During the last few weeks there have been two tragic murders in our Borough: two senseless murders, for which we may never have an explanation nor understand. The first occurred at the Green Gate pub, in the very early hours of 15th October. The murder followed a private party. Tempers flared and a young man died. It was a pointless killing, which has ruined the lives of at least two families and badly affected everyone in the room.
One week later I got another call from my local Police, telling me that yet another young life had been ended. He was just 16 years old and, at the time of writing, his friend lies seriously ill in a nearby hospital. I have no further details and I cannot offer an explanation or motive. The only thing I know is that these killings must stop. We, as a community, need to find ways to instill in our young people a real self-worth and an understanding of the value of life: others’ as well as their own.
It’s been a bleak fortnight. In the last ten days I have laid flowers at memorials of two brave police officers, who died defending our community.
The first was Gary Toms, a courageous young man, who died on the streets of Newham, pursuing violent men. The Prime Minister unveiled the memorial to him in Stratford where he fell. I also laid flowers at the memorial of Nina MacKay, a gutsy policewoman from Newham, who died in 1998 and whose memory we continue to honour. Remembering their bravery is the least we can do as a community in recognition of their sacrifice and in thanks for the service our police provide.
It would be easy to write a bleak and hopeless column about the fragility of life and to talk about the fear and anger of a community faced with unthinking immorality. Yet it was just a short while ago that I went on a ride-about in Newham with the 999 squad car.
Readers of this column will know this is something I do at least once a year, to get a flavour of the job our Police service does.
I was heartened by the fact that I came across very little crime on what was a late night and early morning shift. In fact the most notable event of the night was the kindness of a young neighbour. He called the Police and Ambulance service, worried about the man downstairs, who had a history of struggling to control diabetes. The neighbour was fearful that he had succumbed to a diabetic coma.
That young man’s concern, and respect, for other people saved a life. I ended the shift feeling good about him, our community and the response of the Police and Ambulance service. I almost wrote about how peaceful it was that night and how hopeful I felt about what I had witnessed. How hollow that column would have looked, the week before the stabbing at the Green Gate.
But, the reality is that the kindness and the casual disregard of life both reflect the society we live in. What I believe we must strive to do together, is applaud and promote the kindness we see and know is all around us, whilst we confront, and overcome, the mindless violence and hostility that blights our communities.