The sister of Ben Kinsella, the 16-year-old stabbed to death as he celebrated the end of his GCSEs, made a heart-rending plea yesterday for a halt to the epidemic of knife crime.
Visibly distraught, the actress Brooke Kinsella pleaded: "Now truly is the time to stand up and put an end to this. Please, please let us learn from Ben and every other child that has been stolen from us."
Ben had been celebrating the end of his exams with friends at a pub in north London when a brawl spilled out on to the streets and the youngster was stabbed repeatedly. In a final call to a friend, the terrified teenager begged: "Help me, help me."
He was the 17th teenager to die violently on the streets of the capital in just six months. Twelve have been killed in knife attacks.
His 24-year-old sister, best known for playing Kelly Taylor in BBC1's EastEnders, wept as she described her brother as "one of the kindest, gentlest and talented boys God has ever created", a youngster with a "heart of gold".
She continued: "We always knew Ben would make a special mark in this world and although this is in the worst possible circumstances, hopefully he will be the one that finally puts an end to this. My family are determined to fight in his memory to make the streets safer for our children. Please, boys and girls, put down your knives and weapons and think about the pain and suffering they will cause."
Urging parents to encourage their children to stop the violence, she added: "Please can we waste no more time and come together as a country to ensure no other lives are wasted."
Ms Kinsella's public plea mirrored the now all-too-familiar sight of devastated relatives forced to confront the grief of a young life cut short. The latest death comes amid Operation Blunt 2, a high-profile Scotland Yard initiative to tackle violence among young people and remove weapons from the streets.
Scotland Yard confirmed that Ben had died of multiple stab wounds to the torso. Officers searching the area have found two knives, though it remains unclear whether they were the assailant's weapons.
"Ben's death is a meaningless waste of life," said Detective Superintendent Vic Rae, of the Metropolitan Police's Homicide and Serious Crime Command. "At this moment in time, we believe there were four black males involved in the stabbing. They were around about the same age of Ben or slightly older," he added.
Det Supt Rae explained that detectives were aware that a number of people had been in Shillibeers bar when a fight erupted in the early hours of Sunday morning. Evicted from the pub, the group emerged into North Road, Islington, where the violence led to Ben being stabbed at the junction with York Way before his attackers ran off. He died a short while later in hospital.
While initial reports suggested that Ben and his friend had been ambushed and fled up the road with the attackers in pursuit, Det Supt Rae said it was still unclear whether the teenager was trying to get away from the other youths at the time of the attack. CCTV footage from the bar was being examined.
"How Ben got sucked into the disturbance is unclear. Ben was with friends as it moved up the street and as it got to York Way Ben received the stab wounds," the officer added. He said a number of witnesses had already come forward, but appealed for more to help the inquiry.
One friend claimed the teenager was a victim of mistaken identity, while another added: "Ben had run away but he was chased. I heard someone shout 'Get him, get him,' then he was stabbed. There was blood everywhere."
Scotland Yard said there was no suggestion that the killing was racially motivated. It also said two 16-year-old boys arrested in connection with the investigation had been bailed to return to a north London police station in late August.