‘People need to be sensitive to what they stand to lose if they carry a knife’

BY TOBY PORTER

toby@slpmedia.co.uk

A mother whose son was murdered four years ago is pleading with all families to join a community day to turn teenagers against carrying knives.

Collet Hunter, from Catford, will stage a “joyous festival” tomorrow, yards from the youth centre her son James loved and where he died.

The event at the New Generation Youth Centre, 111 Wells Park Road, Sydenham, runs from 12.30pm until 7pm and is in tribute to her son. It is part of a campaign to end the cycle of knife crime which has already ended the lives of five teenage boys in South London this year.

James was killed yards from their then-home in Wells Park Road, on May 31, 2014, by Giovanni Dixon, 17, of Norwood, after he tried to intervene to stop a fight.

The day will feature music, community groups, performers and fun events such as a bouncy castle.

Mrs Hunter said: “The more people we can involve in our campaign, the better chance we have that this can be a landmark. We want to acknowledge each family on that day – remember all the children we have lost.”

Mrs Hunter has also begun a campaign of talks at schools and colleges. She said she had warned James on the morning of the murder that he had so many friends, some of them were bound to carry knives. “I’m prepared to accept the consequences,” he said.

James had started college in a bid to become an accountant like his grandfather. He was also mentoring other students in the community.

Mrs Hunter said: “The message which needs to go out to our teenagers is ‘don’t carry a knife’. There are signs in the park telling you to pick up your dog mess but nothing to say don’t carry a knife.

“We need a sign which says ‘You are coming into a community where we do not accept knife crime’.

“If you have a knife in your pocket, you can all too easily use it to take away the life of a person who is precious to someone. If you have no knife, there is no crime.

“I talked to James about the dangers of knives many times. We had many conversations. I told him I was very worried that he attracted so many people to him because he liked people and people liked him.

“Even on the day I lost him, I went into his room and said: ‘I am going to lose you if you do not take yourself away from those situations.’

“He replied ‘I know. But I am prepared to accept the consequences. I don’t judge them. I love them all.’

“He still wanted to give love to others, even on the day he died.

“When they closed down a football pitch in Catford where he used to go and play, he was bitter that there was nowhere for them to go any more. He was in tears. He was that type of loving person.”

The Old Bailey heard in August 2015 that his killer, Dixon, was “obsessed” with knives and bragged about stabbing a boy.

Dixon had attacked another boy, Ezekiel Andrews, with knives and James stepped in to protect him.

James, 18, suggested they fight “one on one” but Dixon rejected that idea and instead stabbed him in the heart in Wells Park Road.

The court heard how Dixon “jovially” described what he had done as he made his getaway on a bus with his friends.

Mrs Hunter runs an annual competition for a poster to back the campaign against knife crime.

“It should be about what knife crime means to you,” she said. “We want something colourful and bright – not with knives in.

“People need to be sensitive to what they stand to lose, rather than the brutality of the violence.

“In 2001 a man tried to grab my bag in East Dulwich and I held on tight. I said: ‘I am a hard-working mum. There is no way you are going to get my bag tonight. Would you like a cup of tea?’ He let go and walked off.

“If he had had a knife, maybe I would be dead now. If you do not carry a knife, you might fight with your fists but maybe next week you could be friends again.”

For details of the poster competition visit www.jamesrosshunteryouthsupport.blogspot.co.uk.

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