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How many more Islington knife crime victims?

Two years after Upper Street stabbing, mothers remember their lost sons at moving service

01 March, 2019 — By Emily Finch

Photographs of Islington knife victims are held up by relatives at St Mary’s Church. PHOTOS: OLIVER BARUN

MOTHERS who have lost their sons to knife crime led a memorial to mark two years since a father was stabbed to death in Upper Street last night (Thursday).

Michelle McPhillips, who is from Barnsbury, became an anti-knife crime campaigner following the death of her son Jonathan, also known as JJ. He was just 28 years old when he was killed on the busy street, and left behind two young children.

Hundreds of JJ’s friends and family members gathered to sing, dance and remember him and other victims of knife crime at St Mary’s Church in Highbury – the same church where his emotional funeral service was held two years ago.

“I’m going to hold these memorial services every year until I see justice for JJ. He can’t just become a lost statistic,” said Ms McPhillips.

The trial of the only person charged with JJ’s murder collapsed in August last year because “there was no longer a realistic prospect of conviction”.

Michelle McPhillips (right), Lesley Hatley and daughter Lauren

Michelle, 55, was joined on stage by the mother of Lee Jay Hatley, another young father from Barnsbury who was stabbed to death just four months after JJ’s death.

The two men were school friends and Lee Jay’s funeral procession stopped outside JJ’s home in Milner Square as a mark of respect.

With her daughter Lauren besides her for support, Lesley Hatley told those gathered: “Since I’ve lost Lee, my life hasn’t been the same. It’s like the sun has stopped shining and the light has gone out.

“Lee was 29, but him and his sister will always be my babies. Every day is a struggle for me. I just go through the motions. Doing day-to-day stuff is difficult. My brain just doesn’t function and my heart isn’t in it anymore.”

She added: “Time doesn’t heal and I am doing a longer sentence than the murderer.”

London Mayor candidate Shaun Bailey

Bradley Wood was sentenced to a minimum of 28 years in prison for Lee Jay’s murder at the Old Bailey.

Ms Hatley praised Michelle for her work in combating knife crime.

“I’m not strong enough to do the things she does for the community. I want to thank her for the support she gives all the parents and for being so strong,” she added.

Conservative Mayor of London candidate Shaun Bailey also spoke to the audience and praised Michelle’s activism and her quest for justice.

He said: “I want to work for communities that are safe. Michelle has been the best kind of Londoner, she’s rolled her sleeves up and got involved. She’s a force of nature and burst into my office one day and told me what the world should be.”

Reverend Caroline Shuttleworth called for an end to knife crime in her speech.

She said: “This vigil is a celebration of JJ’s life and it’s also about something more. It’s about trying to live differently and trying to make this great and blessed city a better place. Violence is robbing us of precious life.”

Revd Caroline Shuttleworth

Speaking to the Tribune ahead of the memorial, Michelle explained that she now spends most of her time in Clacton-on-Sea in Essex.

She said: “It’s very difficult for me because Upper Street is the main street I walk to get to my family house. I remember him and how he died every day I walk that street.

“I have lovely memories of going to the seaside with JJ when he was a child so I’ve moved there. Some days I can’t cope. When I get really fed up I go to the beach and blow away the cobwebs and then I take a deep breath and start again. I don’t believe I’ve started to grieve.”

She spoke directly to those with information who might be shielding JJ’s killer.

Michelle said: “A mother knows when her child has done wrong, so stop covering up for your son. Put yourself in my shoes, feel my pain.”

Anyone with information is urged to contact the incident room on 020 8345 3775 or, to give information anonymously, call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

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