Teenager dies in knife attack at charity party

Police arrest two boys on suspicion of murder after fight breaks out at church hall
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The Independent Online

Police have launched a murder investigation after a 15-year-old boy was killed at a charity party in a church hall.

Steven Lewis died shortly before midnight after being stabbed. He was the first teenager to die from violence in London this year.

Officers found his body at Whitwell Road, east London, after disturbances at a party held nearby at St Cedd's church hall. Police said a gang was seen in the area about the time of the attack. Witnesses said fights broke out at the party, which finished about 10.30pm.

Police said they had arrested two boys aged 16 and 17 on suspicion of murder. They appealed for witnesses to come forward. Detective Chief Inspector Simon Moring, from the Homicide and Serious Crime Command, said up to 100 people may have been on the street after the party. He did not rule out a gang link to the crime and was "open-minded" as to the motive.

Steven's friends and family paid their respects at the scene yesterday and comforted his mother, Sharon Lewis, as she lay flowers. "My boy, my boy. Stupid night out. For what?" she said.

His aunt Michelle said: "Everybody loved him. They are going to miss him."

Two women who said they were part of Steven's family said his sister and brother were with him when he died. "He would have been 16 in two weeks. His sister was holding him when he was dying. She's 16 herself. His brother is 13 and saw everything."

Steven's friend, Luke Sterne, 15, said: "He always had a smile on his face."

The Reverend Eugeniah Adoyo, vicar at St Philip and St James' Church, which adjoins the hall where the party took place, said: "It's meant to be a charity that deals with violence among black people, specifically youths."

The address on the venue booking form matches a charity called The One World Foundation Africa, based in Stratford. Its website says it is "working in London and in Africa to empower and promote the independence of the socially excluded". Nobody from the charity was available for comment.

The hall manager, Eutal Spence, said the event had been closed early because organisers "smelled trouble".

"They were fundraising for a charity ... to enhance the lives of young people to keep them off the streets. Specifically for young black people. I was called and told it was closed a little bit early because it was getting rowdy."

A 15-year-old from Stratford who did not want to be named said she had seen Steven at the hall. "He was there. There was something going on between the different mixtures of boys. When we came out, a fight broke out. Everyone started screaming and running." More than 100 people had been at the alcohol-free party, she said, adding she had seen Steven after he had been stabbed.

Local resident Colleen Bernard, 50, said the gathering on the street had concerned her. "They were like a herd of monkeys going past me. The atmosphere was intense. It's like there was something in the air."

A second murder investigation was also launched yesterday after a 26-year-old man was stabbed in Wembley, north London. Police, responding to reports of a fight, found the man with a stab wound to his back at 1.40am. The man is yet to be identified. Four men and a woman have been arrested.