Barnaby Webber and Grace Kumar: ‘Heartbroken’ tributes to talented students killed in Nottingham attacks

Young sports stars in first year of university had ‘everything in life to look forward to’, say relatives and friends left ‘bereft beyond belief’

Andy Gregory
Wednesday 14 June 2023 14:58 BST
Nottingham attacks: What we know so far

The families of two teenagers killed in the knife and van attack in Nottingham have described their “complete devastation”, as they paid tributes to their “adored” children.

The rampage in the early hours of Tuesday saw students and talented sportspeople Barnaby Webber and Grace Kumar, both aged 19, fatally stabbed by an assailant, who then proceeded to knife to death school caretaker Ian Coates, before stealing his van and mowing down three others.

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Barnaby Webber, 19, was ‘just at the start of his journey into adulthood’, family say

Nottingham Police have arrested a 31-year-old suspect on suspicion of murder, after subduing him with a Taser, and are said to be working with counterterror officers to establish a potential motive.

“Heartbroken” tributes have now been paid to the two students killed in the attack, who family and friends left “bereft beyond belief” described as having “everything in life to look forward to”.

In a statement issued on Wednesday morning, Mr Webber’s parents David and Emma, and younger brother Charlie, hailed their “beautiful, brilliant, bright” son and brother, a talented cricketer studying at the University of Nottingham.

“Complete devastation is not enough to describe our pain and loss at the senseless murder of our son,” said the family from Taunton, Somerset.

“Barnaby Philip John Webber was a beautiful, brilliant, bright young man, with everything in life to look forward to. A talented and passionate cricketer, who was over the moon to have made selection to his university cricket team.

“At 19 he was just at the start of his journey into adulthood and was developing into a wonderful young man. As parents we are enormously proud of everything he achieved and all the plans he had made.

Barnaby’s family have released photographs of their ‘amazing son, brother, grandson, nephew and friend’

Barnaby’s loved ones said they were ‘so proud’ to release photographs of the 19-year-old student

The family said they were “so proud” to release photographs of their loved one, who they described as “an amazing son, brother, grandson, nephew and friend”.

They added: “Thank you for your understanding, and to everyone who has supported us in this awful journey so far.”

Taunton-based Bishops Hull Cricket Club paid tribute to Mr Webber as a “dear friend” and “key part” of the club as it invited family and friends to lay flowers and pay their respects at the club. Former England cricket captain Michael Vaughan also paid tribute, describing him as a “young cricketer gone far too soon”.

Taunton School said its community was “heartbroken” by his death, with the former pupil having left sixth form last year after joining the independent school in nursery. “In his long association with the school, he touched the lives of many staff, pupils and parents and his loss will be very difficult to come to terms with,” staff said.

Mr Webber and Ms Kumar were both first-year students and were stabbed in Ilkeston Road at around 4am, just minutes away from the student halls in Lenton where they both lived, according to a friend.

One 20-year-old told The Independent the pair had been walking home from a nightclub after celebrating the end of their exams.

In a statement, Ms Kumar’s family described her as “so happy in life” and “resilient and wise beyond her years”, saying: “Grace was an adored daughter and sister; she was a truly wonderful and beautiful young lady.

Woodford Wells Cricket Club, in Essex, said former captain Grace Kumar was ‘fun, friendly, and brilliant’

“Grace was not just a sister to James but his best friend. He is completely heartbroken. As parents, words cannot explain our complete and utter devastation. She will be so dearly missed.

“We were so incredibly proud of Grace’s achievements and what a truly lovely person she was. She was resilient and wise beyond her years. Grace was so happy in life fulfilling her ambition of studying to become a doctor whilst playing topflight hockey at university.

“She leaves behind devastated extended family and friends. We request that all media outlets stop invading our privacy while we face this sorrow.”

Ms Kumar is reported to have played hockey for England Under 18s and Under 16s, and the university’s first team, with the sport’s governing body England Hockey describing her as a popular team member, adding: “Our thoughts are with Grace’s family, friends, teammates and the whole hockey community at this time.”

Woodford Wells Cricket Club, in Essex, said “fun, friendly and brilliant” Ms Kumar was a former team captain there, describing her as “a fiercely competitive, talented and dedicated cricketer and hockey player”.

Southgate Hockey Club in north London expressed “profound sadness” at Ms Kumar’s death, calling her a “huge talent and much loved member” of the club.

Southgate Hockey Club called Grace Kumar a ‘huge talent’

Dozens came to pay their respects at a 5pm vigil at St Peter’s Church on Tuesday, with a large group of boys consoling one another, as Nottingham University student union cancelled its Grad Ball, which had been due to take place on Tuesday night.

Chief constable Kate Meynell told reporters that the force was not looking for anyone else in connection with the incidents and no further arrests had been made.

One man among the three people struck in the hit-and-run was hospitalised in critical condition, while two had minor injuries, the police chief said.

Mr Coates, reported to be a 65-year-old site manager at Huntingdon Academy, was found dead in Magdala Road, a short distance from Ilkestone Road. His van is believed to have been stolen by the suspect before being driven into the three further victims on Milton Road, near the Theatre Royal in the city centre.

The primary school’s headteacher Ross Middleton called Mr Coates “a much-loved colleague who always went the extra mile for the benefit of our children and will be greatly missed”, adding: “As a school community, it will take time to process this deeply upsetting news.”

Police believe all three incidents are linked, the chief constable said.

“We are keeping an open mind as we investigate the circumstances surrounding these incidents and are working alongside Counter Terrorism Policing to establish the facts, as we would normally do in these types of circumstances,” said Ms Meynell.

Additional reporting by PA

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