestic abuse offences.
On June 6 this year the Met Police held records of 758 habitual knife carriers, 203 of these were juveniles under the age of 18
Are knives being carried in schools?
In 2016 the Met Police recorded 85 knife crime offences in schools in London, compared to 71 in 2015 and 67 in 2014.
Police figures also show 299 incidents of possession of knives in schools in 2016, up from 236 in 2015 and 203 in 2014.
Next week, the third of our special of reports focuses on police tackling knife crime and the work of the Met’s specialist Operation Sceptre taskforce.