The killing of Luke: how a corridor fight left a schoolboy stabbed to death

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The Independent Online

The 999 call came at 10.12am. For staff in the control room of Lincolnshire Police, in Lincoln, it was an unusual time for officers to be called to a stabbing. But what caused a sense of dread was the location of this outbreak of violence ­ one of the county's best schools.

By the time an air ambulance arrived a few minutes later at Birkbeck School and Community Arts College, near Louth, Luke Warmsley was unconscious in the building where he had fallen.

The football-mad 14-year-old, whose neighbours remembered him last night as often kicking a ball in the street, was pronounced dead on arrival at the Diana Princess of Wales Hospital in Grimsby. Medical staff could do nothing to treat the damage caused by a stab wound he suffered during a fight with another pupil. Police said that the precise circumstances of the teenager's death would take "some considerable time" to establish.

Luke Warmsley is thought to have been stabbed at least once in the chest in the fight, between lessons.

As Luke's schoolfriends left flowers inside the gates of the college, they knew that he had become another victim of the violence in Britain's schools.

"We all just burst into tears," said one girl last night. "We went back to our house and talked about him. We had a lot of respect for him and now he is gone."

Sources indicated that the altercation happened in a corridor at around 10am, only moments after the bell rang for the end of the first class and teenagers began to pour out of the classrooms.Few pupils seemed to notice the scuffle initially, but the consequences swiftly became apparent.

The killing recalled murders such as that of the London headteacher Philip Lawrence, stabbed at the gates of his school in 1995, and the death of Rashid Femi, 12, who died in a playground after a fight in east London last December. But Birkbeck, a small secondary school with 276 pupils aged 11 to 16, is in North Somercotes ­ a quiet seaside community, far from the inner city.

Luke, a typical teenage schoolboy who counted judo and computer games among his hobbies, had been a pupil there for about three years.

Luke's family, including his father, Paul, and his 12-year-old sister, were at their detached home in the village last night. A family friend was answering the door to callers and taking messages of sympathy from relatives and neighbours. "I'm afraid it is too soon for the family to say anything," he said. One neighbour, who asked not to be named, said: "He was such a lovely boy, no trouble at all. We cannot understand what has happened. He didn't deserve anything like this."

Detectives and the local education authority ordered the school to be closed and teams of investigators descended on the site.

The school's headteacher, Gary Loveridge, left the school last night without commenting, following a visit from Tony Lake, chief constable of Lincolnshire Police who expressed his condolences to staff. The school's lights were still on while police and other teaching staff remained inside.

A spokesman for Lincolnshire County Council said: "It is so out of character ­ two pupils fighting, one ending up rushed to hospital. It is a shocking incident."

Steve Jackson, a spokesman for the local education authority, said: "Lincolnshire Police were called to Birkbeck School ... this morning following a fight between two students of the school in a corridor.

"One of the students was stabbed and that has since resulted in the death of that individual. The other individual involved has been arrested." Philip Dilks, Labour's education spokesman on Lincolnshire County Council, said: "This is a terrible tragedy. Our thoughts are with the family and friends of the dead boy."

The school prides itself on its pastoral care, as reflected in an Ofsted report five years ago in which it described itself as "an orderly and caring community where pupils and teachers know each other well".

But the gentle, rather intimate environment was shattered yesterday.

"It happened in the corridor," one pupil told a number of newspaper journalists. "Apparently everything just went to pot. One teacher was the first one there and then another kid came in and told what had happened."

A knife was found at the scene and taken away by police who sealed off the area for an examination expected to last until later today.

The 15-year-old boy who was arrested at the school was being held at Skegness police station last night. A post-mortem examination was being performed at the hospital. A police spokesman said: "Until we have a result of that post-mortem, we cannot say what the cause of death was and therefore exactly what we are dealing with. In the meantime it is being treated as a suspicious death."

The killing of the teenager prompted calls for the installation of American-style security measures such as metal detectors in schools.

A survey by the General Teaching Council for England published in January found that the behaviour of children, including threats or the use of violence, was one of the three main reasons why teachers were leaving the profession. Unions have recorded incidents of children as young as three attacking teachers and other pupils.

The school is regarded as one of Lincolnshire's best comprehensives. It was recently awarded specialist arts status, allowing it to give extra funding to creative subjects.

Pupils who saw the stabbing will be interviewed in the presence of their parents today. When the school reopens tomorrow after a day of "reflection", counsellors will be on hand.

There were bunches of flowers by the school gates last night. A card read: "Luke, you'll forever be in our minds. Live in peace. Kirsty, Tyler and Stacey."