Revealed: Youth knife crime in Havering is soaring, it's time to act say bereaved families
PUBLISHED: 07:00 08 December 2017 | UPDATED: 14:19 08 December 2017
Two grieving families say enough is enough as BETH WYATT and EMMA YOULE report on the devastating consequences of rising knife crime in Havering, in the first of a special series of reports
It is hard to imagine the bitter pain of losing a loved one to a knife attack.
But today, as the Recorder launches a special series focusing on knife crime, two families have spoken of the far-reaching impacts on their lives as they call for tough action to end rising knife violence.
It comes as the Recorder can reveal knife attacks on under 25s in Havering have soared by 29 per cent in the last year.
The mother of knife victim Ricky Hayden has called for tougher sentences and increased use of stop and search, as she told the Recorder: “We didn’t get justice.”
And almost two years after his uncle’s murder, the nephew of Aiden O’Mahony has asked: “Why are people still going around carrying knives? Why can’t the police have more powers to do something about it.”
Ricky’s family are facing their second Christmas without him and their grief is still raw.
The popular 27-year-old bouncer, who worked at Kosho nightclub in Romford, was stabbed outside his home in Chadwell Heath in September last year.
Ricky, his dad and brother had gone outside to confront two teenagers they thought were trying to steal his brother’s moped and Ricky was knifed in a senseless attack.
A 20-year-old from Chadwell Heath was found not guilty of murder but convicted of manslaughter earlier this year. He was sentenced to 14 years in prison. A second man was acquitted.
Since the trial Ricky’s family have been vocal about their disappointment and what they feel are inadequate punishments doled out by the courts to those in possession of knives.
“We didn’t get the justice we wanted,” said his mum Suzanne Hedges, 50. “People say ‘do preventative things in schools’, but unfortunately the crime doesn’t just start like that; it starts with drugs, carrying the knife for protection, gangs. If a person goes down that route no one can stop them.”
His mum and sister are thankful to the police who worked on Ricky’s case, but believe officers need more powers and must take full advantage of stop and search.
This time of year is inevitably painful for the family, who regularly visit Ricky’s memorial bench.
“Ricky was such a family person, every Friday we go round to my nan’s for dinner, and he loved Christmas, fireworks, birthdays, he got involved in everything,” said his sister April Hayden, 23. “He used to make everyone giggle and now he’s not here. It’s like everyone’s waiting for Ricky to walk in the door.
“Some days I wake up and don’t want to get out of bed. It still doesn’t get to me that he’s actually gone. He was a dad to my son, best brother in the world.”
The day-to-day sense of loss is echoed by Martin O’Sullivan.
Pubs were once comfortable haunts for him, places where he watched football with his uncle Aiden O’Mahony every Sunday afternoon.
But almost two years after Aiden was stabbed to death at JJ Moon’s in Hornchurch, he cannot step inside a pub without thinking of the day that irrevocably changed his family.
Aiden - known to friends as Oggy - was watching an FA Cup match with friends in January last year when a commotion broke out and he was attacked with a kitchen knife while trying to intervene.
The 60-year-old from Cranham died in hospital.
“It tore our family apart,” said his nephew. “It was Aiden being Aiden, trying to help somebody out - which he would always do - and unfortunately he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. There’s a big, big void in our family.”
Aiden’s killer, a 32-year-old from Hornchurch, was jailed for a minimum of 23 years in January.
The pain of his uncle’s passing worsened when Martin heard that Ricky Hayden had also been stabbed to death, as he was a casual acquaintance of the nightclub bouncer.
“Three or four times a week I’d have a chat with him, he was as daft as a brush, but a very lovely character, a nice guy, he always said hello and would make sure people were alright,” he said. “It brought it all back massively. I felt upset, annoyed, angry as to why it was still happening.”
Possession of a knife can carry a sentence of up to four years, even if it is not used, but Martin would like to see more severe punishments of up to 15 years to avoid offenders being given “a slap on the wrist and a fine”.
If he had the power to enforce change, he would also ban under-16s from walking through town centres after 9 o’clock at night and would “fight and fight and fight to get more police on the ground”.
“Everybody is responsible to try and eradicate this problem,” he said. “If they know somebody going around with a knife, people should step forward and phone the police, phone Crimestoppers. We’ve all got a duty to each other.”
* Next week: In the second of our special reports, a mother whose teenage son was killed in a knife attack calls for parents to have more power to discipline their kids.
Data shows youth knife crime is on the rise
The Recorder’s research has shown a steep rise in knife crime affecting young people in Havering.
Figures from the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime show the number of under-25s injured in knife attacks has gone up by 29 per cent in the last year - and by 55 per cent compared to five years ago. The year-on-year rise in Havering outstrips the London-wide increase of 17 per cent.
But Havering experiences relatively low levels of knife crime compared to other areas of London.
Police figures show Havering ranks 26th of 33 London boroughs for all recorded knife crimes, with 205 offences in 2016-17.
This figure rose by 6 per cent from 2015-16 to 2016-17, far less than the 24 per cent increase London-wide.
The borough of Southwark had the highest levels of knife crime in London with 840 offences recorded last year.
Det Supt Jane Scotchbrook, who is in charge of neighbourhood policing across the East Area Command, said: “We want to reassure people that the likelihood of a knife crime happening is relatively low.
“But when it does happen it’s a serious matter and we will do everything we can to reduce and eradicate knife crime.”
* The third of the Recorder’s special reports will focus on how police are tackling knife crime.