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Mother of stab victim ‘JJ’ calls for more long-term help for grieving families

One year on from her son’s stabbing, campaigning mother joins other bereaved relatives at a moving memorial service

02 March, 2018 — By Emily Finch

Families of knife crime victims hold up placards at the memorial in St Mary’s Church on Wednesday

THE impact of knife crime on those left behind was laid bare at a moving memorial marking the one-year anniversary of a young father’s death where bereaved families also called for better support and a reversal to police cuts.

When Jonathon “JJ” McPhillips took his final step after a brutal stabbing outside the Town Hall in February 2017, his mother Michelle McPhillips started her own battle to end the scourge of knife crime.

Ms McPhillips, a popular and eloquent Essex Road pub owner, led the moving tributes on Wednesday night to her 28-year-old son at St Mary’s Church in Upper Street – the same church where JJ’s funeral service took place almost a year ago.

JJ’s mother Michelle McPhillips speaking at the service

She was joined by a dozen other mothers carrying placards featuring faces of their children who had been stabbed to death.

Speaking to the Tribune, Ms McPhillips said long-term practical support for the families of stabbing victims was lacking with scant guidance and finances offered by the council or the government’s victim support scheme.

She said: “It’s been so hard without JJ. I’m just trying to keep focused on where I feel there is a gap. People in my position are not being helped. It’s a minefield going through claims, organising a funeral with flowers and headstones and even organising counselling.

“There needs to be something in place for after a sudden death. My campaigning now is to get the help families need. There is nothing for us.”

Jenny Appleton, left, with Janette Collins

She also said that had there been a greater police presence in Upper Street on the night of her son’s death he may still have been alive.

“They need to put more money back into policing. They need to be visible, mixing in with the community and that way they’ll find out things are happening before it happens,” she said.

The mother of Stefan Appleton, a 17-year-old Canonbury student stabbed to death three years ago in Nightingale Park, backed Ms McPhil­lips in a tearful speech.

JJ McPhillips’ partner Kennedy Parker, centre, supported at the service

Jenny Appleton said: “There’s no support for us. We are just left alone once the trial is over and some families never get justice for their loved ones.

“Me and my family started a support group for families. The police gave me Michelle’s phone number and she started to come to our group. We had to do that as a family.”

She added: “This pain never goes away.

“I know people who have lost their sons 10 years down the line and the pain is the same as the day they died. It will ­never go away.”

The Rev Simon Harvey

At the hour-long ceremony JJ’s cousin Deano Donaghey, nine, took centre stage during a rendition of the song Dancing in the Sky, where other children who have lost relatives to knife crime joined him on stage.

A placard for Lee Jay Hatley, a close friend of JJ’s who was also stabbed to death in Canonbury last year, was held up proudly by his sister ­Lauren.

“I’ve met so many people who have told me how JJ touched their lives,” said Ms McPhillips to the gathered mourners.

JJ’s cousins Georgia Sparkes and Kelsei Bannerman sang Heaven Was Needing a Hero

“Now the whole of Great Britain is learning about JJ when I talk to young people about knife crime and the effect on families,” she said.

Islington’s community safety chief Councillor Andy Hull highlighted what the council were doing to reduce knife crime in the borough.

“The council, almost uniquely, has maintained its investment in universal youth services and has put extra money in targeted youth work, an extra half-a-million pounds a year.

A piper played at the end of the service

“Our integrated gangs team is seen as a model of mult­i-agency best practice,” he said.

The Rev Simon Harvey, ended the memorial with a prayer for Islington, and exiting mourners were greeted with a fireworks display that lit up the sky outside.

• A 22-year-old man was charged last month with the murder of JJ McPhillips. Michael Dyra, from Hoxton, will next appear at the Old Bailey later in the year.


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