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Mother’s horror as mural for ‘beautiful’ son murdered while protecting friend is stolen

Ben Moncrieff was murdered as he stepped in to protect a friend in Bath city centre - last week, a memorial was removed as police investigate

Alex Ross
Wednesday 28 February 2024 17:52 GMT
Ben Moncrieff’s mother Sharon Hendry says she’s devastated after a mural in her son’s name was removed
Ben Moncrieff’s mother Sharon Hendry says she’s devastated after a mural in her son’s name was removed (Alex Ross/The Independent)

A grieving mother says she is “gobsmacked” after a mural for her murdered son was pulled down.

Ben Moncrieff, 18, tragically died after being stabbed as he stepped in to protect a friend during a row outside a McDonald’s restaurant in Bath city centre in May last year. His attacker, a boy aged 16, was jailed for his murder in December.

After his death, friends of Ben began leaving messages, photographs and flowers around a tree close to where the attack took place. “Ben’s tree” soon became a place for reflection and a reminder of the deadly consequences of knife crime.

But last Friday morning, a person was caught on CCTV pulling down the memorial, leaving the tree bare and Ben’s mother, Sharon Hendry, devastated. Avon and Somerset Police is now investigating the incident and is treating it as theft.

“I was completely gobsmacked,” Ms Hendry told The Independent. “I was stunned; how could anyone be so cruel to take down Ben’s mural? It’s caused heartbreak for his family and friends, I can’t believe it.”

“That tree was the lasting tribute to my son and the raised of awareness of knife crime which we wanted to be his legacy.

Sharon Hendry with her son Ben Moncrieff before he was stabbed to death outside a McDonald’s restaurant in Bath city centre (Sharon Hendry)

“I hope who ever did it never knows what it’s like to be the mother of a murdered teenager.”

After friends began decorating the mural following his death, Ms Hendry also became a regular contributor to the display. Last week, the 54-year-old added a gold balloon and yellow roses to the strings holding up laminated pictures of the teenager, who was nicknamed ‘Cheese’ by friends.

Situated in the middle of Southgate, one of the city centre’s busiest streets, it was seen by thousands of people every day.

Bath and North East Somerset Council had asked Ms Hendry to remove the mural two months ago after supporting the installation of a plaque on a nearby bench - but the council was quick to say its teams had not taken it down.

Councillor Tim Ball, cabinet member for neighbourhood services, said: “We want to reassure Ben’s family that the council did not remove items from the tree and will only do so when we have first spoken to Ben’s family.

Sharon Hendry looks up at the mural in Southgate in Bath city centre before it was removed (Sharon Hendry)

“We have requested the third party CCTV footage of memorial items being removed from the tree is passed onto the police. Our thoughts remain with Ben’s mum, his family and his friends.”

Ms Hendry said she’d since returned to the tree after the mural removal to lay flowers. She said: “It needs to be acknowledged what happened to Ben to stop others dying [from knife crime]. Ben was such a beautiful person, it was a perfect way to mark his life. His tribute has helped me and others.”

The mural removal was reported to police on Tuesday, with Ms Hendry providing a statement to officers on Wednesday afternoon.

A spokesperson for the police force told The Independent: “Police are investigating the theft of tributes from the memorial to Ben Moncrieff in Southgate, Bath.

“The theft of flowers and photographs was reported on Tuesday 27 February and initial investigations have established that they were removed at about 6.30am on Friday 23 February.

“Officers have identified positive lines of enquiry and the investigation continues.”

The removal of the mural comes as latest Home Office data reveals the number of knife crime offences across England and Wales rose 5 per cent in the 12 months up to September 2023, compared to the same period the previous year.

In Bath, a 16-year-old boy called Mikey Roynon died after being stabbed at a house party a month after Ben’s death. Three youths are currently on trial charged with Mikey’s murder.

Anyone with information on the removal of the mural should call 101 and give the reference 5224051079.

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