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'Our children are being attacked': Christmas tree memorial event for victims of knife crime in Islington

PUBLISHED: 17:02 16 December 2019 | UPDATED: 17:06 16 December 2019

Islington Say No To Youth Violence Christmas tree outside Islington Town Hall. On Saturday December 14 2019 people gathered to add memorial baubles to the tree and switch on the lights. Pictured organiser Michelle McPhillips, who placed baubles in memory of her son JJ McPhillips who was murdered in Upper Street in Feb 2017. Picture: Polly Hancock

Islington Say No To Youth Violence Christmas tree outside Islington Town Hall. On Saturday December 14 2019 people gathered to add memorial baubles to the tree and switch on the lights. Pictured organiser Michelle McPhillips, who placed baubles in memory of her son JJ McPhillips who was murdered in Upper Street in Feb 2017. Picture: Polly Hancock

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Bereaved parents held a Christmas memorial service on Saturday for young people stabbed to death in the streets of Islington.

Islington Say No To Youth Violence Christmas tree outside Islington Town Hall. On Saturday December  14 2019 people gathered to add memorial baubles to the tree and switch on the lights. Pictured organisers including Michelle McPhillips, and Janette Collins from The Crib, Cllrs including Islington;s Andy Hull, Mayor Hackney Philip Glanville, and Rev Caroline Shuttleworth from St Mary's Church Islington who gave a blessing, alongside supporters. Picture: Polly HancockIslington Say No To Youth Violence Christmas tree outside Islington Town Hall. On Saturday December 14 2019 people gathered to add memorial baubles to the tree and switch on the lights. Pictured organisers including Michelle McPhillips, and Janette Collins from The Crib, Cllrs including Islington;s Andy Hull, Mayor Hackney Philip Glanville, and Rev Caroline Shuttleworth from St Mary's Church Islington who gave a blessing, alongside supporters. Picture: Polly Hancock

It was held in St Mary's Church before people spilled out into Upper Street to put baubles - some inscribed with the names of knife crime victims - on a Christmas tree.

Michelle McPhillips, whose son Jonathon "JJ" McPhillips died after he was stabbed outside Islington Town Hall in February 2017, organised the event with support from the council. She said: "It's us saying 'no' to youth violence and also for all the parents it's a remembrance tree. It's a mark of respect to our children that we can come together as a community and get an end to knife crime. When you have things like London Bridge, straight away a big service is held and parents get the support of the public because it's a terrorist attack. But our children are being attacked by terrorists of the streets."

Michelle said many families affected by knife crime feel as though their loved ones have been "forgotten about".

She added: "A lot of mothers feel guilty for their children getting killed. That guilt doesn't belong to them, it belongs to the perpetrators."

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Jennie Appleton, whose son Stefan was stabbed to death in Nightingale Park, Canonbury, in June 2015, was due to attend. Michelle also invited the families of Shaquan Sammy-Plumber, 17, who was killed in January 2015, and Lee Jay Hatley, stabbed to death in 2017.

Michelle praised Islington Council for introducing amnesty bins where people can deposit knives and the Safe Haven scheme where public premises, like shops, display a sign in the window to show people they can get help inside if they feel threatened.

A minute's silence was held in the church.

Knife crime in Islington is down by 10.3 per cent as of September, compared to the previous year, while London saw a 13.8pc rise.

Nedim Bilgin, 17, was stabbed to death in Caledonian Road on January 29. No one has been charged with his murder.

Former Acland Burghley pupil Alex Smith, 16, was knifed to death in Munster Square, Camden, in August. He had recently moved from Islington to Wembley.

JJ's killers still have not been brought to justice. Police will pay £20,000 for information leading to his killers.

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