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Parents’ plea to spray-painters: ‘Don’t risk your lives’

Hampstead Alberto Fresneda, 19, was killed by a train along with two friends while graffitiing on the railway

08 March, 2019 — By Tom Foot

Alberto’s parents at their son’s mural: ‘Graffiti may have saved more lives than it has taken’

THE Lymington estate football pitch is peppered with tags and graffiti pieces, including a bright pink mural dedicated to three young friends.

The relative safety of the kick-about space in West Hampstead is in stark contrast to the dangerous stretch of railway where Alberto Fresneda Carrasco, Jack Gilbert and Harrison Scott-Hood died last summer.  The spray-painters were killed while hiding in pitch-black darkness from an oncoming train at Loughborough Junction, in south London, in the early hours of June 18, an inquest heard this week.

On Tuesday, the parents of Alberto – a 19-year-old former William Ellis pupil who lived in Hampstead – visited the mural with the New Journal to reflect on why their son had risked so much to express himself.

Since their son’s death, Isabel Carrasco and Carlos Fresneda have spent hours walking the side streets of Camden, following his tag, “Trip”, for clues about a life that had been hidden from them. Scaling walls and jumping fences, they have been bewildered by some of the places he had been.

Ms Carrasco, who is training to be a massage therapist at a clinic in Malden Road, said: “I’m not excusing him for going onto the railway, but I can understand – it was freedom for him.”

The couple have become experts in the new tags of other writers that appear on walls and collect photos of them in an album. Isabel has even learned how to write her son’s tag and, in grief while spreading some of his ashes in New York, even put up a few of her own.

“Actually, when we were in New York there was a lot of graffiti – but I didn’t see any ‘RIP Trip’, so I took matters into my hands, and made my own,” she said. “I realised how difficult it is. You start to write and you are like: ‘Oh, my gosh. Someone is going to see us.’ Someone shouted at me: ‘You are doing graffiti?’ I said: ‘Sorry, sorry.’ They said: ‘You are not sorry.’ I said: ‘Come on, Carlos! Run!’”

RIP Trip tributes continue to spring up on the walls around Camden, elsewhere in London and even abroad. In the aftermath of a coroner’s inquest on Thursday, the couple wanted to send a message to others like their son but also to counter critics, holding their own view that “graffiti may have saved more lives than it has taken”.

Isabel said at the football pitch this week: “When I come here I think my son – and I am sure the others too – was talented enough to put his thing up in a place where he did not have to risk anything at all. You could be in this playground, not the railway.”

She added: “I think Banksy and Exit Through the Gift Shop, and all the movies like that, they have sold this idea that you have to do risky things to put your thing up. We would like to say: Keep going with your art, but do not risk your life.”

Carlos Fresneda, UK correspondent for Spain’s national newspaper, El Mundo, has written a book about his son, which is being published later this year.

He shared an excerpt, which says: “His tag is chasing us now all the time. Whenever we leave the house, whenever we turn the corner, when we walk through West Hampstead or Camden, when we approach Finsbury Park, where he planned to move. The TRIP RIP memories have gone even further, from London to Madrid, from Amsterdam to his beloved New York.”

The parents said the solidarity from the “graffiti community” had been a “great comfort” to them. A growing number of Alberto’s different groups of friends now meet up every Friday in Camden Town and on the monthly anniversary of his death to have a meal together.

A British Transport Police detective told the court that, even with his 20 years’ experience on the railways, he would not have been able to tell from the friends’ perspective which track the oncoming train was on. There was no lighting on the railway and the train did not have headlights, Detective Sergeant Simon Rees told the inquest. It is believed they jumped down from a wall onto the track the train was on. DS Rees said: “Their first instinct is to conceal themselves. They don’t want to be seen. At that point they would have hidden, which in terms of where they are, it would have been to drop down by a wall so they can’t be seen. Unfortunately by that point they have already put themselves in harm’s way.” The train’s “feet” – which stick out from the side of the carriages – are believed to have hit the friends.

Carlos and Isabel with Albert’s friends outside Loughborough Junction train station last June

Alberto, who also studied at the Working Men’s College, had odd jobs at Office shoe shop in Camden High Street and at Paperchase at the Finchley Road 02 Centre. His parents are from Spain but he was born in New York and lived there until he was 12 when the family moved to Hampstead. His father said he did not want to return to New York while Donald Trump was president and that he firmly considered himself to be a “north Londoner”.  But both parents said the “transition” had been difficult and there were big differences between the education systems in London and New York, and in general more of an acceptance of young people in America. 

Mr Fresneda said: “We want to give a broader context to what happened. Alberto was very critical of the so-called ‘war on graffiti’, the need to criminalise it – the stigma of it. “There are many crimes happening in the city, especially now after this year of violence. I have written stories for my newspaper about it, called ‘London is Killing Me’ – about all of the knife crime last year. We were really worried about that, as parents.” He added that Alberto had known one of the knife victims, who had gone to William Ellis. “But graffiti may have saved more lives than it has taken,” he said. “Because young people put their passion there. The boys that do it, there is more cooperation than competition between them.”

Senior coroner Andrew Harris recorded that the deaths of Alberto and Mr Gilbert, 23, and Mr Scott-Hood, 23, known as K-Bag and Lover, were accidental. He said: “They were walking along a track which is subject to extensive graffiti. Unknown to them, they were facing an oncoming train. They hid by a wall but were struck by a train.”

Alberto’s final ‘to do’ list 

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