'This needs to stop': Over a hundred attend vigil for Romario Opia
Emma Bartholomew and Emily Pennink, PA
- Credit: Polly Hancock
The family of 15-year-old knife crime victim Romario Opia urged young people to put down their weapons and "appreciate life" at a vigil held in his memory.
Romario's sister, grandma, aunty and uncle all spoke at the gathering in Holland Walk on the Elthorne Estate in Archway, where he was stabbed to death on January 25.
More than a hundred people turned up, some wearing T-shirts printed with his photo, and his friends and family lit candles, said prayers, and released paper lanterns into the sky.
Romario's emotional grandmother spoke of her disbelief at his death and about how much she is going to miss her grandson, who would have turned 16 this week. She described how his heartbroken family are still trying to allow the shocking news to sink in.
His aunt said his family was "honoured" that everyone turned out to pay their respects, and thanked the person who cradled Romario in their arms before police arrived at the scene.
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Despite efforts to save him by emergency services, Romario was pronounced dead a short while later.
She asked the crowd: "You turn out here with love in your hearts - yes?
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"You turn out here with peace in your hearts - yes? The community that surrounds us here today, we all love Romario - yes?"
"Yes," they all replied.
She continued: "So young people, I'm going to say this. Put it [your knife] down and reach for the skies. You are the sons and daughters of tomorrow."
Romario attended the New River College Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) primary school and last year he spent the autumn term at Beacon High, formerly Holloway School.
Beacon High headteacher Alan Streeter said: "Romario was with us at Beacon High for a short space of time. Whilst he attended the school he proved to be a big character and a very popular young man.
"He was confident, respectful and well-mannered.
"Our school community and in particular his friends are trying to make sense of this terrible loss.
"Nothing we say can dampen the sorrow felt by those that loved him. All of our thoughts are with his family.”
Appealing for donations, she said: "On Monday, January 25, a mother's life changed forever.
"This is unfortunately a never-ending story on our streets. This needs to stop - I don’t ever want to see another family endure this pain.
"The family of Romario are totally broken. We need your help to please support Romario’s family through this difficult time."
A 17-year-old was charged with the murder of Romario on January 29. He was due to make his first appearance at the Old Bailey on Tuesday, but the court was told he is in self-isolation at Feltham Young Offenders Institution and therefore unable to attend.
Judge Philip Katz QC set a plea hearing for April 20 and remanded the defendant in custody.
A 16-year-old boy who was arrested on suspicion of murder has been released on bail until February.