Five mothers have relived the hardest phone calls they had to make after their sons were stabbed to death, in a bid to urge Londoners to speak up about knife crime.
They shared their stories as part of a campaign launched on Thursday aimed at inspiring women whose close relatives may be on the fringes of knife crime to report information.
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick said she hopes their “tragic accounts” will encourage people to call the Crimestoppers charity, anonymously.
She said: “We understand this is a difficult thing to ask – but you don’t have to name names and even a small piece of information could be vital.
“Making that one call could literally save the life of someone’s son or daughter.”
Becky Beston, whose son Archie Beston was 19 when he was stabbed to death in Kingston in February 2020 on a night out with friends, told how she had to call a stranger about getting him embalmed.
“You should never have to use those words with your son’s name. Ever,” she said.
“If somebody would have made that phone call, my Arch would be here now.”
“I felt lost”
Lorraine Jones, whose son Dwayne Simpson was stabbed to death at the age of 20 as he tried to save a friend’s life in Brixton in 2014, said: “I’d just come back from a busy day when the door rang.
“It was one of Dwayne’s friends. He said, ‘Dwayne’s been stabbed, come quick!’ It was like I was in another world. I felt lost.
“I had to call my mum. It was the hardest call – I was out of breath and my stomach was tight.
“Even when I was making a call my hands were shaking. I tried it three times, I was just so helpless and weak.
“I had 20 wonderful years with him, and really good memories. But I didn’t realise the impact he had until he passed away.”
The Hard Calls Save Lives campaign – featuring short films of the mothers’ stories along with adverts on radio, websites and social media – is targeted at people in areas affected by violent crime.
It is particularly aimed at inspiring women – mothers, sisters, aunts – whose children, siblings, nephews or nieces may be on the fringes of knife crime to make a report if they know someone who carries a knife or where a weapon has been hidden.
“She just screamed”
Lillian Serunkuma, whose 15-year-old son Quamari Serunkuma-Barnes was knifed to death outside his school gates in 2017, recalled calling her aunt to let her know he had been stabbed.
“She just screamed. That was the hardest thing about that day,” she said.
“It can be hard to make the call to say someone is involved in knife crime, especially if it’s someone you know or love. But it’s so much harder if you don’t.
“It’s almost as bad to lose a child or a friend to prison as it is to lose them if they’re killed. Either way, they’re going to suffer as a result of knife crime.”
Yvonne Lawson, whose 17-year-old son, Godwin, was stabbed to death in 2010, said she rang her sister after she was told he had died.
She said: “I just kept repeating ‘died, died, died’. Godwin was stolen away from us in such a terrible way.
“My family is broken into pieces, just missing him. We didn’t even get a chance to say goodbye, and he’s never going to be there, he’s never going to be part of us anymore. The least we can do is use his memory to change lives.”
And Jean Foster, whose son Christopher Foster, 34, was stabbed to death outside a London pub in 2010, said: “They told me Christopher had been murdered.
“We called nine or 10 times. Slowly, we came to the realisation that he was never going to call back.
“People may think that keeping quiet keeps you out of their focus, but it empowers them. No one is safe if we keep quiet.”
“Strength and courage” of mothers
Dame Cressida praised the “strength and courage” of the mothers “who have relived the traumatic calls they had to make in hope that it will prevent other families suffering as they have”.
Mick Duthie, director of operations at Crimestoppers, said: “Hearing the mums speak in such an honest, frank and heartfelt way about losing a son to knife crime is incredibly humbling.
“I truly admire their courage and determination to warn others in their own words about the danger of not speaking up.”
Crimestoppers can be contacted anonymously on 0800 555 111 or at Crimestoppers-uk.org.