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'You start to ring round, ask who it might be': Camden community tells of fear after bloody summer

PUBLISHED: 08:00 26 September 2019

Camden's young people lit candles for friends lost to violent crime. Picture: Polly Hancock

Camden's young people lit candles for friends lost to violent crime. Picture: Polly Hancock

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A community service at St Mary's Church in Primrose Hill marked the 16 lives thought to have been lost to youth violence in Camden since 2013 on Friday evening.

Candles were lit at St Mary's Church in Primrose Hill for young victims of violent crime in Camden. Those present incuded Cllr Georgia Gould, leader of Camden Council, the Bishop of Edmonton the Rev'd Rob Wickham, and St Mary's vicar the Rev'd Marjorie Brown Picture: Polly Hancock Candles were lit at St Mary's Church in Primrose Hill for young victims of violent crime in Camden. Those present incuded Cllr Georgia Gould, leader of Camden Council, the Bishop of Edmonton the Rev'd Rob Wickham, and St Mary's vicar the Rev'd Marjorie Brown Picture: Polly Hancock

Afterwards, youth workers and young people told the Ham&High about the fear that surrounds them after a "shocking" summer had seen violent crime escalate in the borough - most dramatically in the single September week that saw two young people fatally stabbed and another killed in a shooting.

One youth worker - Emile Libock, who works at the church - said: "Just to get the community together like this shows that we can and are acting together.

"But 100 per cent - people are scared.

"Especially with the recent shooting that we all feel was a case of mistaken identity.

Attendees wrote in a condolences book and lit candles in memory of sixteen young people who've been victims of violent crime since 2013. Picture: Polly HancockAttendees wrote in a condolences book and lit candles in memory of sixteen young people who've been victims of violent crime since 2013. Picture: Polly Hancock

"Everyone around - everyone here lives with that. It feels like it's a big danger just to go out."

The service was held by the Rev Marjorie Brown and the Bishop of Edmonton, the Rt Rev Rob Wickham.

Welcoming a diverse cross-section of the Primrose Hill community including local politicians, bereaved families, youth workers and young people, Marjorie said: "We thought we would have a meeting tonight because the news of the last few weeks has just been too awful."

She said the community's "hearts are broken" by the killings this month of Assad Yarow, Sahkira Loseke and Wilson Varela.

The Rev'd Marjorie Brown of St Mary's Church, Primrose Hill. Picture: Polly HancockThe Rev'd Marjorie Brown of St Mary's Church, Primrose Hill. Picture: Polly Hancock

This year has also seen the killings of Alex Smith, Calvin Bungisa and Abdullahi Hassan in a bloody year across Camden.

Marjorie added: "We want to see Camden as a place which values and cherishes our young people.

"We are not here to judge anyone - we are not here to offer solutions. We are here to grieve."

Another youth worker, Emmanuel Djobo, explained that, for a number of the young people who lit candles at the service, close friends had been killed.

He said: "It's good to see the community like this come together.

"Lewis [Blackman, who was killed in February 2018] was a close friend. Things like this help."

Primrose Hill man Abdisamed Hassan, 20, had used the youth service at St Mary's for years, he said. "In our area," he told us, "these things keep happening.

"It's people you know - the last two killings were right next to my house and it's affecting all of us.

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"We need to show fight and that it is something where we need change."

His friend Kai Aplicano, also 20, explained that every report of a stabbing brought anxiety.

He said: "People never know who it is. The first thing you think is: 'Who is it?' You start to ring around everyone asking who it might be."

Abdisamed continued: "It's really worrying.

"It's not black and white to solve."

As if to prove the young people correct, as we spoke, less than half a mile away in Chalk Farm, two more young men were found with stab injuries.

Emile Libock explained that when he'd first become involved in youth work seven years ago, "you'd barely hear of this".

"You would sometimes hear of knife crime, but it'd be on a rare occasion. Or you'd hear of it as a south London thing."

Rob wears a crucifix made from knifes he had melted down after they were left in a knife amnesty bin at the chuch in Hackney he used to preside over.

"It's vital for any community to have a focal point and a chance to reflect," he said, "particularly when a community has gone through such a series of traumas.

"I am of the position that this needs a response from the whole community."

Addressing those at the service, he added: "In Camden, the effect of the events of the last few weeks - the escalation of these events - requires you and I to think about our encounters becasuse this is a societal issue.

"It's not just for a particular group in our society.

"It's an issue for you and for me.

"We choose how to use these encounters to either build up or to hurt others and all of us as civil society have a responsibility to respond."

The event, which saw Marjorie list the 16 young people who had died due to violent crime in recent years, came a week after Assad Yarow was found dead near Camden Town Tube station.

A week ago today (Thu), police announced a second man, 22, had been arrested on suspicion of murder and released on bail pending further enquiries.

Another man, 27, arrested on suspicion of murder on Tuesday has also been bailed until next month.

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