Four people have been killed in a spate of unrelated stabbings across London on New Year’s Eve amid calls to crack down on knife crime.
Police are appealing for information after a 17-year-old boy, an 18-year-old man and two others aged 20 died within hours as millions celebrated the start of 2018.
Investigators called the murders “heartbreaking” while vowing to crack down on rising violence in the capital.
The first victim, an 18-year-old man, was stabbed in Larmans Road, Enfield, at around 11.30am and died later in hospital.
Shortly after 7.30pm, a 20-year-old man was attacked in Memorial Avenue, near West Ham Tube station in east London.
Police arrived to find the victim suffering from several stab injuries and paramedics could not resuscitate him, pronouncing him dead at the scene.
Detective Chief Inspector Will Reynolds appealed for members of a group he was with at the time of the stabbing to come forward, adding: “This attack has robbed a young man of his future and robbed a family of their loved one...I know that there were people in the area who witnessed the incident.”
Three hours later, a 17-year-old boy was fatally stabbed near Tulse Hill railway station in south London, dying on the pavement from a single wound.
Detectives said they had an “open mind” over possible motives but that the victim was involved in an argument on a bus travelling through the area shortly before the attack.
Then in the early hours of the New Year, at around 2.30am, a 20-year-old man died of knife injuries in Bartholomew Court, Old Street, near the City of London boundary.
A fifth man aged in his 20s was stabbed in the same incident and remains in a critical condition in hospital.
Scotland Yard said none of the killings were being treated as linked after launching four separate murder investigations.
Commander Neil Jerome, of the Metropolitan Police’s Territorial Policing Command, said thousands of officers had been on duty across London to keep the public safe during celebrations.
“However, there were small groups who chose to engage in disorder and violence, and whose actions have had utterly tragic consequences,” he added.
“It is heartbreaking that, at a time when so many of us are contemplating what lies ahead in 2018, four families are dealing with the grief of losing a loved one to senseless violence and the callous use of knives as lethal weapons.
“I can assure Londoners – and the families and friends of the four males killed and the fifth who remains in hospital – that detectives will work tirelessly to bring to justice those responsible for such despicable acts of violence.”
Five male suspects have been arrested in connection with the murder in Enfield but no one has been detained over the three other cases.
Mr Jerome said four deaths in such a short period of time was “unusual”, adding: “We have certainly seen in recent months an increase in knife crime.”
Officers were supporting grieving families and had “reinforced the determination” to tackle violence among young people, the Commander added.
“I would urge anyone with information about these attacks, and more generally about anyone who routinely carries a knife, to urgently pass that information to police or Crimestoppers,” he urged.
“If you’ve hesitated to do so before, then these four tragic deaths at the start of a new year may persuade you to act now to make London safer for your family and friends in 2018.”
Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, repeated the call for information and said his thoughts were with the victims’ families.
“It is horrific that knife crime has claimed another four young lives as the New Year begins,” he added.
“We will work tirelessly in 2018 and beyond to stamp out this scourge. I want to be absolutely clear – if you use a knife the full force of the law will be brought down on you.
“You will be caught and prosecuted.”
The Government is proposing new laws to restrict the online sale of knives, making it illegal for them to be delivered to private properties, after bringing in mandatory sentences for offenders repeatedly caught carrying weapons.
Police are also investigating a mass stabbing at a Great Gatsby-themed New Year’s Eve party in Sheffield.
Two men were critically wounded in a fight at Crystal Bar at around 2.20am and remain in hospital, while three other people suffered superficial knife injuries.
A spokesperson for South Yorkshire Police said all five men were in their 20s, adding: “An investigation is in its early stages and officers remain in the Carver Street area carrying out inquiries.”
In Worcestershire, a man was arrested on suspicion of murdering a woman shortly before midnight on the same evening.
West Mercia Police said officers were called to a home in Bromsgrove at 11.52pm, where a woman with knife injuries was pronounced dead around 20 minutes later. A 49-year-old local man was arrested at the scene.
The latest deaths come amid mounting concern and anger over a spike in knife attacks in London, alongside rises in moped-enabled violent crime including acid attacks and robberies.
Cressida Dick, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, said stabbings had risen by 15 per cent in the capital in 2017.
Speaking in November, she said the crime wave was being driven by a “core group of young offenders” repeatedly committing assault and robbery “with relative impunity”.
Ms Dick argued that an increasing number of young people do not fear state action and are not deterred by the threat of imprisonment because they do not believe they will be jailed, or that it would be for a short time.
One in three robbery victims is aged 10 to 19, while the 26 per cent of rape victims are in the same age group, along with 16 per cent of sexual offenders, the Commissioner said.
Crime reported to police has risen by 13 per cent across England and Wales in the past year, with the increase partly attributed to a “genuine rise in violent crime”.
Anyone with information is asked to call police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
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