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Two boys knifed to death within an hour in London as teen killings hit grim record
31 December 2021, 10:10 | Updated: 31 December 2021, 23:35
Two teenage boys were stabbed to death in London on Thursday night, taking the total number of teenage homicides in the capital this year to 30, a grim record high for serious violence.
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A 15-year-old boy was stabbed to death in Ashburton Park in Croydon, south London, just after 7.30pm on Thursday night.
The killing was the 29th teenage homicide in London in 2021.
Less than an hour later, a 16-year-old boy died from a stab wound in Hillingdon, west London, at Philpotts Farm Open Space close to Heather Lane.
Read more: Boy, 15, stabbed to death in Croydon park
The death took 2021's total above the previous peak of 29 in 2008.
In both instances, emergency services administered first aid to the victims but both were pronounced dead at the scene.
Whilst formal identification of both victims has not yet taken place, their families have been informed and are being supported by specialist officers.
Detectives investigating the Croydon incident made an arrest on Friday afternoon, police said.
A 15-year-old boy was arrested on suspicion of murder and has been taken to a south London police station where he remains in custody.
The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said in a tweet that he was "devastated" by Thursday's killings, and that he 'refused to believe' such crimes were "inevitable".
"I am devastated by the deaths of a 15-year-old boy in Croydon and a 16-year-old boy in Hillingdon," he said.
"My thoughts & prayers are with their families, friends & communities. I'm in close contact with @MetPoliceUK who are doing everything possible to bring those responsible to justice.
""The safety of Londoners will always be my number one priority. This is why I am investing record amounts in policing to put more officers on the streets and creating positive opportunities for almost 100,000 young Londoners helping to divert them away from violence.
"I refuse to accept that the loss of young lives is inevitable and will continue to be relentless in taking the bold action needed to put an end to violence in our city. If you have any information, please contact @CrimestoppersUK."
The safety of Londoners will always be my number one priority. This is why I am investing record amounts in policing to put more officers on the streets and creating positive opportunities for almost 100,000 young Londoners helping to divert them away from violence.— Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan (@MayorofLondon) December 31, 2021
Speaking from the scene of the fatal stabbing in Croydon, Metropolitan Police Commander Alex Murray said: "My message today, other than speaking to the families and friends of those that London has lost, is to say you cannot carry knives in London.
"This is what happens when knives are carried and we all have a role in relation to tackling knife crime."
In a direct message to parents from the scene of the fatal stabbing in Croydon, he said: "If you have concerns, talk to your kids.
"Make sure they're not carrying knives, make sure they're not hanging around with kids carrying knives.
"We don't know who has knives but we can find out and we can stop them hurting someone or being hurt."
He added: "To the family of this 15-year-old lad, and to the family of the young man who was killed in Hillingdon, the poignancy of the time of year - I have got teenagers myself - all I can say that the Met is reaching out to you and we'll do everything we can to bring those offenders to justice.
"We can't imagine the pain that you are going through.
"But you must know that we are absolutely committed to bringing those offenders to justice, but also tackling violence across the whole of London so that more mums and dads don't have to be in a position that they're in right now.
"And I can't imagine the unbearable pain that they must be in right now."
Social media has been singled out as a key issue amid the rise in teenage violence in the capital, with experts saying disagreements are exacerbated when played out online and that the amount of violent content has helped normalise aggression.
Junior Smart, founder of the St Giles Trust SOS Project that helps divert young people from crime, said technology giants should be asked to invest profits into areas blighted by violence.
"Violence has been normalised, especially over the last 10 years through social media," he said.
"It's a crazy situation here where if a person goes to a live event and starts livestreaming music they will be silenced and perhaps have a sanction, whereas someone can be online posting violence and use the p word or the n word or a load of expletives and nothing actually happens.
"The reality is that social media platforms have got a lot to answer for. In practically every situation where we've seen violence happen there has been some sort of connection with an online platform in some form.
"Why are these social media platforms not being held to account? Why are we so scared of asking really difficult questions and why are these social media platforms not putting more money back in the communities that are being affected by violence?"
The coronavirus pandemic has also been identified as a contributor to the rise in knife crime.
"We and others have previously spoken about our concerns relating to the pandemic and how it related to young people," said Patrick Green, chief executive of anti-knife crime charity the Ben Kinsella Trust.
"We feared we would see a particularly difficult summer, but we've actually seen an incredibly difficult year.
"If I look forward to 2022, I don't know how that is going to be any different to 2021, or whether it is going to be worse."
He added: "Knife crime is accepted by this generation as part-and-parcel of growing up and that's completely unacceptable.
"It shows that not enough has been done and if I'm being really critical then I'd say the approach to tackling it has been scattergun.
"We have to sustain our response to knife crime, it has to be over the long term and not just one- and two-year funding for projects.
"It is a societal problem which will continue unless it is addressed properly."
The charity was founded in 2008 - the same year teenage homicides in London hit a then-record high - following the death of Ben Kinsella, who was just 16 when he was stabbed to death in Islington, north London.
Mr Green also echoed commander Alex Murray's plea for parents to talk with their children to address the issue of knife crime.