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History > 2009 > UK > Violence (I)

 

 

 

30-year-old man

charged with murder of baby

in Northern Ireland

Man to appear at Omagh Magistrates' Court on Tuesday
charged with murdering 15-month-old Millie Martin

 

Monday 14 December 2009
21.42 GMT
Guardian.co.uk
Henry McDonald, Ireland correspondent
This article was published on guardian.co.uk
at 21.42 GMT on Monday 14 December 2009.

 

A 30 year old man was charged tonight with the murder of a baby in Northern Ireland.

He is expected to appear at Omagh Magistrates' court on Tuesday charged with murdering 15-month-old Millie Martin.

Millie died from horrific injuries after an attack on her at a house in the border town of Enniskillen on Thursday night.

The child was first admitted to the Erne Hospital in Enniskillen on Friday before being later transferred to Belfast. Officials from Western Health Trust staff are assisting police in the investigation.

It is understood Millie was known to social services in the region as a child at risk.

    30-year-old man charged with murder of baby in Northern Ireland, G, 14.12.2009, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/dec/14/man-charged-murder-millie-martin

 

 

 

 

 

Mystery surrounds brutal murder of Geeta Aulakh

Police rule out stranger attack but reject honour killing theory despite misgivings by Asian women's groups

 

Friday 20 November 2009 18.44 GMT
Guardian.co.uk
Sandra Laville and Peter Walker
This article was published on guardian.co.uk at 18.44 GMT on Friday 20 November 2009.
It was last modified at 19.17 GMT on Friday 20 November 2009.

 

Every day, staff at Sunrise Radio were greeted with a smile from Geeta Aulakh, the receptionist who had dreamed as a young girl of working for the first independent 24-hour Asian station.

For four days this week, her chair has been empty and, in a painful series of conversations, her colleagues have been sharing glimpses she gave them of the pain hidden beneath her warmth.

It is in the particularly horrific death of Aulakh that the secrets of her life are emerging. Police believe what spilled out on to the street in Greenford, west London, on Monday evening was the violent culmination of something hidden in Aulakh's recent past.

Senior sources believe the 28-year-old was held down by more than one assailant and struck repeatedly with either a sabre or a machete as she went to pick up her two sons from their childminder. Aulakh was just 100 metres away from her young children, on a quiet street lined with unremarkable postwar terraced houses, where residents fear burglary or car crime, not the sort of scene they experienced that night.

The Guardian understands that detectives have been given a detailed account of the attack by a handful of key witnesses.

In the frenzied assault, Aulakh was struck repeatedly around the head with the sabre-like weapon. She fought for her life, sustaining a serious wound to her right hand which severed it from her arm, leading to speculation that it was cut off deliberately in some sort of religious ritual. The suggestion is a distraction, sources say. The wound was a classic defence injury against an assault with a long, extremely sharp weapon.

The choice of location was deliberate, police believe. They say it was no random attack, but a planned assault by more than one assailant on a woman whose regular routine was known.

The nearness to her children is, again, no coincidence. "We are not talking about a stranger attacker here who she does not know. It is complicated but what you are looking at is a fairly closed group of people," said police.

Around the corner from where Aulakh was trying to fight off her assailants, her childminder, Safeen Arif, heard nothing but was growing worried.

"She was so devoted to her boys, she would do anything for them," said Arif. "She would always call me if she was going to be late. That's why I started ringing her on Monday when she didn't arrive, but no one answered her phone."

Like colleagues at Sunrise Radio, Arif knew Aulakh as a happy, warm person who had separated from her husband and was seeking a divorce, but was getting on with her life, trying to do the best for her children.

It is only now as people talk about her murder that some friends are sharing conversations in which Aulakh suggested she was frightened and felt harassed but did not specify who was causing her sense of feeling terrorised.

Dr Avtar Lit, her boss at the radio station, said: "She was a very private person. What is emerging now is that Geeta did share with some of her female colleagues that she felt frightened and harassed, but she didn't reveal a great deal, and little bits of what she said are coming out now."

Born Geeta Shinh, she grew up in Southall, west London in a middle-class family with two brothers and two sisters. When she was 17, she met husband-to-be Harpreet, known as Sunny, and the couple fell in love.

However, her mother, who worked in a GP's surgery, and her father, a warehouseman, were unhappy about the match as Harpreet was unemployed and seemed to have no prospects.

It is unclear if there was a rift with her family, but friends say the young couple decided to put some space between them and relatives, leaving the UK to spend some time in Belgium.

Despite her parents' early misgivings, the marriage produced two boys, now 10 and eight. Three years ago this week, when she was back in London, Aulakh obtained the Sunrise Radio job in Southall. "She was a very important part of the office, always smiling, always helpful," said Lit. "She once told me that she'd grown up listening to Sunrise and it was her dream to work there when she was an adult."

But there were some signs of something amiss within her personal life. During one argument at home in September 2002, she had been concerned enough to dial 999 late at night. When officers arrived, she refused to file a complaint and the incident was marked as "no crime".

The same happened last October; officers arrived at her home but no complaint was filed and "no crime" was recorded.

By last October, Aulakh had separated from her husband and is understood to have been living in a council house in Greenford.

Myrah Mistry, who knew her for 17 years, said: "She wasn't happy, so she left. He was trying to get back with her but she didn't want to. I think she was thinking about divorce – she was going down that road. He used to call her quite often, he would sometimes come into the radio station."

On Monday night, Aulakh left work at 6.15pm with two female friends. She walked to Southall railway station where her friends boarded their trains and she got on to her bus, which made its way north to Greenford, where she was due to pick up her children from her childminder in Braund Avenue. Only two days, before she had celebrated her youngest son's eighth birthday.

Police are studying CCTV footage from Southall station and the bus to see when she might have been followed by her killers. But, so far, the trail of images stops once she gets off the bus and heads towards the childminders.

At about 7pm, her death and its brutality was marked by nothing more than the kind of sound often heard on a London street and quickly dismissed – a single scream overheard by a schoolgirl as she sat in her bedroom doing her homework.

Three and a half hours later, Aulakh's mother, Nardesh, arrived at her bedside in Charing Cross hospital. She cried out her daughter's name twice before Aulakh died.

In their investigation into the murder, detectives are probing every aspect of Aulakh's past, attempting to unpick the secrets she guarded so closely. They say they have ruled out a so-called honour killing as a motive but admit that the circle they are investigating is one close to Aulakh herself.

For many who work in the field of violence against women and "honour" crime within the Asian community, the revelations emerging about Geeta's life are all too familiar.

Sudharshan Bhuhi, who runs a 24-hour helpline for Asian women, said: "It is very early for the police to steer away from 'honour' crime, they should not shy away from using the words," she said. "What is coming out about her is typical of the women we talk to.

"As an Indian woman and a Sikh myself who runs an Asian specific organisation, I know it takes much longer for women from my culture to be able to state these feelings of fear and act on them. All this fear is coming out now, after her death and all we feel here is immense sadness that another human life has been lost unnecessarily."


The 'no crime' controversy

Nowhere is the issue of classifying emergency calls to police as "no crime" more controversial than in domestic disputes. While police have not said domestic violence was a factor in Geeta Aulakh's death, they were called twice to her home and twice marked the incident as "no crime". By their very nature domestic disputes involve a relationship in which one party is vulnerable, afraid of the other and therefore reluctant to stand up publicly and accuse them of assault.

Often the presence of children in a household can result in a woman calling the police to an incident involving a partner and then being reluctant to pursue a complaint for fear of what will happen to her children, retribution by her partner, and financial implications should she have to move out.

A review by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary revealed recently that more than a third of cases of violence sampled had been wrongly categorised as not warranting further investigation.

"What they are supposed to do is refer them at least to the community safety unit and they are supposed to refer them to other agencies," said Hannanah Siddiqui, of Southall Black Sisters. "999 calls to potential domestic violence incidents should not be 'no crimed' and simply not investigated."

A review by the Association of Chief Police Officers called for a better bridge between the police and the civil law so that victims can be protected even if they cannot be persuaded to file a complaint against an abusive husband or partner. There also needs to be consideration of a new offence of a "course of conduct" and a determination to pursue perpetrators of domestic violence even when the victim withdraws her complaint, the review said.

    Mystery surrounds brutal murder of Geeta Aulakh, G, 20.11.2009, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/nov/20/geeta-aulakh-murder-greenford

 

 

 

 

 

Husband arrested after woman who had hand cut off in attack dies

Friends identify victim as Sunrise radio worker Geeta Aulakh, 26

 

Tuesday 17 November 2009
17.49 GMT
Guardian.co.uk
Peter Walker
This article was published on guardian.co.uk at 17.49 GMT on Tuesday 17 November 2009.
It was last modified at 19.12 GMT on Tuesday 17 November 2009.

 

Police last night arrested the husband of a woman found with severe head injuries and her hand severed in a suburban street in west London who later died in hospital.

Friends identified the victim as Geeta Aulakh, a 26-year-old receptionist at a community radio station and a mother of two young children, who was separated from her husband.

The woman was found by passersby lying in a pool of blood in Braund Avenue, Greenford, at about 7pm on Monday. She was taken to Charing Cross hospital but died about four hours later.

It is understood that her husband was among six men arrested earlier today.

A man living close to the scene, who asked not to be named, said he believed the woman's throat had been cut, and her hand cut off.

A colleague at Sunrise Radio, based in nearby Southall, said the victim had been collecting her children from the house of her childminder in Braund Avenue when she was attacked.

Seema Sidha, 31, said she had left work at about 6.30pm with Aulakh, who said she was on her way to the childminder to collect her sons, aged eight and nine.

"That was her normal routine. She would drop her kids off in the morning and pick them up after work," Sidha said. "I spoke to the childminder and she said she was waiting for her. She texted her and phoned then she realised there were police outside her house. That is how she found out."

Sidha said that Aulakh, who was born in Britain, was separated from her Indian-born husband. Detectives, who were questioning the six people at police stations around west London, appealed for witnesses to the attack, noting that several people went to the victim's aid before police and ambulance crews arrived.

"These people left the scene before speaking to police and I would ask that anyone who was there, or anyone else who has information about the incident, call us in the strictest of confidence," said Detective Chief Inspector Andy Chalmers.

Braund Avenue, a side street of semi-detached 1930s houses just off the main A40 road towards central London, remained sealed off today.

John Newbury, whose family lives on an adjoining street, said his 16-year-old daughter, heard a single scream at around the time the attack is believed to have taken place. "She was doing her homework, upstairs in the bedroom with the window open, and at about seven o'clock heard a scream. She just thought it was people messing about."

A man living directly opposite where the victim was found, who asked not to be named, said he had been oblivious until he left his house. "As I went to my car I could see a woman lying on the pavement in a big pool of blood, with people round her. I went to check on her but the ambulance crew arrived."

Other neighbours described the street as the occasional scene of low-level crime, mainly connected to drugs, but generally peaceable. "My son went out of the house and more or less slipped in the blood," said Kathy Johnson. "He didn't hear anything, nor did my daughter – they were both in the house at the time. It's pretty scary when you think this happened so close to where we live."

    Husband arrested after woman who had hand cut off in attack dies, G, 17.11.2009, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/nov/17/severed-hand-woman-killed-six-questioned

 

 

 

 

 

Suspected suicide leap by two teenage girls

Bodies recovered of pair who reportedly held hands as they jumped from bridge near Glasgow

 

Monday 5 October 2009
14.05 BST
Guardian.co.uk
Severin Carrell
Scotland correspondent, and agencies
This article was first published on guardian.co.uk at 14.05 BST on Monday 5 October 2009.
It was last updated at 15.28 BST on Monday 5 October 2009.

 

Police are investigating the suspected double suicide of two teenage girls who jumped off the Erskine bridge, near Glasgow, into the Clyde river on Sunday evening.

Strathclyde police confirmed that the bodies of two girls aged 14 and 15 had been recovered from the Clyde between 8.50 and 10.30pm last night near the 38-metre-high bridge, which crosses the river to the west of Glasgow.

The force, which did not release the girls' names, said in a brief statement: "Inquiries are continuing, however there would appear to be no suspicious circumstances surrounding the deaths."

The two girls were resident pupils at the Good Shepherd centre in nearby Bishopton, Renfrewshire.

The unit cares for young people referred to the centre by local authority educational and psychological services, social work departments and Children's Hearings.

Both girls went to the unit seven to eight weeks ago.

The bodies were found after a search by police, fire crews, a coastguard helicopter and a Ministry of Defence helicopter, which took them by air to the Southern general hospital in Glasgow. One report said the pair were holding hands when they jumped off the bridge. The Daily Record quoted a coastguard official as saying: "The information that we have is that it was two teenagers and that they held hands as they jumped from the bridge.

"They were clearly in the water for a long time and it is very rarely that anyone lives after a fall like that."

The Erskine bridge, which opened in 1971, is a notorious suicide spot. It is thought only four people have survived the fall from the bridge to the river below.

A spokesman for the Good Shepherd centre said they had been on apparently happy and productive weekend outings with relatives and were seen by staff in their pyjamas going to their rooms to watch television yesterday evening.

But staff carrying out routine checks noticed they were missing and began a search of the campus and the immediate vicinity.

Shortly afterwards, police called to inform staff of the incident which had taken place at the Erskine bridge.

The spokesman said: "The thoughts and prayers of all at the Good Shepherd centre are with the families and friends of the girls who have died.

"Counselling is being offered to the other residents at the unit, who have been shocked and traumatised by what has happened."

The Good Shepherd centre comprises three sections – an open unit, a secure unit and the St Francis day unit.

The two girls who died were among nine live-in residents at the open unit, which also has 21 day girls who live in foster or care homes.

Pupils there are not kept under lock and key but any outing requires authorisation.

No authorisation was given for the girls'to leave yesterday evening.

The Good Shepherd centre is an independent unit owned and managed by a voluntary board of managers. It is affiliated to the Cora Foundation, a non-profit-making company owned by the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Scotland.

    Suspected suicide leap by two teenage girls, G, 5.10.2009, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/oct/05/suicide-leap-teenage-girls

 

 

 

 

 

Birmingham social work model 'not fit for purpose' says report

Inquiry condemns children's services department after deaths of eight children known to social workers

 

Monday 5 October 2009
12.58 BST
Guardian.co.uk
Rachel Williams
This article was first published on guardian.co.uk at 12.58 BST on Monday 5 October 2009.
It was last updated at 14.17 BST on Monday 5 October 2009.

 

At least eight children already known to social workers in Birmingham have died in the city in the past four years, among them Khyra Ishaq. Photograph: West Midlands Police/PA

The social work model in a city where eight children known to social workers have died in the past four years was branded unfit for purpose by a damning official inquiry today.

The report into Birmingham city council's children's services department, commissioned after inspectors found weaknesses last December in care for children at risk of serious physical or sexual abuse, found that a lack of senior management was a "major risk" and a shortage of experienced staff continued to "hamper progress".

"Our findings demonstrated an extremely fragile management structure and the inevitable conclusion is that the current social work model is not fit for purpose," the report said.

Members of the inquiry committee, led by former city councillor Len Clark, were "shocked and dismayed" at the standard of accommodation at some of the council's social care sites.

The report ruled that current social work structures were "patently not working", adding that urgent investment was needed to address immediate and short-term concerns.

It found that the screening of child referrals was carried out by "inexperienced staff with insufficient management oversight" and discovered a lack of clarity about contacts and referrals.

Overall, the quality of case files for children in care was not adequate, the scrutiny committee's report said.

In the wake of the case last year of Baby Peter in Haringey, north London, who suffered horrific abuse at the hands of his parents despite being on an at-risk register, it emerged that at least eight children who were already known to social workers in Birmingham had died in the city in the past four years.

Among them was seven-year-old Khyra Ishaq, from Handsworth, who was allegedly starved to death last year. Her mother and stepfather, who deny killing her, are due to stand trial for her murder next year.

An urgent review of children's services across the country last year, prompted by the death of Baby Peter, highlighted weaknesses at six authorities, including Birmingham.

Ofsted inspectors said the level of care offered to children at risk of serious abuse by Birmingham's Safeguarding Children Board was "inadequate".

The council said it accepted the findings of the report, which it said was a "serious examination" of the challenges facing children's social care in Birmingham.

"Our focus remains fixed on putting in place the changes needed to ensure the most vulnerable young people in our city get the care and support they need," Mike Whitby, the leader of the council, said.

Les Lawrence, the council's cabinet member for children, young people and families, said: "While recognising there is still work to do, I am pleased that we are starting to see substantial improvements already coming through.

"There is no quick fix to the problems highlighted, some of which affect all councils nationally, such as the recruitment and retention of social workers."

Birmingham city council looks after 2,400 children and supports a further 1,400 through child protection plans.

    Birmingham social work model 'not fit for purpose' says report, G, 5.10.2009, http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2009/oct/05/birmingham-social-work-weaknesses

 

 

 

 

 

Up to 64,000 women in UK 'are child-sex offenders'

After Plymouth case shocked the nation, police say number of women abusing children is rising

 

Sunday 4 October 2009
The Observer
Mark Townsend and Rajeev Syal
This article was first published on guardian.co.uk at 00.06 BST on Sunday 4 October 2009.
It appeared in the Observer on Sunday 4 October 2009 on p19 of the News section.
It was last updated at 00.06 BST on Sunday 4 October 2009.

 

Child sex abuse by women is significantly more widespread than previously realised, with experts estimating that there could be up to 64,000 female offenders in Britain.

Researchers from the Lucy Faithfull Foundation (LFF), a child protection charity that deals with British female sex offenders, said its studies confirmed that a "fair proportion" of child abusers were women. Donald Findlater, director of research and development, said results indicated that up to 20% of a conservative estimate of 320,000 suspected UK paedophiles were women.

The release of the figures comes days after a Plymouth nursery school worker, Vanessa George – together with Angela Allen from Nottingham and Colin Blanchard from Rochdale – pleaded guilty to sexually abusing young children.

Last night George's husband appealed to her to identify her victims, whom she has so far refused to name. Andrew George, 41, said: "I would plead to her, tell those parents, all those parents who want to know.

"If Vanessa has got any shred of human decency in her she should tell those parents." At her trial, Mr Justice John Royce had urged her to tell police the names of her victims.

Findlater said: "There was some suggestion it was only blokes that sexually abused children. Over time those arguments have fallen aside and people have had to wake up to the fact that actually, sadly, there is a fair proportion of women abusing as well."

There are 32,000 names on the sex offenders register. But LFF researchers suggest that the real number of paedophiles is 10 times this figure. Provisional studies suggest that between 5% and 20% are women.

The calculations put the number of female child-sex offenders in the UK at between 48,000 and 64,000, a figure Findlater describes as "highly possible". He said: "The problem is far bigger than conviction rates and, if you look at survivor studies, you end up with a very different story about the scale of the problem of female sexual abuse."

Detectives at Scotland Yard's paedophile unit, meanwhile, disclosed that they had detected an "increased prevalence" of female offenders. Metropolitan police sources said that quantifying the number of paedophiles in the UK was problematic, but there were likely to be hundreds of thousands.

Steve Lowe, director of Phoenix Forensic Consultants, which treats and assesses child sex abusers, said the true number of female paedophiles has remained hidden for too long.

"As a society, we find women sex offenders difficult to acknowledge. But those of us who work with paedophiles have seen evidence that women are capable of terrible crimes against children – just as bad as men." He said some female abusers remained hidden because they appeared before the family courts, where their cases were not publicised because of reporting restrictions.

The latest government figures, published six months ago, showed that 56 female child sex abusers were in custody, with 49 sentenced and seven on remand. Another 84 were under supervision in the community. Fewer than 2% of people on the sex offenders register are women.

Officials at the government's Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) said under-reporting of incidents involving female abusers was a concern and warned that "copycat" abusers may attempt to replicate the abuse that took place at Plymouth's Little Ted's nursery, where George worked.

George, Allen and Blanchard, all 39, met through the networking site Facebook. Officials at the CEOP and at Scotland Yard believe that the internet is driving an increase in the number of sex abusers of children. However, while offences are on the rise, police say that they have detected no changes in the patterns of abuse that are carried out by paedophiles, whether men or women.

    Up to 64,000 women in UK 'are child-sex offenders', O, 4.10.2009, http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2009/oct/04/uk-female-child-sex-offenders

 

 

 

 

 

Parents of hanged eight-year-old arrested

Charlotte Avenall, who had severe learning difficulties, was found hanged in her bedroom

 

Thursday 1 October 2009
17.17 BST
Guardian.co.uk
Haroon Siddique and agencies
This article was first published on guardian.co.uk at 17.17 BST on Thursday 1 October 2009.
It was last updated at 17.17 BST on Thursday 1 October 2009.

 

The parents of Charlotte Avenall, an eight-year-old found hanged in her bedroom, were arrested today in connection with her death.

Charlotte, who had severe learning difficulties, was found dead by her parents, Simon and Susan Moody, at their home in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, on 12 September.

A police spokesman said: "A 32-year-old man and a 24-year-old woman were arrested today in connection with the investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of eight-year-old Charlotte Avenall from Mansfield. They are currently being questioned by police." He would not confirm the identity of the pair.

The parents were interviewed under caution by detectives at the time of Charlotte's death.

Nottinghamshire county council's social services department has said it is reviewing the care and support it offered the girl and her family.

Mick Burrows, the chief executive of the authority, said at the time: "We are very sorry to hear of the death of this young girl. It is a tragedy. It is clear that our children's services had been involved with her family.

"We will investigate this matter thoroughly. We take the protection of vulnerable children very seriously. We were working with her family, who were receiving support from the county council and a number of other agencies."

She was known to social services from birth and attended Birklands primary school in nearby Warsop.

A postmortem examination carried out at Leicester royal infirmary last night confirmed the cause death as hanging.

    Parents of hanged eight-year-old arrested, G, 1.1.2009, http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2009/oct/01/hanged-girl-parents-arrested

 

 

 

 

 

Brothers, 12 and 10, plead guilty to attack on schoolboys

Victims, aged nine and 11,
were robbed, sexually assaulted and burned with cigarettes in Edlington, South Yorkshire

 

Thursday 3 September 2009
13.40 BST
Guardian.co.uk
Peter Walker
This article was first published on guardian.co.uk at 13.40 BST on Thursday 3 September 2009.
It was last updated at 16.44 BST on Thursday 3 September 2009.

 

Two brothers aged 12 and 10 today admitted carrying out a brutal attack on a pair of young boys during which they tortured, robbed and sexually assaulted their victims.

The brothers – who cannot be named for legal reasons – were in foster care when they lured their victims, a boy aged nine and his 11-year-old uncle, to semi-wild parkland on the edge of Edlington, a former pit village near Doncaster, South Yorkshire, on 4 April this year.

The boys were subjected to what prosecutors at a previous hearing called a "horrific, violent, sustained physical attack" involving bricks, sticks and a noose.

The victims also suffered cigarette burns and were forced to perform a series of sexual acts on each other.

Today at Sheffield crown court, where their case was sent to be tried in the adult judicial system, the pair admitted grievous bodily harm with intent, robbery, and forcing a child to take part in sexual acts.

Nicholas Campbell QC, prosecuting, described the offences as "grave crimes".

The two separately admitted one count each of assault in connection with an attack on another 11-year-old boy on 28 March.

The grievous bodily harm charge was submitted as an alternative to an earlier attempted murder allegation, which the brothers denied.


"It has been explained [to the victims' families] that although the offences are not of the same gravity, the maximum sentence for causing grievous bodily harm with the intention so to do is the same for that of attempted murder," Campbell said.

"Each [family] has understood that the acceptance of these pleas would mean that their sons do not have to give evidence."

The maximum sentence for grievous bodily harm with intent is life imprisonment.

The crime prompted deep shock in Edlington and nationwide, and evoked comparisons with the 1993 murder of two-year-old James Bulger by Robert Thompson and Jon Venables, who were 10 at the time.

It also raised fresh questions for the children's department of Doncaster council, which was taken over by a new Westminster-appointed management team a month before the attack.

The takeover was imposed after case reviews were ordered into the deaths of seven babies and children in the area over a five-year period.


At the time of the attack, the perpetrators had been living with a foster family in Edlington for several weeks, but critics said they should have been in secure care given previous complaints about their behaviour.

The younger victim of the attack was found wandering through Edlington in a traumatised state, with blood on his face and a severe cut on his arm down to the bone.

Soon afterwards, the 11-year-old was found, unconscious and partially naked, at the bottom of a ravine.

Prosecutors believe part of a sink had been smashed against his head. His injuries were so severe that he was taken to hospital by air ambulance and spent two days on a ventilator.

The younger boy told police that he and his uncle had been lured to the Brick Ponds parkland with the promise of seeing dead wild animals.

According to testimony from the nine-year-old – which was recounted to a court hearing several days after the crime and has not, until now, been able to be reported – the attackers then robbed them of money and a mobile phone.

The case was heard in one of the smaller rooms in the crown court and the judge, Mr Justice Keith, wore a suit rather than wig or robes in an attempt to make the setting less intimidating.

The brothers sat in the main section of the court rather than the dock. The older defendant, wearing a dark shirt and tie, and with close-cropped dark hair, spoke clearly and confidently when answering the charges, but at times appeared restless, shuffling in his seat and yawning on a couple of occasions.

His considerably smaller and slighter younger brother, also with dark hair and dressed in white shirt and dark tie, answered the charges more hesitantly and appeared at times to have difficulties following the proceedings. At one point his barrister asked for a pause in the case so matters could be explained to the 10-year-old.

The judge told them the situation was clearly "very strange for you, and I can tell you it is pretty strange for us lawyers to have boys your age in a court like this."

He said the prosecution would outline details of the case at a future sentencing hearing.

With the comparisons to the Bulger case have come questions about whether boys so young should appear in an adult court.

The age for presumed criminal responsibility in England and Wales is 10, much lower than in many other European countries.

    Brothers, 12 and 10, plead guilty to attack on schoolboys, G, 3.9.2009, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/sep/03/brothers-plead-guilty-attack-schoolboys

 

 

 

 

 

Girl found strangled in lorry may have been sexually molested

Police say sexual motive in murder of nine-year-old Stacey Lawrence cannot be ruled out

 

Tuesday 1 September 2009 15.35 BST
Guardian.co.uk,
Haroon Siddique and Helen Carter
This article was first published on guardian.co.uk at 15.35 BST on Tuesday 1 September 2009.
It was last updated at 15.35 BST on Tuesday 1 September 2009.

 

A nine-year-old girl whose body was discovered in a lorry might have been sexually assaulted, police said today.

Stacey Lawrence, from the West Midlands, was found strangled at a lorry park on the A605 near Warmington, Northamptonshire, on Saturday.

The body of her mother's long-term partner, Darren Walker, 40, also from the West Midlands, was found hanging in nearby woodland. Detectives are treating the case as a murder and suicide.

Yesterday, police said the initial postmortem results indicated that she had not been sexually assaulted.

But today, Detective Chief Inspector Tricia Kirk, of Northamptonshire police, said there were red marks found on the body to indicate that she was sexually assaulted, and the cause of these were not an infection or a skin condition.

Kirk said police "cannot rule out now that there was some sexual touching involved in this incident".

She added: "Mr Walker has a history of domestic incidents with his wife, who's currently in the process of divorcing him."

She said Walker had a caution for actual bodily harm in 2006 and police were trying to trace three of his previous partners in the West Midlands region. A family computer has been seized as part of the investigation.

Kirk said today that Stacey's mother, Roxanne, was "devastated". Stacey was a popular girl with a broad imagination who loved animals and was hoping to be a zoologist when she grew up, she said.

Kirk said Walker had been seeing Stacey's mother for about a year. "The picture we get of the family is that there was never any cause for concern with his relationships," she said.

If there were ever any arguments between the children, Walker took a "back seat" and would not get involved.

It is understood that Stacey had accompanied Walker as he made deliveries to Spar stores in Norfolk on Friday as a holiday treat. Police said the lorry left the depot in Willenhall at 4am on Friday and headed straight for Great Yarmouth in Norfolk.

After making deliveries to Spar stores in the county, it was returning to the West Midlands when it stopped just outside Peterborough at about 3pm.

It arrived in the layby in nearby Warmington, near the Cambridgeshire border, shortly after 3.35pm. The lorry was later found on Saturday, unlocked, next to a busy rural road, with the curtains in the cab drawn.

Kirk said Stacey had regarded the trip as a treat and her mother had no concerns prior to her death.

It is believed that Stacey's mother had been in a relationship with Walker for at least a year. Kirk said the child's mother was comfortable with her being in his company and there had been no issues or concerns raised by family members.

It is understood that Walker was originally from the West Bromwich area. He had been an employee at AF Blakemore and Son Ltd, which delivers goods to Spar stores across the Midlands.

A statement released on behalf of Spar said: "We are deeply saddened by a tragic event which has been reported to us this weekend. We will, of course, be offering the police our full support in their inquiry."

Detectives were alerted after the truck's owners reported the vehicle missing on Saturday afternoon. The Spar lorry was tracked down to the lorry park, using GPS technology that pinpointed its precise location.

Officers tried to resuscitate the girl, but were unable to do so. Within minutes, they located Walker's body hanging from a cord in woodland. Kirk said a ligature made of black fabric, made from the same material Walker had used to hang himself, had been used to strangle Stacey. Both bodies were removed to a hospital for postmortem examinations.

    Girl found strangled in lorry may have been sexually molested, G, 1.9.2009, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/sep/01/stacey-lawrence-darren-walker-lorry

 

 

 

 

 

Murder rate hits 20-year low

 

Friday, 17 July 2009
The Independent
By Robert Verkaik

 

The murder rate in England and Wales is the lowest it has been for 20 years, according to annual crime figures released today.

There were 136 fewer homicides – including murder, manslaughter and child killings - in 2008/9 compared to a year earlier, a fall of 17 per cent.

Provisional figures show the police recorded 648 incidents of homicide in 2008/09, the lowest recorded level in the last 20 years. The number of attempted murders also decreased from 621 in 2007/08 to 575 in 2008/09.

Home Office statistician Dr Chris Kershaw said the fall in killings was "striking" and suggested it could be attributed to improvements in medical science. "It's certainly very striking and I don't describe it as a blip," he said.

But ministers say short-term initiatives aimed at tackling gangs and gun and knife crime have also had an impact.

Dramatic results have been achieved through the Government's Tackling Gangs Action Programme which last year saw a reduction of 51 per cent in firearms-related injuries, from 93 offences in October 2007 to 46 in February 2008 in the areas targeted.

Between August 2008 and March this year there were no gang-rated homicides or attempted homicides in Birmingham.

In Manchester, between February 2008 and February 2009, there was a 92.7 per cent reduction in gang-related firearms discharges compared with the same period last year - and no injuries or fatalities. While in London gun crime offences were down by 25 per cent in 12 months to end of February 2009.

Yesterday's report found that after taking into account the Harold Shipman murders, reflected in the 2002/03 figures, and the London bombings, in 2005/06 figures, homicides recorded by the police have fluctuated between 700 and 900 per year since 2002/03. However, the latest figures for 2008/09 are down to a low of 648, a fall of 26 per cent since 2002/03.

But there were signs the recession was beginning to lead to increases in other crimes - with burglary up 1 per cent, pickpocket and bag snatch thefts up 25 per cent and shoplifting up 10 per cent

Despite the drop in the murder rate and a fall of 35 per cent in overall crime in the last 15 years, three out of four people believe crime is rising nationally. Fewer though, 36 per cent, say it is increasing in their own neighbourhood.

According to the BCS, the risk of being a victim of crime rose for the first time for several years from 22 per cent to 23 per cent but remained substantially down on the 40 per cent recorded when crime peaked in 1995.

Home Secretary Alan Johnson said: "Figures show that the reductions in crime are being maintained and the risk of being a victim is still historically low. Encouragingly, violent crime continues to fall with homicide figures now lower than they have been for a decade and attempted murder also falling. Overall, violent crime with injury is down seven per cent and there has been a five per cent fall in recorded robberies, now at its lowest level since 2002."

But Mr Johnson said ministers must not be complacent and acknowledged that during economic downturns certain crimes "face upward pressure."

He added: "Although figures show signs of some acquisitive crimes increasing, the Government is determined to keep these crimes down by continued investment in preventative measures, tough, targeted policing and historically high numbers of police officers."

    Murder rate hits 20-year low, I, 17.7.2009, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/murder-rate-hits-20year-low-1748627.html

 

 

 

 

 

Knifeman ‘cool as a cucumber’ after pregnant mother and baby were killed

 

June 9, 2009
From The Times
Kaya Burgess

 

A man suspected of stabbing a pregnant woman to death in a random attack walked away “as cool as a cucumber” and shrugged his shoulders when confronted by police, witnesses said.

Claire Wilson, 21, who was seven months pregnant, was stabbed in the back as she walked to work on Sunday. Doctors fought in vain to save her and her unborn child.

Alan McMullan, 53, was arrested by police officers shortly after the attack in Grimsby, Lincolnshire, and has been charged with murder. Police said that there was no obvious motive.

Detective Superintendent Christine Kelk, of Humberside Police, said: “The tragic thing is that it was completely random. It would appear that she was followed by a man, who then stabbed her in the back with a knife.”

Ms Wilson’s boyfriend, Adam Kennard, 23, was heard shouting and screaming at the scene shortly after the attack. Yesterday he spent nearly half an hour with family and friends on the spot where his girlfriend died.

Tributes poured in as friends and relatives went to the scene of the stabbing to add to a growing shrine devoted to Ms Wilson. Her friend, Dave Stembridge, 18, said: “She didn’t deserve it. She was one of the greatest people anyone would want to meet. She’s going to be missed so much.”

Lara Cole, 16, said that Ms Wilson and Mr Kennard were excitedly awaiting the birth of their baby, whom they had planned to call April.

“She was lovely,” she said. “She was really funny. She always put a smile on everyone’s face. It’s really sad.” Friends said that the couple had been together for many years and had returned to Grimsby after spending some time living in Italy.

One card left at the scene read: “Baby April. You would have been the most loved baby in the world. Take care of your mum for us.”

A pub landlord, who asked not to be named, said that a man had come into his bar shouting that a woman had been stabbed. He said that the man, with a DJ called Rick from the pub, then chased the suspect up the street.

He said: “Rick said to him, ‘Why have you just stabbed a young girl like that?’ He said he just shrugged his shoulders. Rick said he had walked down the road as cool as a cucumber, as though he hadn’t done anything.”

The landlord said that a group of people were comforting Ms Wilson, who was lying in the street with a knife in the middle of her back. She was on her way to work at Pizza Hut, where she had been employed for two years, when the attack happened soon after 4pm. Colleagues said they feared something was wrong when Ms Wilson failed to turn up for work.

They said they had walked past a white forensic science tent on their way to work, but had not realised its significance. One said: “When we realised, it was just horrible. I’m still expecting her to come through the door.” Mr McMullan was kept at Grimsby police station and will appear in court today.

    Knifeman ‘cool as a cucumber’ after pregnant mother and baby were killed, Ts, 9.6.2009, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/crime/article6458865.ece

 

 

 

 

 

Woman's body found in wheelie bin

Surrey police seek to trace Peter Wallner, who had recently moved out of property where body was found

 

Sunday 7 June 2009
15.19 BST
Guardian.co.uk
Peter Walker
This article was first published on guardian.co.uk at 15.19 BST on Sunday 7 June 2009.
It was last updated at 15.30 BST on Sunday 7 June 2009.

 

Police have recovered a woman's body after neighbours spotted a foot in a wheelie bin left on a suburban street in Surrey.

Officers were alerted yesterday when neighbours investigating a smell from the bin outside a semi-detached home on Hamilton Avenue, in Cobham, looked inside and saw the foot protruding from rubbish.

Surrey police appealed for help to track down Peter Wallner, 33, who they said had recently moved out of the address.

A postmortem examination was taking place at the Royal Surrey County hospital in Guildford. It was not known how long the body might have remained inside the bin.

"Scenes of crime officers carefully emptied the bin to preserve forensic opportunities, recovering the full intact body of a white woman believed to be in her 30s, which had been surrounded by rubbish," a police spokesman said.

"Detectives are focusing their inquiries on locating a previous resident of the address where the body was found, who may be able to provide useful information for the investigation."

Police said Wallner moved out of the house about three weeks ago. He was described as white, around 6ft and heavily built, with receding brown cropped hair.

Officers were today interviewing neighbours. The house, which is believed to be for sale, was sealed off by tape and a white forensics tent was erected on a driveway beside the front door.

Barbara Murray, who lives opposite the property, said of Wallner: "He must have been there for a couple of years by himself, then just recently a woman moved in as well. He had a green car but two or three weeks ago he hired a van and seemed to move out."

Another neighbour, Jack Hicks, said: "We have had no information so naturally there are a lot of rumours flying around. Everyone is worried by this, someone has clearly been killed on our doorstep."

    Woman's body found in wheelie bin, G, 7.6.2009, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/jun/07/wheelie-bin-body

 

 

 

 

 

Three bodies found at Beachy Head

Man, woman and boy discovered near notorious suicide spot in Eastbourne, East Sussex

 

Monday 1 June 2009
18.01 BST
Guardian.co.uk
Rachel Williams
This article was first published on guardian.co.uk at 18.01 BST on Monday 1 June 2009.
It was last updated at 07.13 BST on Tuesday 2 June 2009

 

The bodies of a man, woman and a young boy have been found at the foot of cliffs at Beachy Head. The three victims, who are believed to be a family, were recovered from the notorious suicide spot near Eastbourne, East Sussex, yesterday morning.

The body of the child, who was about five, was in a rucksack, coastguards said. Last night it emerged that the parents were said to have been unable to come to terms with the death of thier child, believed to be the result of an illness, according to sources.

It is thought the couple placed his body in a rucksack before falling to their deaths from cliffs at Beachy Head.

The bodies were winched to the top of the 550ft (168 metre) cliffs, as detectives broke into a silver Volkswagen people carrier found in a nearby car park and believed to have belonged to the group. A half-eaten banana and family-sized bag of peanuts were left on the front seat and there was a wheelchair lift in the back. The vehicle was towed away to be examined by forensic experts.

An Eastbourne coastguard station officer, Stuart McNab, said coastguards on a routine clifftop patrol saw what they believed to be two bodies about 400ft down the cliff just before 8pm last night and alerted police, but it was decided it would be safer to wait and carry out the recovery the next day.

McNab, who was one of the first to be taken to the scene by helicopter, said he found the child's body in a rucksack along with a second rucksack filled with soft toys and a toy tractor.

"The bag was closed when I got to it," he said. "I saw what I thought was a doll's head but, on closer examination, it was a child."

Sussex police said no one else was believed to have been involved in the tragedy, which was not being treated as suspicious. The victims were not believed to have lived locally but were from the south of England, a spokesman said.

McNab said an average of 20 people jumped to their deaths at Beachy Head every year. There had been cases of multiple suicides before, he said, but they generally tended to involve elderly people. So far this year there have been 11 suicides or attempted suicides at the beauty spot.

Members of the Beachy Head chaplaincy team, set up in 2004, patrol the clifftop from six until midnight every day offering help to those in need.

Last year the team was involved in 699 incidents and searches for those in distress, resulting in the rescue and assistance of 217 people.

Chaplain Ross Hardy said: "We did not see the family on our routine patrols or hear any reports of anyone acting suspiciously before the bodies were spotted on a routine patrol. Sadly, May seems to be the worst month for suicides here, we don't know why."

A spokesman for Dover coastguard said: "It is really horrific and incredibly sad. In my four years with the coastguard I have never known anything like this."

    Three bodies found at Beachy Head, NYT, 1.6.2009, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/jun/01/three-bodies-beachy-head

 

 

 

 

 

London teenager stabbed to death

Murder inquiry under way after aspiring young footballer found dying in Hackney street by police patrol

 

Saturday 23 May 2009
14.42 BST
Guardian.co.uk
Press Association
This article was published on guardian.co.uk at 14.42 BST on Saturday 23 May 2009.
It was last modified at 21.16 BST on Saturday 23 May 2009.

 

A young London footballer who dreamed of turning professional died in the street today after he was stabbed in the neck.

The 17-year-old, named locally as ­Jahmal Mason-Blair, was found by police officers on a routine patrol of Hackney shortly before 1am.

Medics battled to save the boy but he was pronounced dead at the scene.

Friends today said he dreamed of becoming a professional footballer and was rarely seen without a ball at his feet. Local resident Connie Drew said Jahmal was "a great kid".

"He liked football and you never saw him without a football and he wanted to become a professional footballer," Drew said.

"That's the worst thing: he had a goal in his life and he was pursuing it and he wanted to make something of himself.

"He was a lovely young boy and never even got into any arguments. A friend of mine called me this morning and told me and I'm just in shock."

Jahmal's friend Eddie Munnelly said they met at the Tottenham Hotspur development centre for young players.

"He was a good player but always struggled with his size and only really shot up recently," Munnelly said. "He had another trial recently at Reading as well."

Jahmal died from a puncture wound to the neck; police have not yet said what instrument was used.

Jahmal's half-brother Shaun Mason, 30, said he was woken in the early hours of this morning and told something had happened to his brother. "He was meant to be coming to stay with his cousin last night but he never made it.

"I've asked to go and identify him because I want to be able to do that for him." He said their mother, Tetela Rafeal, was flying back from her home in Florida after his sister Maria called to break the news to her.

Jahmal showed off his ball skills in a competition against another teenager on a video posted on YouTube a year ago. A message from Jahmal said: "I won."

More than 100 people have joined a Facebook group in memory of Jahmal. The group's creator wrote: "Jahmal was a great son, great brother and a great friend and he will be dearly missed.

"Knowing that we're not going to see your play football, or see that smile again. It will truly hurt us."

One resident who did not want to be named said she thought she heard a fight start in the street some time after midnight.

The woman, who lives off Amhurst Road, said: "There were about 20 boys; it looked like there was a little one trying to have a fight with somebody else.

"I just heard lots of shouting, then they all split off into different directions. I don't know what happened next."

Scotland Yard said officers on a routine patrol found the injured teenager in Amhurst Road near the junction with Bodney Road shortly before 1am.

London Ambulance Service and the air ambulance attended but he was pronounced dead at the scene.

Acting Detective Chief Inspector Phil Rickells, who is leading the investigation, said: "Amhurst Road is quite a busy road with shops and flats so there is a chance someone may have been driving past and saw what happened.

"In particular we would like to hear from anyone who may have seen a black male aged between 14 and 18 wearing dark clothing running away from the scene."

People laid floral tributes today as forensic teams and police continued their examinations. No arrests have been made.

The scene is close to Hackney Downs open space and several local schools.

Large sections of Dalston Lane and Amhurst Road are taped off and trains are not stopping at nearby Hackney Downs railway station.

A post-mortem examination will take place tomorrow at Poplar mortuary.

    London teenager stabbed to death, G, 23.5.1009, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/may/23/hackney-stabbing-death-teenager

 

 

 

 

 

Baby P abuse could and should have been stopped, finds report

• Agencies were 'lacking urgency', 'lacking thoroughness'
• Staff should be 'deeply sceptical' of parents' excuses

 

Friday 22 May 2009
11.07 BST
Guardian.co.uk
James Sturcke and agencies

 

The "horrifying" abuse and killing of Baby P "could and should have been prevented", according to the second serious case review, parts of which were published today.

Doctors, lawyers, police and social workers should have been able to stop the situation "in its tracks at the first serious incident", the executive summary of the report said.

Even after the boy, who was named Peter, was put under a child protection plan, his case was regarded as routine "with injuries expected as a matter of course". Agencies were "lacking urgency", "lacking thoroughness" and "insufficiently challenging to the parent".

The review, carried out by the Haringey local safeguarding children board, found that agencies "did not exercise a strong enough sense of challenge" when dealing with Peter's mother and their outlook was "completely inadequate" to meet the challenges of the case.

The review was commissioned by the children's secretary, Ed Balls, because of concerns over the conclusions of the first review.

Today's report concluded that Peter "deserved better from the services that were there to protect him". It found that agencies would only have been willing to move him if the injuries he suffered were found to be "non-accidental beyond all reasonable doubt".

"When such injuries did come they were catastrophic, and he died of them," the review found. "The panel deeply regrets the responses of the services were not sufficiently effective in protecting him."

Graham Badman, the chairman of the safeguarding children board, said: "I believe the most important lesson arising from this case is that professionals charged with ensuring child safety must be deeply sceptical of any explanations, justifications or excuses they may hear in connection with the apparent maltreatment of children. If they have any doubt about the cause of physical injuries or what appears to be maltreatment, they should act swiftly and decisively."

He said every member of staff in the agencies involved with the case had been "appropriately qualified, well motivated and wanted to do their best to safeguard him … but his horrifying death could and should have been prevented.

"The serious case review says that if doctors, lawyers, police officers and social workers had adopted a more urgent, thorough and challenging approach, the case would have been stopped in its tracks at the first serious incident. It's a dreadful tragedy that he did not receive better protection."

The findings come after documents revealed that council lawyers at the centre of the case have privately admitted there was probably sufficient evidence to justify taking Peter into care days before he was killed.

The admission contradicts the legal advice given to social workers a week before the toddler died that proceedings to remove him from his family could not go ahead because the risk "threshold" to trigger an application to take him into care had not been crossed.

    Baby P abuse could and should have been stopped, finds report, G, 22.5.2009, http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2009/may/22/baby-p-second-review

 

 

 

 

 

Mother blames police for schoolgirl's murder

 

May 20, 2009
From Times Online
Adam Fresco, Crime Correspondent

 

The mother of a choirgirl who was stabbed to death by an obsessive former boyfriend blamed police today for her death as the man was locked up indefinitely.

Arsema Dawit, 15, was followed into a lift by Thomas Nugusse, 22, who stabbed her 30 times after she ended their relationship because of his controlling and jealous behaviour.

Weeks before her death in June last year her mother, Tsehaynesh Medhane, went to police to tell them Nugusse had assaulted her daughter and threatened her after months of harassment.

Officers took two weeks to interview him and were still investigating when she was murdered as she arrived at her home in Waterloo, south London, from school.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission are to investigate concerns raised by Arsema’s family about police action in the month before her death.

Outside court, Mrs Medhane said: “I feel that Arsema’s life could have been saved if the police authorities had taken action when I approached them before she died.

“I will await the outcome of the Independent Police Complaints Commission investigation.”

Nugusse, who suffered brain damage after making two attempts to hang himself in prison after his arrest, was found to be unfit to plead and was unable to attend court.

The Recorder of London, Judge Peter Beaumont QC, ordered that he be detained at a mental hospital indefinitely under sections 37 and 41 of the Mental Health Act after an Old Bailey jury found he had killed Arsema.

Following the verdict, a statement by Arsema’s mother was read out to the court.

Ms Medhane said she had lost hope after the death of her daughter and added: “I have had to seek medical assistance in order to cope. I live in constant fear that the same thing will happen again to me and my children.

“My daughter is constantly on my mind and the circumstances of her death keep going round in my head. She was my precious child.

“With Arsema’s death our family life died and the house feels empty and this has affected me and the children as well.

“I feel with her death I died too. It would have been better if the murderer took all our lives instead of only Arsema.”

The court heard Nugusse had been ‘dating’ Arsema for two years after they met at St Michael’s Orthodox Church in Camberwell. He claimed that she was 18-years-old but registered a younger age when her family arrived in the UK from Eritrea.

Friends later told police he controlled the schoolgirl as if they were married and became convinced she was seeing another boy.

Arsema ended the relationship after he hit her in the face in a McDonalds restaurant in Camberwell, south London, for greeting a male friend.

The court heard that Nugusse told Arsema’s mother: “How many times are you going to accompany her? I will kill her one day.”

He also told Arsema: “Do you love me? Because if you don’t love me I will kill you.”

After the brutal attack Nugusse disposed of his bloodstained long-sleeved T-shirt and walked to the Hungerford Bridge before dialling 999.

The chilling call was played to the jury during the short trial.

Nugusse: Okay I want to tell you that I, I had a fight with my girlfriend and I killed my girlfriend so, this is because of...

Operator: Sorry and what did you say has happened to her?

N: I kill my girlfriend.

O: And what’s your girlfriend’s name?

N: Arsema

O: When did this happen, when did you do this?

N: Just happen like er, err just one hour ago... because she cheating me, she had been with me, she been with me for two years.

O: Did you use a weapon or how have you done this?

N: Yeah weapon

O: What type of weapon?

N: Knife

O: So you stabbed her?

N: Yeah

O: Right do you want police to come to where you are now?

N: I’m going to kill myself, don’t worry

Nugusse was arrested on the Hungerford Bridge minutes later and charged with murder.

    Mother blames police for schoolgirl's murder, Ts, 20.5.2009, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/crime/article6328210.ece

 

 

 

 

 

Man found guilty of murdering Harry Potter actor

Teenager who had just completed part in film was stabbed five times outside bar

 

Wednesday 4 March 2009
15.44 GMT
Guardian.co.uk
Stephen Bates
This article was first published on guardian.co.uk at 15.44 GMT on Wednesday 4 March 2009.
It was last updated at 16.44 GMT on Wednesday 4 March 2009.


A knife attacker has been found guilty at the Old Bailey of murdering a teenage actor who had just completed a part in the latest Harry Potter film during a fight outside a bar last May.

Karl Bishop, 22, who had denied the charge, armed himself with two kitchen knives and lashed out at bystanders, his face "screwed up in rage", after being involved in a scuffle at the Metro bar in Sidcup, south London, earlier in the evening. He will be sentenced tomorrow.

Rob Knox, 18, who had played the part of Marcus Belby in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, was stabbed five times, once fatally in a main artery, as he tried to protect his younger brother, Jamie, from Bishop's attack. He died in hospital later that evening.

Brian Altman QC, prosecuting, said: "Unhappily, his courage and his sense of duty were to cost him his life." He said Knox's life, full of promise, had been brought to an end by a "habitual knife carrier" who thought of stabbing people as an "occupational hazard". Bishop had previous convictions for knife crime.

Bishop's violent rage led him to attack Knox and a number of his friends. As he was arrested, he begged police to save him from the angry crowd that had surrounded him, then winked and smiled as he was led away. He claimed it was his victims who had been "going mad", and that it was their fault for "running into" his knife.

A police officer said Bishop showed no remorse after his arrest, saying "Yeah, sweet" when told Knox had died. He had seemed more bothered about missing a Ricky Hatton boxing match, the officer said.

Altman told the court: "This man carries knives like others carry pens in their pockets and quite happily thinks little or nothing of stabbing others as if it were some occupational hazard."

After his arrest, Bishop bragged of how he had been in prison before and jail simply meant free meals and free use of the gym.

Bishop said he had been "quite angry" about what happened the week before, when he claimed he had been punched to the floor and stamped on outside the Metro bar.

On the night of the stabbing, he said, he had not wanted to go back there but was persuaded to by his friends. He said he was "merry drunk". After getting into another fight, he went back to his home to fetch two knives.

He told the court: "I took two because two was scarier than one and I was angry at that time. I just wanted to scare whoever was down there. I wasn't really thinking that straight at the time because I was so angry, pissed off."

Bishop admitted that the "red mist" had descended and he had not cared what happened. He claimed in court to now have "big regrets" but was accused of being "not the slightest bit bothered" by the prosecution as he seemed unfazed, even belching as he gave evidence in front of the jury.

He said: "You wouldn't think people would run at someone who's got a knife. My aim was to scare people away from me and then, as they kept running at me, the knife was catching them while they kept running into it."

As well as the murder charge, Bishop was found guilty of wounding Rob's friend Dean Saunders, 23.

He was found guilty on majority verdicts of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm to Charlie Grimley, 17, and Nicky Jones, 20. He was also found guilty by a majority of wounding Andrew Dormer, 17, but cleared of wounding another friend, Tom Hopkins, 19.

Dormer had tried to disarm Bishop but was stabbed in the chest, while Jones was knifed in the hand and Grimley in the face and arm. At one point, Bishop walked up to Mr Saunders with what his victim described as an "evil grin" and stabbed him in the neck, leaving him with permanent spinal damage.

Hopkins, at the time a Southend United youth team player, helped bundle Bishop into a flower bed and subdue him. He said Bishop had "looked like a madman" as he shouted and waved his knives around.

Pc Craig Reid had told the court that there "didn't appear to be any remorse" when Bishop was told of Knox's death, but later the killer had ranted: "I'm going to miss the fucking Hatton fight."

The officer said Bishop's stabbing frenzy had left a pool of blood "as far as my arms could stretch" on the pavement.

Bishop lived with his mother and brother and said in court he had not seen his father for about 16 years. He said he had been "very angry" as a child.

At the age of 15, he faced charges for threatening a youth he knew with a knife but the allegations were dropped when he appeared in court. In another confrontation later that year outside a cab office, he slashed the same youth and his friend, across the face, leaving one needing five stitches and the other with a cut on his nose. In May 2005, he pleaded guilty to wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm and causing actual bodily harm.

He served time in prison until March 2007. After his release, he worked fitting air conditioning for a few months before being made redundant, and later worked occasionally as a window cleaner.

Bishop said he would drink "quite a lot" and was "drinking to get drunk".

By contrast, his victim had already embarked on a successful career as a juvenile actor. Knox had just finished filming his part in the Harry Potter film.

A keen rugby player, he had passed his A-levels and had a supportive family behind him. He had just been chosen for a part in a forthcoming film called King Arthur. Among hundreds who attended his funeral was Rupert Grint, who plays Ron Weasley in the Harry Potter series.

Knox has received a posthumous crime-fighting award after chasing a gang of thieves from Marks & Spencer at the Bluewater shopping centre in Kent in 2007. He had just bought a new car, a VW Golf, and was described by brother Jamie as "upbeat, very cheerful, always in a happy mood". He said his brother was "very protective" of him.

Their father, Colin Knox, who works in media production, said: "It's impossible to convey the sadness and loss that we feel, but we now realise Rob touched many people's lives." He said his son was "always the first person to stand up against wrong" and "achieved so much in his short life".

He added: "I like to think he was my friend as well as my son."

Colin Knox said he hoped the fact his son had a role in the Harry Potter film would help draw attention to the scourge of knife crime. "With knives, there are no winners and only losers," he said.

    Man found guilty of murdering Harry Potter actor, G, 4.3.2009, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/mar/04/3

 

 

 

 

 

Two teenagers stabbed to death in London

Two teenagers were stabbed to death
in separate incidents in Stratford and Wealdstone on Thursday night, police have said.

 

Last Updated: 9:04AM GMT 20 Feb 2009
The Daily Telegraph

 

A 19-year-old was attacked in north-west London shortly after 7.30pm and, three hours later, an 18-year-old was killed near a railway station in east London.

No arrests have been made by either murder inquiry.

The 18-year-old was found with stab wounds by a member of the public at around 10.30pm near Maryland railway station in Leytonstone Road, Stratford.

A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said: "Police and London ambulance service attended and discovered an 18-year-old male suffering from a stab wound to the torso.

"He was taken to Royal London hospital but died shortly after arriving."

Police said the teenager's family have been informed and a post mortem is due to take place later today.

The 19-year-old was found stabbed to death earlier at High Weald Service Station in Wealdstone.

He is yet to be formally identified.

Another 19-year-old man also suffered stab wounds in the incident and was said to be in a stable condition, Scotland Yard spokesman said.

The murders come after three teenagers were stabbed in a suspected gang fight.

The boys, aged between 16 and 17, were attacked in Kings Road, Chingford, east London, on Wednesday.

Trails of blood were found in the street, close to a nearby doctor's surgery, and on a number 212 bus.

    Two teenagers stabbed to death in London, DTel, 20.2.2009, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/politics/lawandorder/4732001/Two-teenagers-stabbed-to-death-in-London.html

 

 

 

 

 

Arrests of teenage girls and women reach record levels

• More than 250,000 detained by police in one year
• Crime gap narrowing between men and women

 

Thursday 29 January 2009
guardian.co.ukAlan Travis
17.15 GMT
Home affairs editor
This article was first published on guardian.co.uk at 17.15 GMT on Thursday 29 January 2009.
It was last updated at 17.23 GMT on Thursday 29 January 2009.

 

Annual arrests of teenage girls and women have reached record levels, with more than 250,000 detained by the police according to the latest official figures.

Ministry of Justice statistics published today show that last year youth offending teams dealt with 22% more crimes committed by girls aged 10 to 17, fuelling fears that a new "ladette culture" is emerging on Britain's streets.

Youth Justice Board figures show that the number of personal violent attacks by girls dealt with by youth offending teams rose by 48% over the past five years, from 10,412 in 2003 to 15,413 by 2008. They also show sharp increases in the number of public order offences, up 37% to 5,852, and racially aggravated crimes, up 113% to 758, committed by girls under 18 over the same period.

The report, Women and the Criminal Justice System, confirms the conventional view that women are less involved in crime than men but says the gap is now starting to narrow.

"The overall picture to emerge from the various statistics is that there is a degree of convergence between the sexes in less serious offending, but that males remain disproportionately involved in more serious crime," says the ministry's annual report by the Institute of Criminal Policy Research in London.

The criminologists quote findings from the 2008 Home Office's offending, crime and justice survey showing that 26% of males under 25 admit they were involved in anti-social behaviour in the previous 12 months, compared with 17% of females. But the authors note that the 17% figure for females is up from 11% in the 2006 survey, while the 26% for males is unchanged. The peak age for girls' offending has fallen from 18 to 15 over the same period.

"It is possible that girls' willingness to admit offences has increased in tandem with society's expectations about their behaviour," say the criminologists.

Further evidence that the gap between the sexes in relation to crime is beginning to narrow comes from the youth offending team figures. While the number of offences dealt with involving girls under 18 between 2004 and 2008 rose by 22%, the number of offences for teenage boys fell by 9%.

The arrest figures of 251,000 women and girls in 2006/07 is an increase of 39,000 compared with five years before. Arrests of teenage girls aged 10 to 15 rose from 53,800 to 71,100 over the same period. The numbers dealt with by a caution or warning increased from 38,500 to 58,600 over the same period.

A ministry spokesman stressed that young women only accounted for 21% of all crime and the figures were for the number of offences, not the number of young women involved.

"The Youth Justice Board has commissioned research into patterns of offending by young females, which is expected to be published in 2009," he said.

The shadow justice secretary, Dominic Grieve, said ministers needed to get to grips with "this shocking trend".

    Arrests of teenage girls and women reach record levels, G, 29.1.2009, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/jan/29/girls-arrests-crime

 

 

 

 

 

Woman, 83, found dead and bound with duct tape in her London home

 

January 2, 2009
From Times Online
Adam Fresco, Crime Correspondent

 

An 83-year-old woman has been found dead in the bedroom of her home with her legs bound with duct tape.

A niece of the woman called police after being unable to get in touch with her aunt for several days over the holidays.

Officers visited the three-story house in Stamford Hill, North London, and forced their way in today before finding the woman dead.

It is believed that her ankles had been bound together.

Neighbours described the dead woman as very independent and able bodied despite her age. Many said that they thought she was in her seventies because she was so active.

A Metropolitan Police spokeswoman said that the death of the woman, who lived alone, is being treated as suspicious.

Forensic science officers were today examining the property, which had been taped off by police.

The spokeswoman said that the victim had no obvious injuries and officers are investigating whether there was a break-in and are looking for signs of forced entry.

The spokeswoman added: “We believe we know the identity of the deceased but await formal identification and all next of kin to be informed. A post-mortem will be arranged in due course.”

Detective Chief Inspector Caroline Goode, of the Homicide and Serious Crime Command, is leading the inquiry.

Neighbours said that the dead woman was Jewish and had lived in the terraced house for as long as people on the street could remember with her four brothers and sisters, none of whom ever married, said neighbours.

One neighbour said that after the deaths from illness of her siblings over the past few years the woman had said that she just wanted to be left alone.

The neighbour, Mrs Just, added that the woman had nursed each brother and sister at home despite her increasing age.

“She was a really nice old lady and we are very shocked about it.”

Another neighbour, who did not wish to be named, said that she had seen the older woman some weeks earlier.

She said: “She told me that there was somebody after her money but I didn’t ask any more about it. I just assumed she was old and confused.”

Her next-door neighbour, Rebecca Goldberger, who has lived in the area for more than 16 years, said that her family had seen her just over a week ago.

She said: “The police say the house has been very cold so I think that that is confusing things about when she might have died. Nobody knows how long she’s been there.

“This is quite a busy street and there are always people coming and going. Everybody is shocked.”

She said that her neighbour had been robbed last year by conmen posing as gardeners who had tricked their way into the house and stolen some money.

Police outside the house had cordoned off both the dead woman’s home, No 3, and the next-door property, No 5.

Forensic science officers could be seen going in and out of the house and small crowds of onlookers had gathered as people in the largely orthodox Jewish area prepared for Sabbath.

    Woman, 83, found dead and bound with duct tape in her London home, Ts, 2.1.2009, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/crime/article5433180.ece