Knifed on my street: The ugly divide that ravages our capital city

We lived side by side, but in parallel universes

The living room was flooded with the white blaze of arc lights, illuminating men in silver suits as they dusted down the car of the shadow minister for Justice. They were looking for forensic evidence. So it was very difficult to believe the good news on crime figures emanating at that very moment from the television. The bit about the irrational rise in fear of crime, against the British Crime Survey's backdrop of civil calm, sat particularly badly. Just a few hours earlier, 18-year-old Frederick Moody had been stabbed to death outside his home down the road, by one of a group of children who had, witnesses say, been gathered in the area for some while. The bereaved family of the dead young man have, it transpires, lived on my street for some years. Until Thursday night, though, I didn't know that any of them existed. I doubt if Edward Garnier, the Conservative MP, whose Peugeot across the street now glimmers with iridescent fingerprint dust, knew them either.

You'd imagine, I think it is safe to assume, that living so close to such a dreadful crime, would make you feel that you were not safe and that you and your loved ones could quite easily become victims too. The weird thing is that the event has brought home the opposite message. I live among this mayhem, it happens around me, I write about it for the papers – and have done for many years now – yet I still feel this is a horror that affects other, less lucky people. In many parts of London – including this street – the wealthy and the struggling live side by side7, but in parallel universes.

When I heard the news of Frederick Moody's death I was at – of all places – the O2 Arena, watching a Leonard Cohen concert. Told on the phone that there had been a killing outside my house, I began to shake. My children, six and 10, were with a babysitter, while this horror erupted around them – and I had to get back home.

Naively, I was simply amazed to reach the end of my street to be told that I could not go any further. "But I have tiny children. I have to be with them," I told the officer, who would not give his name, and invited me instead to take down his number from his epaulette. "We've got an old disabled man out here," he replied, with what seemed almost like pride, "and we're not letting him home either".

My next-door neighbours were outside the cordon too. Their 13-year-old was alone in their house, and they were equally distressed about their inability to reach him. The children were not allowed to come out to us either. Everyone had been told to stay inside and the directive was being followed to the letter, by what seemed like hundreds of officers. A nursing mother, even, was not allowed back home to feed her baby.

The police would not tell us anything. When I asked after the victim, they even replied that they had not said that there was one. It was not until much later, thinking back, that I realised it had not occurred to me that the victim could possibly be anyone I know, even though I'm acquainted with perhaps a dozen teen-agers who live on this street.

Almost all my friends, in this multi-ethnic, area, are white. My assumption – which was correct – was that the victim was very likely to be a black boy. London is often described as a multi-cultural city, and most Londoners relish the mix. But what a crime like this brings home is that house by house, flat by flat, it is ghettoised.

My one black-British friend on this street is church-going single mother whose 13-year-old is a dream of a lovely boy. But he lives on the other side of the assumptions that I make so blithely and so casually. The consequences, in his own life, are sometimes not happy. Only the other day, he was waiting in the car while his mum popped into a shop. She returned to find the car surrounded by six armed officers. She and her son were separately questioned for 45 minutes. Top exchange was: "What do you do for a living, son?" "Nothing. I'm 13." This is stop and search in action. It is not the sensible policing it is made out to be. It is highly divisive, in a community that is remarkably divided already.

My friend and her son live in the same street as I do, but in a different world, a world that is far less benign than mine and that, therefore, follows some counter-intuitive logic. While I opted to send my sons to local schools, my friend has gone to great lengths to secure far-off schools for her boy, where he is less likely to get sucked into the street life of south London. I let my 10-year-old travel alone on buses. When her son was 10, and even older, that was simply not allowed. My friend is alive to threats all around her, and is fiercely protective of her son. I can afford to be much more relaxed. Crucially, and heartbreakingly, my friend's son is statistically far more likely to become a victim of crime, yet also far more likely to be suspected as its potential perpetrator. His experience does not encourage him to view the police as people who can protect him.

If our society is broken, that is one of the important fissures. Poor Frederick Moody lived on the other side of our street and, despite all the love and protection of his family, on the other side of that ugly divide.

Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Louis van Gaal would have been impressed with Darren Fletcher’s performance against LA Galaxy during Manchester United’s 7-0 victory
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Isis fighters travel in a vehicle as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province
Life and Style
fashionLatex dresses hit the catwalk to raise awareness for HIV and Aids
Life and Style
The veteran poverty campaigner Sir Bob Geldof issues a stark challenge to emerging economies at the Melbourne HIV/Aids conference
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and John Malkovich talk Penguins of Madagascar at Comic-Con
comic-con 2014Cumberbatch fans banned from asking about Sherlock at Comic-Con
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
filmGuardians Of The Galaxy should have taken itself a bit more seriously, writes Geoffrey Macnab
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform