Mother who devoted her life to fighting knife and gun crime is murdered

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The Independent Online

Police have arrested the grandson of a mother who led a high-profile campaign against knife and gun violence on suspicion of stabbing her to death.

Pat Regan, 53, became a powerful voice in the lobby against gun crime after her 26-year-old son, Danny, a drug dealer, was shot dead inside his fortified Merseyside home six years ago. She attended a summit on violence at Downing Street last year held by Tony Blair and the then home secretary John Reid.

A life which had become defined by the fight against bloodshed in Britain's inner cities was ended early on Sunday when Mrs Regan, a mother of six, became the victim of a frenzied knife attack inside her maisonette in Hyde Park, a deprived area of Leeds. It was here that she had dedicated her time to educating young people on the dangers of gun and knife crime by visiting schools and helping bereaved families.

The body of Mrs Regan was discovered at about 7pm after a family friend went to the home in Marlborough Grange, a local authority-owned housing block. Family and friends, many of them in tears, gathered outside the flat to lay flowers. Last night the block remained cordoned off behind police tape and black plastic screens as forensic experts examined the scene.

Her grandson, Rakeen, 20, who had been receiving treatment for mental health problems, was being held last night in connection with the killing and a subsequent knife attack in Leeds city centre.

Police sources said that the grandson had been held at about 11am on Sunday following the stabbing of a worker at Leeds railway station. A 45-year-old member of the platform staff suffered a knife wound to the arm after he and several colleagues tried to stop a man who was trespassing on the tracks.

West Yorkshire Police said a knife recovered from the railway station by British Transport Police was being examined to see if it was connected with the attack on Mrs Regan, which took place prior to the rail incident. A police spokeswoman said: "A 20-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of murder and is currently being detained pending further inquiries."

Friends and fellow campaigners expressed their shock and dismay at the killing of a woman who had dedicated herself to helping others affected by gun and knife crime, as well as seeking to warn youngsters of the risks they faced by becoming involved with criminal gangs.

She set up Mothers Against Violence, which operated from a community centre in Hyde Park and had close links to allied groups such as Mothers Against Guns (MAG) and Mothers Against Murder and Aggression (Mama).

Mrs Regan became an impassioned advocate of grassroots action to tackle the increase in violence in low-income areas, lobbying interest groups from government ministers to vulnerable teenagers, after the murder of Danny in a suspected gangland hit in December 2002.

While accepting that her son's lifestyle selling class-A drugs was the reason for his death, she maintained that he had moved away from criminality to become a legitimate businessman when a gunman broke into his home and killed him at close range in the conservatory. He left two young children.

Speaking last year during an appeal for new information about the still unsolved murder, Mrs Regan said: "Danny knew the dangers he was facing and I was always waiting for the knock at the door. He came home in a coffin and his designer gear came home in big brown envelopes.

"It made me determined to try to stop this violence. I know it's too late to save Danny and persuade him to give up the lifestyle which led to his death. But it's not too late to save others and if the work I do can make another young man think twice, then perhaps Danny's life won't have been lost in vain."

Colleagues commended the grandmother, who would often travel to the homes of new victims of gun and knife violence to offer advice and comfort. Lucy Cope, the founder of MAM, said: "Everybody honoured Pat Regan for her courage, her devotion against gun crime and for peace in Leeds. Every single time another family went through the tragedy of gun crime in Leeds, Pat Regan knocked on that door and held the hands of mothers. She will never be forgotten, never."

Among those laying flowers, outside the building where Mrs Regan died was Lorraine Fraser, 43. She had first met Pat four years ago after her son, Tyrone, was killed in a knife attack. "She was a remarkable woman and she was our hero," she said.