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Ben Kinsella anniversary: How Islington teen’s killing caught attention of national press – and what it changed

PUBLISHED: 14:41 28 June 2018 | UPDATED: 14:53 28 June 2018

Meyrem Hussein. Picture: David Tompson

Meyrem Hussein. Picture: David Tompson

Archant

As chief reporter at the Islington Gazette when Ben Kinsella was murdered, Meyrem Hussein had a better insight into Islington’s knife crime problem than most. She recalls how Ben’s death caught the attention of the national press – but says too little has changed in the decade since.

Flowers left at the scene in 2008 where Ben Kinsella was murdered. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PAFlowers left at the scene in 2008 where Ben Kinsella was murdered. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA

Something is very wrong with society if nobody is shocked when a teenager is stabbed to death.

But when, on June 29, 2008, a 16-year-old boy was killed after a night out in Holloway, Islington Gazette reporters were not surprised.

Our first thought was: not again.

Teenage boys were being stabbed in turf wars, over dirty looks – or just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

In the previous year, two other teens had been fatally stabbed in Islington alone.

Martin Dinnegan, 14, bled to death in his brother’s arms in Tollington Way, Holloway, on June 26, 2007, after “dirty looks” between two rival groups led to him being stabbed.

George and Deborah Kinsella at Ben's funeral at St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church in Duncan Terrace in 2008. Picture: Anthony Devlin/PAGeorge and Deborah Kinsella at Ben's funeral at St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church in Duncan Terrace in 2008. Picture: Anthony Devlin/PA

Nassirudeen Osawe, 16, was knifed through the heart while waiting for a bus at The Angel, Islington, on December 27, 2007, because his killer thought he had looked at him in the wrong way.

Killings would result in emotional vigils and piles of flowers on the street.

But despite mums worrying when their sons left the house, there was no national outcry.

The mood changed when Ben Kinsella lost his life to knife crime.

His sister was the actress Brooke Kinsella, who had played Kelly Taylor in the BBC soap EastEnders.

So the nation’s media flocked to Islington and they backed calls from Ben’s family to do something about knife crime.

Teenagers march on Islington Town Hall in 2008 in a protest against escalating knife crime following the murder of Ben Kinsella. Picture: Max Nash/PATeenagers march on Islington Town Hall in 2008 in a protest against escalating knife crime following the murder of Ben Kinsella. Picture: Max Nash/PA

A few days after Ben’s death, some 500 people – dressed in white – marched in the heat from Islington Town Hall to the scene of the stabbing, the corner of North Road and York Way, where they said anyone simply carrying a knife should be jailed for 10 years.

More than a thousand mourners turned out to witness Ben’s purple coffin being carried into his funeral service at St John the Evangelist RC Church in Duncan Terrace, Islington, as a media scrum fought to capture a shot of Brooke in her sunshine yellow dress. She had not wanted to wear black.

It seemed that everybody wanted change. And “Ben’s Law” now means knife killers receive up to 10 years longer in jail.

Yet every day brings more cases of families destroyed by knife crime. In 2008, Ben was the 17th teenager to be murdered in London. So far this year, at least 16 teenagers have been killed in the capital.

Which brings us to the same question we asked ourselves a decade ago: what will it take to fix our society?

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