CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Police commander confirms encouraging council to remove tribute mural to murder victim

More than 4,000 people had signed a petition calling for the mural to be “saved”.

24 October, 2019 — By Samantha Booth

The blank wall close to the murder scene

CAMDEN’S police borough commander has confirmed he “encouraged” the Town Hall to remove a mural in memory of a teenager who was stabbed to death in the Regent’s Park estate.

A colourful mural was painted on a wall near the spot in Munster Square where Alex Smith, 16, was killed in August. But it was removed earlier this month, leaving the 16-year-old’s friends “distraught”.

In a letter to the New Journal this week, Chief Superintendent Raj Kohli said: “Memorials such as this are emotive – there were real concerns about anti-social behaviour and I had a real concern for crime and disorder. My concerns were such that I encouraged the council to take the decision to remove the mural and support the local community.”

Raj Kohli, Camden’s most senior police officer

He added: “I know from personal observations how very difficult it was for the decision to be made and all of us who took part in making the decision were very sensitive to the impact it would have on Alex’s friends.However we also had to be sensitive to the people who live in and around the mural. No matter how sensitively we acted it was always going to be very difficult.”

More than 4,000 people had signed a petition calling for the mural to be “saved”.

But it was removed by the council due to what they said were “anti-social behaviour” concerns.

Deputy youth MP for Camden, Asma Maloumi, said she was “deeply disappointed” that it was taken down as if it “meant nothing to our community”. “In short, this is a catastrophically inconsiderate decision that is desensitising the impact of youth violence on our community,” the 16-year-old said. Fresh flowers have been laid at the wall since, but some of these were removed.

How the mural looked

It is understood the council has reminded staff that the tributes can stay for now.

In a statement last week, the council’s community safety chief, Nadia Shah, said it was a “sensitive situation” and that the Town Hall was going to meet with young people to discuss working on a project together to remember Alex. Two men have been charged with Alex’s murder and are due to appear in court next month.

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