CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

‘Stop the violence’: Bereaved Camden families unite in peace plea

Relatives of victims of violence meet with Mayor of London

03 October, 2019 — By Samantha Booth

Families who have lost loved ones: Nuro Omar, Fowsiya Abdi, Aydarus Ahmed, Susan Anim-Boadu, Marian Yusuf, Abdirahman Osman and Abdulkadir Farah with Operation Shutdown campaigner Elaine Donnellon (front)

BEREAVED families in Camden have united to make a passionate plea to: “Stop the violence, stop the killing, spare everyone.”

Relatives of young men and women who have died in violence came together in the same room for the first time on Tuesday.

They spoke frankly to Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and made demands for action in a private meeting – described as emotional – at the Greenwood Centre in Kentish Town.

It came just weeks after three murder investigations were launched in the space of just five days in Camden – seven murder inquiries have been launched in the borough this year.

Abdullah Yarow, whose 25-year-old son Assad, from West Hampstead, was the most recent victim of a fatal stabbing in Camden High Street, Camden Town, told the New Journal: “There’s no need for the violence to carry on. It feels like it is going to carry on though.

“How many more need to die? Someone needs to do something about it. More needs to be done for the youth and we need longer jail sentences to send a strong message. There must be more help for people who are suffering.”

Assad Yarow

Family members of those who died in fatal stabbings more than a decade ago were also at the meeting, including Abdirahman Osman, whose 18-year-old son Mahir Osman was killed near Camden Town tube station in 2006 after being ambushed at a bus stop.

Operation Shutdown, an anti-violence grassroots campaign which helped organise the meeting, said there were complaints around how social media is being used to goad young men, a lack of specialised support and calls for more youth workers.

Susan Anim-Boadu, from Camden Town, whose 20-year-old son Kwasi was stabbed to death in Finsbury Park last year, said: “It was really very emotional to see all of us together.

“We said we should set up a group and try and support each other. Some of the families are really down, we can help them stand on their feet.”

She added: “My feelings are still the same – one minute you’ll be ­happy, the next you become emotional. “If the person comes forward who killed him, we need justice. I don’t want any retaliation, though, it needs to stop.”

Ms Anim-Boadu called for more support for grieving families around housing and safety. No one has been charged with murdering her son, who was known as “Junior” or “Lavish”.

Susan Anim-Boadu with a picture of her son Kwasi

On speaking to Mayor Khan, Ms Anim-Boadu said: “Whatever they promised, I hope that they will be able to do it.”

Operation Shutdown campaigners Elaine Donnellon, a Camden mother, and Aydarus Ahmed, who has lost three relatives to fatal stabbings in the borough over five years, said the joint statement agreed by most of the families “came from the knowledge there is a lot of fear, pain, angst, anger and heartache in our community”, adding: “We hope that these words will resonate with those who are in a position to informally intervene to prevent further potential conflict, violence and death, and or to those who may end up caught up in violence, to really think twice.”

They also renewed calls for increased financial support for the council, police and grassroots community groups.

The New Journal was told it could join the meeting after Mr Khan had left.

The Mayor, who has been criticised in the pages of the New Journal for not being seen on the streets of Camden in the aftermath of the killings, despite a sense of community desperation, declined to answer questions as he departed.

Council leader Georgia Gould and Camden MPs Keir Starmer and Tulip Siddiq were among the other officials at the meeting. Chief Superintendent Raj Kohli said preventa­tive work is “critical” as police can keep violence “squashed” at the moment, with a targeted approach, but it may arise again in the future.

He said: “The [council’s] investment in youth services is beyond what the rest of London is doing by a long shot. It’s not enough, but that’s not their fault, as there’s just not enough money in the system.

“In terms of deterrent, I just think some young people just don’t care and something has happened for them to just not care. Something has happened.

“We solve and convict about 90 per cent of murders and I get that in this room there are people who have not yet had their justice. I can only apologise for that.

“That’s not through lack of trying. I can only apologise for that. But we will always try our best.

“Ninety per cent of crimes we do solve. These murderers know 90 per cent of the time we will catch them and imprison them.

“It’s doesn’t stop them. I don’t know why they are doing what they are doing, but they are doing it.”

Raj Kohli

He said videos, such as music videos which are said to taunt, they can have removed from YouTube and Facebook but they still exist on Snapchat and Whatsapp. “That’s a real challenge,” he said.

Cllr Gould said the families showed “enormous courage” in coming together.

She said the Youth Safety Taskforce identified a gap in provision for 18 to 25-year-olds and they were investing in that area now as well as evaluating what support is available for victims’ families.

Half-a-million pounds was given out to projects to stem the violence in Camden this year.

Ms Siddiq said: “It was incredibly powerful to hear the families share their experience of losing a child needlessly. There is a huge amount of work to do in order to prevent further loss of life and I will do all I can to assist the families.”

Anyone with information on the investigations should call police on 101 or contact Crimestoppers through 0800 555 111 or crimestoppers-uk.org.

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