The epidemic of crime that has brought death and misery to the streets

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Yet another knife murder made headlines yesterday when a 22-year-old man was jailed for life for stabbing to death a student who had done nothing more than look at him.

Thomas Grant, 19, was stabbed in the chest on a packed train by Thomas Wood as Mr Grant made his way home from university.

Wood, who pleaded guilty to murder at Preston Crown Court, was told he will serve a minimum term of 21 years for stabbing Mr Grant with a four inch-long kitchen knife on a Virgin train from Glasgow to Paignton in Devon as it passed through Tebay, Cumbria on 27 May.

This murder appears to be part of an upsurge in killings involving knives. High profile cases this year include the stabbing to death of Kiyan Prince, 15, outside a school in Edgware, north London. The trend in recent years, however, has not supported the idea of a British knife culture. The number of violent crimes involving knives in England and Wales has declined over the past 10 years.

Home Office records show that the number of people killed with a sharp instrument in 1994 was 231. In 2005 that number was a near-identical 236 out of the total number of murders (820). But this year, things seemed to take a turn for the worse. The British Crime Survey suggested that the number of muggers using knives in 2005 increased dramatically from 24,290 to 42,020 - a rise of 73 per cent. There were 91 serious attacks between May and June this year, 19 of them fatal.

In total, 5,784 people were convicted of carrying a knife or blade in 2004, compared with 3,511 in 2000.

The number of children aged 12 to 14 convicted of carrying knives at school doubled between 2000 and 2004 to 170.

The Youth Justice Board announced that carrying a knife was the most common offence among children excluded from school.

In 2004 the British Crime Survey estimated that 60,000 children aged 11 to 16 were carrying knives.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that more people are carrying knives, often they claim, as a means of protection from attack.

Concern prompteda nationwide knife amnesty starting in May that resulted in more than 18,000 weapons being handed in.

Yesterday's court case revealed how deadly a knife can prove - Thomas Grant died from a single stab wound to the chest which went through his lung and into his main artery.

His parents , Ken and Pat, said: "He was simply travelling home from university. There is no good way to die, but our son died in a cruel and random manner. This is what makes his death all the more shocking and unforgivable."

The teenager had just finished the first year of a history and Arabic degree at St Andrews University.

Tim Holroyde QC, for the prosecution, said Mr Grant was standing on the platform at Carlisle station when he had the "misfortune" to come to Wood's attention. Mr Holroyde said: "Mr Grant turned round and looked at him; he did not say anything, and he then turned away again. The defendant plainly took exception to this. He said to Mr Grant, 'What the fuck are you looking at? I'll stab you in a minute'."

Sentencing Wood, the judge, Mr Justice Openshaw, said: "He did nothing more than just a look, it cost him his life."