Jonathan ‘JJ’ McPhillips: Memorial held two years after dad murdered in Upper Street
- Credit: Archant
The community came together at a memorial service at St Mary’s Church last night to mark the second anniversary of the death of Jonathon “JJ” McPhillips’.
But the gathering wasn’t just for JJ – the 27-year-old father-of-two fatally stabbed in Upper Street – it was an opportunity for everyone affected by knife crime to reflect and remember their loved ones.
It was a night characterised by speeches, poetry, songs, and dance; all of which were evocatively juxtaposed against a projector screen where images of JJ and other victims of knife crime flashed by.
JJ’s mum Michelle McPhillips, 55, now an anti-knife campaigner, is indomitable in her desire to bring her son’s killer to justice – a goal which cruelly continues to allude her.
Michael Dyra, 23, was charged with JJ’s murder in February last year but the case collapsed in August due to a lack of evidence and no further action was taken.
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She told St Mary’s: “Two years on and it’s not got any easier. People say I should move on, I should stop wearing black, but people grieve in their own way and their own time.
“The murder of a child is unfair an tragic but here we are together [in the church were JJ’s funeral was held two years earlier].”
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She called for a justice system that can deliver convictions, and sentencing that reflects the severity of knife crime.
Michelle described being in the bathroom with her four-year-old grandchild, who said to her: ‘That bad man hurt my dad. He took my dad away’.
She added: “Even my dying father told me: ‘Don’t stand here waiting for me to die, go and get justice for JJ’.
The church pews were filled by hundreds of people and the walls were decorated by placards bearing the faces of lives lost to knife.
At one point everyone took a placard and went to stand on stage while JJ’s cousins Deano Donaghey, 10, and Poppy Mustafa, 8, sang Dancing in the Sky.
Speaking for the first time since her son Lee Jay was murdered by his friend Bradley Wood in June 2017, Lesley Hatley opened up about her immeasurable loss.
She took to the stage and told attendees: “My son Lee Jay and JJ were good friends.
“Lee Jay was grieving the loss of JJ when he himself was murdered. Since the day I lost Lee Jay my life hasn’t been the same. It’s like the sun has stopped shining, light has gone out. Nothing can prepare you for the loss of your child. Lee was 29 but will always be my baby.”
She added: “Every day is a struggle for me, doing day-to-day stuff is difficult. My brain doesn’t function. My heart isn’t in it.
“Some people think I should be getting over my grief but I’m doing a longer sentence than his murderer.”
Tory mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey also gave a speech at the event as a friend of Michelle’s, where he praised her for turning a “tragedy into a determination to protect others”.
The church heard how Louis Bamber, of Liverpool, set up the Live Your Life Drop the Knife group after his friend was stabbed to death eight months ago.
He’s working with St John’s Ambulance to produce what he says is the UK’s first portable stab kit, containing bandages and first aid equipment he hopes can save lives. Packs cost £1 and each product brought subsides a free medical kit for a young person in the UK.
Detectives are still investigating JJ’s death and there is a £20,000 reward for information leading to his killer’s imprisonment.
Anyone with information is asked to call police on 101.