Two more stabbings bring London to its worst ever teenage homicide death toll

London has recorded its worst ever annual death toll from teenage homicides after two boys were killed within an hour of each other in stabbing incidents, bringing the total to 30 for 2021.

A 15-year-old was stabbed and killed in south London and a 16-year-old in west London on Thursday, bringing the total beyond the 29 deaths recorded in 2008.

Campaigners said efforts to tackle knife crime had been inadequate and it was now so prevalent, it was becoming normalised, while a senior Labour politician called on the government to take more action to deal with the “epidemic”.

“Knife crime is accepted by this generation as part-and-parcel of growing up and that’s completely unacceptable,” said Patrick Green, the chief executive of the anti-knife crime charity the Ben Kinsella Trust, which was set up in 2008 after the fatal stabbing of 16-year-old Ben in north London.

“It shows that not enough has been done and, if I’m being really critical, then I’d say the approach to tackling it has been scattergun. We have to sustain our response to knife crime, it has to be over the long term and not just one and two-year funding for projects.

“It is a societal problem which will continue unless it is addressed properly.”

Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, said the news was “devastating”. She added: “It is truly awful that more young lives have been lost to the epidemic of knife crime across the country. No family should have to go through losing a child in this way.

“Important further action is needed from government to tackle the knife crime epidemic – including more neighbourhood police back on the beat, stronger laws on the criminal exploitation that draws children and young people into drug and knife crime, and support for the youth services and early intervention work that keep young people safe.”

They spoke after a 16-year-old boy was pronounced dead at 8.25pm on Thursday, having been stabbed at Philpot’s Farm, in Yiewsley, west London. About an hour earlier, a 15-year-old boy died after being stabbed in Ashburton Park, in Croydon, south London. Another 15-year-old boy was arrested on suspicion of murder in relation to the Croydon stabbing. Neither victim had been named.

Separate murder investigations were launched and police appealed for witnesses to come forward. The 30 killings of teenagers in the capital in the calendar year is the worst death toll on record.

The latest stabbings will prompt renewed discussion about the possible causes of youth violence, with experts suggesting these include a rise in the number of children who are vulnerable, increased pressure on services such as policing, and social media fuelling conflict.

The seriousness of the situation was further underlined by Pastor Beryl St James, from Shiloh Worship Centre church and charity, which is based in Thornton Heath – near the scene of the first killing. She said she had received a call from a parent who had found a knife in their child’s room on Friday morning.

Speaking from the scene, she added: “I know we have to work and we all have duties to fulfil, but as a parent you cannot think that it’s OK to leave the state to continually look after your child.”

Anthony King, the chair of the MyEnds programme, which aims to tackle knife crime in London, told reporters at the scene in Croydon: “Sadly, it’s because we’re having a lot of breakdowns in schools, in education; young people are being excluded too quickly, some for minor incidents, there’s breakdown in the homes.

“Parents, if you see a bread knife or bun knife missing from the home, please speak to somebody, please contact an agency or an organisation and let the teachers know.”

The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said he was “devastated” by the two deaths. He said: “I refuse to accept that the loss of young lives is inevitable and will continue to be relentless in taking the bold action needed to put an end to violence in our city.”

Commander Alex Murray, Scotland Yard’s lead for violence in London, said: “I am deeply saddened by every single homicide this year, and greatly concerned by those that have been teenage killings. Each one is a tragedy leaving behind heartbroken families and distressed communities.

“My thoughts are with the victims and all those impacted. They are not statistics, not just numbers, they all have families, and they all should have had their lives ahead of them. They and their families have been robbed of something precious and we should all be doing everything we can to stop this.

Chart: In 2021 there were 30 teenage homicides in London, exceeding the 2008 peak

“These devastating losses continue to motivate every single officer at the Met to catch those responsible, bring justice to their families and take weapons off the street.”

Scotland Yard said police were called to the Croydon stabbing shortly after 7pm. They gave first aid to the boy before the ambulance service arrived, but he was pronounced dead a short time later.

Officers were called to the stabbing in Yiewsley shortly after 7.30pm, where they found the 16-year-old victim suffering from a puncture wound. He was also declared dead at the scene.

The victims’ family members had been informed but neither boy had been formally identified, Scotland Yard said. Postmortem examinations were due to be held later.