‘I survived stabbing by gang wielding knives in East Ham - horrific attack led me to change life’
- Credit: PA Archive/PA Images
He was attacked by a gang after a row on the streets of East Ham. EMMA YOULE talks to one young man who survived a multiple stabbing - and hears how it led him to transform his life.
In his own words, he is lucky to be alive. At the age of only 27, Terence has been both a victim and a perpetrator of knife crime and has first-hand experience of the fear, anger and trauma that comes with being violently assaulted.
This week, as the Recorder publishes the second article in our special series on the devastating consequences of knife crime, he has spoken about the vicious stabbing that almost ended his life five years ago.
It escalated from an incident while he was out cycling on a hot summer’s day.
“Basically, I was riding through East Ham and I got into an altercation with a group of boys and they chased me,” says Terence, whose name we have changed to protect his identity. “I got away and somehow they found out where I was and they came around in a car. Two of them had knives and I ended up getting stabbed several times.
“I was stabbed three times in the back, once in the head, twice in the arm. I think it was six or seven times. The doctor said they were just a couple of centimetres away from putting me in a wheelchair.”
Three days later, as he lay in a hospital bed recovering from his wounds, Terence’s father died suddenly. He felt somehow that his dad’s life had been taken to spare his own and he made the decision to turn away from his earlier life of gangs and crime.
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As a 15-year-old teenage father in need of cash and with no job prospects, he says he began drug dealing to try and provide for his baby daughter. Terence found himself earning £300-a-day. By the time he was 21, this had increased to £1,000-a-day.
“The money was attractive,” he said. “Especially when you’ve got a girlfriend and she’s attacking your ego and saying stuff like ‘Men should provide’, and you couldn’t provide.”
But the lifestyle inevitably involved “carrying protection” and he ended up serving a prison sentence of two-and-a-half years for knifing someone in the leg, causing a non-fatal wound.
While in jail, he was put through rehabilitation programmes including knife talks and meeting his victim’s parent’s face-to-face.
Terence says this made him realise his actions could potentially put other lives at risk and he hesitated to carry a knife after leaving jail. But he believes his reputation may have played a part in the brutal attack that was later meted out on him.
“I came out of jail probably a year before,” he said. “I was already known for drugs. And, you know, they probably thought I was coming on their patch because of the way I was.
“I was on my peddle bike. I was arguing with them, on my own, and this was a group of people and I wasn’t really intimidated by them. It was one of those where I felt like I was the bee’s knees.”
Afterwards, he admits having dreams that would wake him in the night and feeling like he should “protect himself in any way necessary”, but says he had good friends around him that got him “back into the gym, working hard, channelling the negativity”.
“I was scared, deep down I know that,” he says. “I’ve met a lot of people that have been stabbed since and you can tell that they put on a front so people don’t try and antagonise them in any way. But really and truly deep down they are scared. You are scared because you don’t want that to happen to you again. It’s traumatic.”
He worked in low grade retail jobs until his criminal record was spent and then began applying for better positions and today appreciates not having to constantly look over his shoulder and the boost in self-esteem that comes from earning a wage.
But Terence believes the rehabilitation that contributed to his own decision to walk away from crime is happening less and less and says without it prison is “a university for criminals” to learn from each other. And he claims some communities in Newham feel left-behind as they see youth centres and police stations close down while Olympic-led regeneration drives gentrification of the borough.
“They’ve closed Plaistow and Stratford police stations,” he says. “When you take police off the streets then what do you expect? A blind man would notice that police stations are being closed down. I guess the criminals or the gangs are on high alert and they know they can run riot.
“Newham is a place that London forgot about after the Olympics.”
He called for the prime minister to visit communities experiencing high levels of youth violence, such as Newham which has seen a 21 per cent increase in knife attacks on under-25s in the last year.
Asked if he has seen the results of money pumped into Newham, he says: “Not at all. If anything we get pushed out further. Quite a lot of people are living on sofas or in someone else’s house.
“I used to love Newham, but now they’re just draining resources, building more flats. Stop closing the youth centres, stop building billion pound stadiums, stop forgetting about us.”
‘I’ve seen a lot of bad things on the streets - now I’m trying to give back’
Jermaine Lawlor got involved with gangs as a child in Newham and has been stabbed.
But he has long since stepped away from that lifestyle and now carries out youth mentoring at schools across east London through his organisation Voice 4 Youth Against Violence - to educate teenagers on the risks of knife crime.
The 26-year-old’s driving passion for mentoring work comes from his first-hand experience.
“Being arrested at 11-years-old, friends dying by 13, homeless by 15 and in a hospital by 16, I’ve seen a lot of bad things on the streets,” he says. “I’ve seen a lot of harm done to people.”
His innovative workshops include paramedics giving live demonstrations of the amount of blood lost when someone is knifed.
Jermaine teaches young people there is no safe place to stab the body without risking hitting a vital artery and potentially killing someone.
He also highlights the horrific, life-long injuries that can be inflicted with knives.
“You don’t always die,” he says. “Sometimes, if you’ve been stabbed in the abdominal area, you live with a colostomy bag and you’re urinating into a bag for the rest of your life. I’ve met 15 or 16-year-olds with colostomy bags and they say they wish they did die rather than being alive and humiliated. So it’s dispelling some of the myths and the actual risk that if you carry knife, of it being used on yourself.”
He says many young people feel society has given up on them - with frequent cuts to youth sectors, the closing of youth centres, “extortionate rates” of education to go to university and the lack of jobs.
He called for a deeper look at the social problems driving youth violence as a first step to tackling the issues. “The question is why is knife crime on the rise?” he says. “There’s lack of opportunity, lack of people caring, lack of government listening, there’s lack of alternatives.”
Fact file: Key statistics about knife crime
* How many teenagers have been killed in London this year?
Police say 24 teenagers have been murdered in the capital up until November 21 this year - 18 in stabbings, five in shootings, and one died of multiple injuries.
And 40 young Londoners under the age of 25 have been fatally stabbed on London’s streets since January.
* What are habitual knife carriers?
Any individual that has come up at least twice as a suspect for possession of a knife, or a knife injury, in the last two years. This excludes domestic abuse offences.
In June this year, the Metropolitan Police held records of 758 habitual knife carriers, 203 were juveniles under the age of 18.
* Are knives being carried in schools?
Figures show rising numbers of knives are being taken into schools.
In 2016, police recorded 85 knife crime offences in schools in London, compared to 71 in 2015 and 67 in 2014.
Figures also show 299 incidents of possession of knives in London schools in 2016, up from 236 in 2015 and 203 in 2014.
Next week: In the third of our special reports next week, a mother whose teenage son was knifed to death calls for parents to have more power to discipline their kids.