Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

Hero university student killed in Nottingham stabbing spree died trying to save friend, brother reveals

Grace O’Malley-Kumar had shown ‘incredible bravery’ during her last moments, her brother said

Holly Evans
Wednesday 24 January 2024 06:04 GMT
Brother of stabbing victim Grace O’Malley-Kumar pays special tribute

The family of an aspiring medic who was stabbed to death during a knife rampage last year have said she was a hero whose final moments were spent trying to protect her friend.

As prosecutors today accepted a manslaughter plea for Valdo Calocane, the brother of Grace O’Malley-Kumar paid tribute to her bravery in defending her friend from the “brutal” attack before the knifeman turned his blade on her.

Ms O’Malley-Kumar, 19, was one of three victims killed in the Nottingham stabbings last June. A talented hockey player, she had been celebrating the end of exams with Barnaby Webber when they were ambushed by Calocane while returning to her student accommodation.

Calocane, 32, now faces life in prison after he admitted stabbing the two students before killing 65-year-old school caretaker Ian Coates and stealing his van in a failed attempt to kill pedestrians.

Grace’s father Sanjoy and brother James described her as a ‘hero’ (Sky News )

Speaking to Sky News, her 17-year-old brother James said: “Grace’s last moments were in pain and that’s something that really hurts me to think about and she was a hero, that was her character.

“She tried her best to save her friend. That was how Grace lost her life in the most vulnerable manner. She would never leave a friend, never, and that was very evident from her last moments. She passed fighting.”

After stabbing them both, Calocane travelled to Magdala Road where he killed Huntingdon Academy caretaker Ian Coates, 65, in a violent assault before stealing his Vauxhall van.

He then drove into the city centre where he deliberately drove into three pedestrians, causing one to be hospitalised with critical injuries. Calocane, who is a paranoid schizophrenic, was then tasered and arrested a short while later.

A former university student himself, Calocane had a history of mental health illness and had previously tried to hand himself into the MI5 headquarters in London.

Ms O’Malley-Kumar was an aspiring medic who had helped with vaccinations during the pandemic (PA Media)

His guilty pleas to manslaughter were accepted by the prosecution after he was assessed by three psychiatrists.

In an emotional interview, Ms O’Malley-Kumar’s family recalled the moment they discovered she was one of his victims, after hours of frantically making contact with her friends.

Upon seeing the news alert that a man and woman had been killed in Nottingham, her mother sent a message to the family Whatsapp group, asking her daughter to make contact.

After she failed to respond, her father Dr Sanjoy Kumar said: “Call it a mother’s intuition, we didn’t wait and we jumped into the car and started driving to Nottingham.”

In the meantime, Mr Webber’s death was announced, with Miss O’Malley-Kumar’s friends informing them that she had last been seen walking home with him.

Ms O’Malley-Kumar’s family had been hoping he would face a murder trial, with her father Dr Sanjoy Kumar saying they had “faith in the judiciary and have faith in the court”.

Dr Kumar also called for the government to take tougher action on knife crime, which he described as an “epidemic”.

Ms O’Malley-Kumar died while trying to protect her friend Barnaby Webber (PA)

Hoping to graduate as a medic and serve in the armed forces, Ms O’Malley-Kumar had also trained as a vaccinator and had treated hundreds of people during the pandemic.

As well as this, she was a talented sportswoman and had played hockey for England at under-16 and under-18 level.

“She was just the best sister I could have asked for, she was always there for me as a shoulder to cry on and to quietly listen. She had my best interests at heart all the time,” her brother said.

“Her smile was so contagious, I really miss her. Knowing that I’ll never see that again it’s something that really hurts me, she was such a joyous person to be around.

“Her laughter, her excitement, she had such an unmatched zest for life. She was honestly so perfect.”

He added that he could “never forgive” Calocane for killing her and has taken to wearing her earring and sleeping with her hockey top to “get as close as I can to her”.

Prosecutor Karim Khalil KC told the court that Ms O’Malley-Kumar had shown “incredible bravery” and had leapt forward to defend Mr Webber after he was stabbed repeatedly.

Valdo Calocane pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the basis of diminished responsibility (PA)

Since her death, her family have begun the process of setting up a foundation in her memory which will raise funds for causes such as sport and education, as well as lobbying the government on knife crime.

In a victim impact statement, Mr Webber’s family branded Calocane a “monster” and described his death as the the “most vicious, unprovoked, senseless and evil way imaginable”.

His father David added: “Your despicable, murderous actions are not reparable in this or any other lifetime. Your evil, vicious, selfish, unforgivable actions have caused damage that will never be repaired.

“I believe in karma, I hope you get all you deserve for the rest of your life.”

The family of Ian Coates also called for justice and said that the caretaker was just five months away from retirement when he was killed.

His son James said: “He didn’t get the chance because a selfish monster decided to go on a spree killing.”

The sentencing has been adjourned until Wednesday, with the court due to hear from psychiatrists.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in