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We have suffered from government cuts, says close pal of murder victim

'You know you look at London and we all love how diverse it is but the reality is we have council blocks opposite million-pound homes'

22 February, 2018 — By Tom Foot

Lewis Blackman was known as Dotz

A CLOSE friend of Lewis Blackman, the 19-year-old whose knife murder in Kensington led to the first vigil of the week, has paid tribute to his “charisma”.

More than 100 young people gathered at the Peckwater estate on Sunday evening after learning that the aspiring rapper, known as Dotz, had died in the early hours.

The flowers left then were close to the spot where 17-year-old Abdik­arim Hassan was to be stabbed to death on Tuesday evening. As police continue to search for Mr Blackman’s killer and try to get a grip on a series of stabbings, Amber Agoro, 19, who lives in Kentish Town, said boys growing up in the capital needed more positive role models.

“You know you look at London and we all love how diverse it is but the reality is we have council blocks opposite million-pound homes. For some people that might be a motivation, but for others it can be about how small you feel,” she said.

Mr Blackman, however, was seen as someone who had strived to avoid trouble. Outside school – he studied at Haverstock and Acland Burghley – he searched for other interests and had invested energy in rugby.

At Hampstead Rugby Club, he was seen as a rising star. “Lewis was tall, fast, athletic – a natural sportsman – and a lad who could rally others,” the club said in a tribute on its website. “He was the obvious choice as captain for the fledgling ‘elder-boys’ team. He learnt fast, and despite his appalling time-keeping was a natural leader and someone who was ever a thorn in the side of the opposition. “It is awful to know we can’t tempt him back to fulfil his outstanding potential because of some coward in a street late at night.”

Two shrines on the Peckwater estate: for Lewis Blackman and Nuno Cardoso

Mr Blackman loved football and supported Arsenal; a Gunners scarf hangs at the mountain of tributes in Islip Street on the estate. Friends recalled how he would often tell the same joke about how he would pretend on the phone he was in Barcelona signing a big-money contract.

He grew up in Kentish Town, but was living in York Way at the time of his death. His family did not wish to comment, although his sister tweeted that tributes carried on the New Journal website had been comforting at a time of grief.

“A lot of the boys would call him ‘big-for-nothing’, because he was big but he was just a softy underneath,” Ms Agoro said. “Anyone who was friends with him would tell you about his charisma. He had a positive energy around him. That’s what makes it so much harder to deal with.”

There are now two shrines to young men on the Peckwater estate, as flowers and tributes still lie there for another former resident, Nuno Cardoso, a university law student who died after collapsing in a police van in Oxford before Christmas. Despite passing his A-levels, Mr Blackman decided not to go to university.

Ms Agoro said: “Lewis was very close with Nuno, but a lot of boys were. Nuno was an inspiration, because he had gone to university. Nuno would be telling them about education. It had a really good impact. And I think that is an important thing: we need more positive role models.”

She added: “With a lot of the black youth, the role models are either drug dealers, music and footballers. In Camden, I mean, it is poor – there is poverty. But I believe people start drug dealing in Camden because of the brotherhood of it. It’s not necessarily the money, it’s the lifestyle they live. Being part of a group. The older boys bring up the younger ones. A lot of these boys, they don’t have proper father figures, and when that is the case your friends become your family.”

Reflecting on the stabbings across Camden on Tuesday night, she said: “So you can see how easily sadness turned into anger on Tuesday. Some of these boys are lost, you know. It is easy for police to say: ‘Put down your knives’, but how are you going to protect yourself if someone else has one? It is the norm. So what are kids supposed to do?”

She added: “We need more support. We do need the services. You know this government has all been cut, cut, cut.”

Mr Blackman was pronounced dead at around 3.45am on Sunday in Logan Place, west Kensington, having been stabbed. Murder squad detectives are investigating whether the attack is linked to a party in nearby Earls Court Road. Patrol officers were already on their way to the scene after reports of a large number of vehicles.

Detective Chief Inspector Mark Cranwell said: “I want to hear from anyone who was in the area. Did you witness an altercation? Every fragment of information is beneficial to our investigation and I would urge anyone who may know something to contact police immediately.”

Mr Cardoso’s girlfriend Louise Wilson, who is campaigning for more answers about the circumstances of her own loved one’s death, spoke at the vigil for Mr Blackman on Sunday. “He also had the biggest heart. He always asked if everyone was good for money or if they had eaten. His laugh was so infectious. He had the most banterish personality,” said Ms Wilson. “He’d always make jokes and always everyone would laugh.”

Anyone with information, can contact the incident room on 0208 721 4054.

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