The mother of one of two young men murdered within a mile of each other in north London saw her son die outside his local corner shop after being alerted to the tragedy by flashing lights.
Standing outside the family’s flat on Peckwater Estate, Kentish Town, as streams of teary-eyed visitors from the Somali community passed by to pay their respects, Layla Awad on Wednesday detailed how the family learned of the tragedy that claimed his life amid a night of bloodshed in the borough.
Awad said the boy’s mother, “a really, really, really nice lady” who often babysits her children, heard emergency services arrive around 8.30pm Tuesday from her top-floor flat that looks over the football turf where her son, named locally as Abdikarim Hassan, regularly played.
“She heard the ambulance and the noise and came out to see (what was happening)... he was on his way back from college, back home... and he had not died yet,” the care worker said.
“The jacket looked like her son’s, but police were keeping her from him... so she called his mobile... that is how she found out. He was lying there and she couldn’t get to him or do anything. It was miserable.”
Hassan was reportedly “jumped”.
But there was confusion today about whether he had been attacked on the estate before staggering 100-odd metres to the nearby Saver’s Mini Market where he collapsed, or whether he was set upon as he left the shop to return home to the estate, where a shrine of photos and flowers already marked the murder of another teen days earlier.
A white tent, just feet from the shop’s closed roller door frontage on the corner of Bartholomew Road and Islip Street, on Wednesday concealed the spot where Hassan lost his life and where a local doctor reportedly tried to save it.
Just metres down the road sits the NW5 Project Community Charity who offer a play site for children on the estate’s periphery.
The manager did not want to comment, seemingly overwhelmed by what had transpired, as a young girl enjoyed the equipment all to herself.
Her family, from Hampstead, stopped by unaware of the murder, until they spotted the police cordon and reluctantly let her continue.
As people emerged from Hassan’s family flat wiping their eyes and bracing themselves for the cold, Awad said the family remained “very emotional”.
“She (Hassan’s mother) is crying. I don’t know how I’d cope if it was my son,” Awad said, describing the teenager, who called her ‘auntie’, as having “this innocence, this politeness... he was always very, very respectful”.
A relative of the teenager was lost for words, telling HuffPost UK only that Hassan was “stabbed to death... he’s dead... what more can I say”.
Hassan was said to be a former pupil at William Ellis secondary school in Camden and was studying at Westminster College. He was not in a gang, or a troublemaker, other residents said.
Less than two hours after Hassan’s stabbing, police were called to a disturbance in Malden Road - less than a mile away - near the junction with Marsden Street, where they found a man, believed to be about 20 years old, with serious stab wounds.
The man, named in media reports as Sadiq Adan Mohamed, also died at the scene. His family, according to the BBC, are “devastated”.
Sadiq’s brother, Mohamed Aadam, was murdered in Hampstead in September and their cousin, Mohamed Abdullahi, was murdered in 2013 aged 20.
Police have not ruled out that Tuesday nights’ attacks were linked and as a result they imposed blanket stop and search powers across Camden until 7am Wednesday in a bid to halt further attacks.
No arrests have been made.
Reports on social media suggested there were as many as six knife attacks in Camden overnight Tuesday.
The first attack took place just metres away from where a shrine was built and a candlelit vigil was held Monday for Lewis Blackman, who was killed in Kensington on Sunday. The 19-year-old grew up on Peckwater Estate.
That was next to one in memory of his friend, Nuno Cardoso, a law student who died after collapsing in a police van in December in Oxford. The Independent Office for Police Conduct is investigating it.
Detectives from the Homicide and Major Crime Command have launched separate murder investigations as both London Mayor Sadiq Khan and Police Commissioner Cressida Dick condemned the violence.
So far this year 16 people have been stabbed to death in the capital. Hassan was the sixth teenager among the victims.
Khan said the latest deaths were “two more lives needlessly lost to knife crime”.
He added: “All Londoners need to know that it is simply not acceptable to carry a knife - you are putting yourself and others at risk – and you will be caught and face the full force of the law.
“We are doing everything we can from City Hall to tackle the scourge of knife crime.”
Khan added rising knife crime was “a national problem that requires national solutions”.
He said he was asking Prime Minister Theresa May and Home Secretary Amber Rudd to meet with him and Commissioner Dick to “discuss what more can be done across government – including policing, youth services, sentencing, health services, probation and prisons - to tackle the evil of knife attacks on Britain’s streets”.
Dick extended her condolences to the latest victim’s of London’s knife crime crisis, saying: “I have spoken all too often at the anger I feel at the senseless waste of life. Today, two more families are suffering a terrible loss and my thoughts are with them.”
She said the “frequency” with which some of London’s young people are “prepared to take each other’s lives is shocking” and urged anyone with information to come forward.
“London must come together to make it clear that this cannot continue. We will not police our way out of this problem. There is a role for all of us - London’s public, our partners and the police.
“There will be young people out today who are carrying knives - stop and think. Do you really want your life to end? Or end someone else’s and waste your own life in prison?
“Whoever you are, if you have information, if you know another young person who is going out with a knife then help us protect them. Tell us. We will act.”
Peckwater Estate was imposingly empty on Wednesday with the only signs of life, sporadic groupings of women in hijab, edging through the brickwork with bowed heads.
One man, appearing briefly with his dog Bear, lamented that “the Old Bill are doing nothing about” violence on the estate.
Having lived there for 15 years the man, who did not want to be named, had seen a lot, “they (young men) were shooting at each other last year”. He does not let his children, aged eight and four, out alone.
The 53-year-old said drugs and turf “had nothing to do with” the stabbings and shootings: “It is all just about protecting reputations and kids being stupid.”
Enjoying a cigarette in front of the football turf, seemingly immune to the chill in shorts, t-shirt and slippers, another 15-year veteran of the estate dismissed talk of gangs.
The man, who also refused to be named - “cause I have to live here” - said he had never seen drugs being dealt openly in the communal spaces, suggesting violence only resulted from other youths coming into the area. However, it is “getting worse lately”, he admitted.
“He (Hassan) was just another lad playing football on the pitch,” the man said.
“Seemed like a decent lad. A poor innocent teenager.”
The man said unrest on the estate did prompt concerns about the safety of his own family. He has an 18-year-old son, “what if he got mistaken for someone?”.
At night, the man said, his wife worried about the teenager going out. He didn’t so much, he joked: “I get up at silly o’clock for work... so I’m asleep by then”.
Rachel Ohile, meanwhile, said she often felt “intimidated” by large groups of young men congregating, but sung hymns as she passed, to ease her fears.
The murders come as the Met on Wednesday revealed the results of a week-long weapons bust, Operation Sceptre, which resulted in nearly 300 arrests and 265 knives seized.
Six firearms and 45 other offensive weapons were also confiscated.
“Officers carried out 645 weapon sweeps across London and executed 76 intelligence-led warrants. Proactive operations to target wanted knife crime offenders were also carried out,” the Met said.
A raid at a house in Camden resulted in the confiscation of a number of prohibited knives, a knuckle duster, multiple firearms and a crossbow.
Anyone with information about the murders is asked to contact police on 101 or anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.