Police make knife crime top priority

Knife crime has replaced terrorism as the police's highest priority, Scotland Yard said yesterday after six people were stabbed to death in just five days.

The change was revealed by Deputy Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson as Shakilus Townsend became the 18th teenager to die on the capital's streets this year.

The 16 -year-old was lured to his death by a girl in a floral dress he had arranged to meet via text message. When he arrived, he was confronted by three youths. Witnesses said his dying words were: "I don't want to die. I want my mum."

Police believe the stabbing was gang-related. One police source told The Independent that youths were starting to wearing red bandannas, signifying that they had "blooded" their first victim. There are believed to be more than 250 gangs in the capital; violence can be triggered by someone being in the wrong postcode.

Sir Paul said a 75-strong task force would be deployed to worst-affected areas with immediate effect, on a code "Blunt 2". "These measures reflect that tackling knife crime is the number one priority for the Met at this time." He added: "Sadly, in recent days, more young people have lost their lives to knife crime. This is not tolerable and clearly the message is not getting through."

In a month, 1,214 people have been arrested for possessing weapons and knife-related crime; 26,000 people have been stopped and searched and 528 knives recovered.

Shakilus, of Tanners Hill, south London, died on Thursday after being stabbed in Thornton Heath, south London. Dee Bamina, 35, attempted to stem the bleeding with a bath towel after another neighbour took him to the communal door of her block. She said: "I think a group of boys must have been after the boy. All I heard was them saying 'Get him from the other side'. I tried to ask him his name and to tell him to calm down and lie down because he was trying to get up and go."

Ms Bamina said the boy was saying, "I don't want to die", and "Where's my mum, I want my mum". He told her he did not know his attackers. Witnesses said the girl in the floral dress was in the crowd when Shakilus was stabbed.

Detective Chief Inspector Cliff Lyons, of the Homicide and Serious Crime Command, said Shakilus was the victim of "a planned and targeted attack".

The attackers wore hooded tops and bandannas so only their eyes were visible. They beat him with a baseball bat and stabbed him more than once. Two knives were recovered.

Yesterday, Shakilus's parents Nicola and Derek identified their son's body. His grandfather, Wayne Dyer, said: "I'm hurting deeply. At the moment my daughter is out identifying the body. I cannot think how bad it is for her."

A 17-year-old boy who lives near the scene of theattack said: "If he hadn't died, no one would have cared about this; it would have just been another stabbing."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?